As the final seconds of Super Bowl LVII ticked away and the Eagles lost their grip on the franchise’s second Lombardi Trophy, my mind drifted back to the unpleasant memory of another missed opportunity eighteen years ago. I’m sure it had something to do with watching Andy Reid, a coach whose time in Philly generated multiple contenders but never a champion, exorcise his demons once again on the NFL’s biggest stage and claim his second title with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Whatever the reason, I revisited the 2004-05 season and recalled the emptiness I felt after the Eagles came so close to knocking off the New England Patriots. It remains baffling that the organization’s incredible run in the early aughts generated just one trip to the Super Bowl and zero parades down Broad Street. The last season in that stretch felt like the Birds’ best chance to claim their place at the top of the league.

After his receivers were bullied by an aggressive Carolina Panthers secondary in the January ’04 NFC Championship Game, Reid finally made a major investment in the wide receiver position. Terrell Owens arrived in Philadelphia and immediately changed the dynamic of the Eagles’ offense. T.O. broke his ankle late in the season, but he recovered in time to dress for the Super Bowl. His teammates finally figured out a way to advance through the NFC bracket, beating the Vikings and the Falcons at frigid Lincoln Financial Field to earn a trip to Jacksonville and a date with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

Time and the frustration of the result have clouded most of my memories of the game. Instead, I summon bits and pieces — Donovan McNabb and the offense turning the ball over (ultimately 4 times before the game ended); Owens playing incredibly well for someone still recovering from a serious leg injury; a close game that was tied heading into the final quarter before the Patriots pulled away; a last-gasp touchdown pass to Greg Lewis on an inexcusably slow drive at the end of the contest that rankles Eagles fans to this day.

I’m sure last night’s gut-wrenching defeat in Glendale will have a similar fate, a bitter cap to an incredible campaign that produces a painful gallery of recollections —  Jalen Hurts playing out of his mind but fumbling the football and gifting the Chiefs seven points in the first half; the defense failing to stop Kansas City once in the second half; a poor special teams unit giving up a back-breaking punt return; defensive guru Jonathan Gannon getting taken to school by Reid and his offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy; and the vaunted Eagles pass rush failing to generate a sack, among others.

“You either win or you learn,” Hurts observed in his postgame press conference. So, what did we discover about this team and the man who will be their on-field leader for the foreseeable future?

What I will remember aside from the negative snapshots or the emotions of what might have been is the resilience of this Eagles squad. With the fourth quarter slipping away from the Birds and a six-point lead quickly turning into an eight-point deficit, Hurts piloted the offense on a seventy-five yard drive that ended with his dive into the end zone, followed by a quarterback sweep and a successful two-point conversion.

Philadelphia has fully adopted the identity of its burgeoning franchise quarterback. His special blend of physical and mental toughness have seeped into the marrow of the franchise. Hurts may not have the strongest arm or all of the qualities of the traditional pocket passer, but he is the prototype for a new kind of offensive attack that is proving very difficult to stop. He even won over one of his most persistent critics:

Most importantly, Jalen Hurts is a winner. No moment is too large or stage too big for him. Howie Roseman and the Eagles’ front office will have to navigate the challenge of building a roster with a quarterback on a second, market-setting contract, but Hurts will be worth the investment and has the qualities that will elevate the play of those around him.

Big-splash free agent acquisitions will take a back seat to drafting and development, and it’s a safe bet that Roseman will consider selling the #10 pick the Eagles secured from the Saints for a bevy of future assets. He’ll need to continue his recent streak of draft night success, finding young and cost-effective talent to fill the gaps in the roster.

Roseman and the Eagles are fortunate to have the backing of an owner in Jeffrey Lurie who is willing to spend whatever it takes to win. It’s no fluke that the organization found its way back to the Super Bowl five years after their triumph in 2018, and it won’t be a major surprise if the Eagles have more bites at the apple in the next five years, provided they can preserve the health of their quarterback.

Nick Sirianni has also grown into his role as head coach, and it will be interesting to see if he can take the next step in his own development as a leader. Sirianni has improved the team’s win total by five games in each of his two seasons in charge. Now, can he sustain success with the headwinds of the salary cap diminishing the talent on the roster? Can he learn from the mistakes he and his staff made in their preparations for this game, particularly on the defensive side of the ball?

Postgame, there was no whining about the officiating or complaining about bad luck. Unlike their NFC Championship game opponents, the Eagles took accountability for the loss. Their road back to the Super Bowl will likely be more challenging next year, but they have the leadership and the mindset needed to make another run.

The ultimate lesson derived from Super Bowl LVII will be one we’ve mastered over the years in this town. Losing sucks, and the bitter pill of defeat can leave even the most optimistic among us trapped in a mental quicksand. But staying on the mat isn’t a viable option for those who aspire to be champions. Expect the Eagles to absorb the blow of this loss, dust themselves off, and do the work to get themselves back in contention next season.

Persistence in the face of adversity — it’s a Philly thing.