Extra Points: Eagles Opener Will Be Quiet Affair
The Delaware House rest stop, located about 10 miles south of the Delaware Memorial Bridge on I-95, would normally be packed with Eagles fans on Sunday morning.
Whenever the Birds play at Washington, thousands of their fans make the trek and the rest area is well known as a pit stop during the trip.
Not this season, however.
No spectators will be permitted at FedEx Field for the season-opener for both teams. Washington and the Eagles are among 27 NFL teams who will not allow fans for at least their first two home games - Washington and the Las Vegas Raiders will not have fans at any of their home games this season - due to
"I don't think anyone has ever had this situation," Eagles tight end Zach Ertz said earlier this week.
"It's going to be weird."
It could actually affect the outcome.
Spectators can make an impact in football games, perhaps more than any other sport. Visiting offenses must rely on hand signals to combat roaring crowds. Players feed off the energy inside the stadium.
"It's going to be kind of eerie when you step out into a stadium right at kickoff," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said, "because the crowd, the energy, the electricity in the stadium is something that we all feed off of. This is part of our game. This is part of our sport.
"It's the emotion of playing football, playing a gladiator-type sport where there's a lot of collisions, and guys get excited for that. They get energized for that."
The Eagles don't just enjoy that atmosphere at Lincoln Financial Field.
Their fans travel extremely well. Almost every road game traditionally features a sizable contingent. In 2017, the Eagles played the Los Angeles Chargers at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. At least 75 percent of the 27,000 seats were occupied by people wearing green jerseys.
The Eagles won 26-24.
"It's a really big advantage for us as a defense to have that many Eagles fans on the road with us," Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said after that game. "Usually, it's pretty quiet when the other offense is on the field for their home games, but not with us. It's great for us. It's like having a home away from home."
A similar scene unfolded at FedEx Field last season.
The stadium was a sea of green last Dec. 15. "E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles!" chants filled the air after the Eagles earned a 27-24 victory.
That will not be the case this year.
Oh, fans will still be chanting and singing "Fly, Eagles, Fly" after a touchdown, but they will be doing so from their living rooms.
Because media access is also restricted, Sunday will mark the first time I've missed an Eagles game at Washington in nearly 30 years. I was in the press boxes at FedEx Field and its predecessor, RFK Stadium, for 27 straight seasons as a beat writer for a local newspaper.
I witnessed some memorable games, starting in 1993 when Eagles quarterback Bubby Brister threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to running back James Joseph in the final seconds to clinch a 17-14 win. In 1999, rookie quarterback Donovan McNabb threw a pair of fourth-quarter TD passes to tight end Luther Broughton to force overtime in a 17-14 loss.
In 2013, coach Chip Kelly's first game, quarterback Michael Vick threw two TD passes and ran for another as the Eagles jumped to a 33-7 lead on "Monday Night Football," then hung on for a 33-27 win.
I also saw some record-setting performances at FedEx Field. In 2014, tight end Zach Ertz set the franchise single-game record with 15 receptions. In 2018, quarterback Nick Foles tied an NFL record with 25 consecutive completions.
And I always stopped at the Delaware House on the way.