I remember the 2004 NFC Championship Game against the Atlanta Falcons like it was yesterday.
The night before the game, it snowed a foot, and some of us on the team thought, "Oh man, we better win or we're going to get bombed with snowballs." We got to Lincoln Financial Field the next day and the entire stadium was swept of snow. I couldn't believe it. It was totally cleaned out. I had a lot of family there, and they were bundled up for the polar ice caps.
When the game started, as I looked around, everyone in the stands was bundled up and it was weird because the stands were all black. Everyone was in black coats and it was just dark. I expected a sea of green, but it was mostly black with little bits of color here and there. The fans, from very beginning, even though they were bundled up, they were LOUD. The good feeling that started in pre-game warm-ups, it kept going into the first quarter and just kept building until towards the end of the game, when there was just an explosion of energy. It was so sweet. Our fans came to play, our team came to play and everything worked out just right for us.
Leading up to the game, there was this feeling among the guys on the team that we were simply not going to let it happen again. We were NOT going to lose another NFC Championship Game at home. We were going into the game without fullback Jon Ritchie and wide receiver Terrell Owens, and we beat the Vikings the week before even though we didn't play our best game. There was just a sense and a determination on that team that was very strong – from defense, to special teams, to offense. You can't keep going to NFC Championship Games and not winning. I had a feeling that day that we were going to play like supermen. I always loved playing in nasty weather, too – I just think it's so perfect for the game of football. Even in pre-game, it just felt great. It was exciting.
The thing that made the experience so sweet is that it was a culmination of what we had worked so hard to achieve. Especially after the three disappointing NFC Championship Game losses that led up to it, with each of those losses more and more painful. When we finally knew that we were beating the Falcons and we were going to the Super Bowl, it's hard to describe the feeling. Here's the only way I can describe it: I broke my foot catching the last touchdown, and still I was ecstatic because we were going to the Super Bowl. You tell me another time in your life where after breaking your foot you can still smile and celebrate. There's no other time. I knew at that moment when I caught the ball that I had sealed the victory, and not even breaking my foot could ruin that feeling.
I would like to think that this is a great homefield advantage for Philadelphia. However, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came in to play the last game at Veterans Stadium, their record in football games below 40 degrees was 1-21. When they came to play the last game at the Vet, it was freezing cold, and they worked us. That was so painful. So going into that NFC Championship Game, we didn't for one second want to think, "Hey, the Falcons are a dome team, they're not going to do well in the weather." That loss to Tampa Bay was so poignant and so painful that we wanted to win no matter what. Who cares about the weather, we didn't care about anything except beating the Falcons. That was our mindset, and hopefully it's the same for these Eagles because the Saints, especially given their pedigree, are going to come to play, regardless of what the weather is like.
We had a slogan as a team that year, "One team, one city, one dream," and it's great to see the city so excited about the Eagles again. I think they're playing great football, and it looks like they're having a lot of fun – not just the players but the coaches, too. I think that Nick Foles is the real deal and playing incredible football right now. Robert Anae, the offensive coordinator here at BYU where I now work, coached Foles at Arizona, where he served as the offensive line coach (2011-12) and run game coordinator (2011), and he just loves him, raves about him. I love his demeanor. He doesn't get too up or too down. He's sort of like Baltimore's Joe Flacco in that way. I think he's perfect for the city, the offense, the team, and I don't see how anyone shuts down the Eagles this whole postseason.
I'm totally predicting a Super Bowl win. Let's get it.
Tight end Chad Lewis played for the Eagles from 1997-2005 and holds the franchise record for most receptions in the playoffs with 38 in 11 games. Lewis' two touchdowns in the 2004 NFC Championship Game catapulted the Eagles to their first Super Bowl appearance in 24 years. Lewis is now the Associate Athletic Director-Development at BYU. He resides in Utah with his wife, Michele, and their five children.