Levi’s Stadium set to show off innovations at Super Bowl

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — When architects set out to design a new stadium for the San Francisco 49ers, they wanted a building that fit the Silicon Valley region where it is located.

Retro was out. High-tech and green-friendly were in.

That was mostly accomplished at the $1.3 billion Levi’s Stadium when it opened in the summer of 2014. There’s the in-stadium app that allows fans to watch replays, order food and figure out which bathrooms have the shortest line; the environmentally friendly features that help the stadium achieve zero net energy use on game days; and the open-air feel that helps fans take in the Bay Area.

After 18 months of mostly good reviews for events ranging from football to concerts to WrestleMania and even an outdoor hockey game, Levi’s Stadium truly arrives on the big stage Feb. 7 when more than 100 million people will watch it host the Super Bowl between Denver and Carolina. After the game in Santa Clara, the Super Bowl will shift to Houston and NRG Stadium, site of Super Bowl XXXVII in 2004 when it was then called Reliant Stadium. The 2018 big game will be played in Minnesota, at the soon-to-be-completed U.S. Bank Stadium, which is set to open in time for the coming NFL season. The 2019 and ’20 game sites are yet to be determined, but the finalists are New Orleans, Atlanta, Tampa, Miami and Los Angeles, where the Rams will begin play in 2016.

Regardless of where the game is hosted in coming years, this year’s game promises to have a futuristic feel.

“We set out to design the next generation of the NFL stadium,” said Tim Cahill, a senior vice president and chief design officer at HNTB Corporation, the firm that designed Levi’s Stadium. “That’s what we’re most proud of.”

The stadium was originally designed to be at Candlestick Point, where the 49ers played from 1971-2013. But then the York family that owns the team decided to locate it at the team’s full-time facility more than 40 miles away in Santa Clara in the middle of Silicon Valley.

Levi’s Stadium was home to the first mobile app designed to enhance every aspect of a fan’s stadium experience, from steering fans to their parking spots to identifying the least-crowded restrooms. Fans can order food and drinks that can be delivered directly to their seats and watch replays from four different camera angles on their phones or tablets.

With as many as 70,000 fans using devices throughout the game, the designers had to create a backbone that could handle that kind of heavy use. The stadium features 400 miles of fiber optic cable providing stadium-wide Wi-Fi capability and HD video boards.

Lanson Nichols, a vice president and senior projects manager at HNTB, said Levi’s has triple the fiber-optic backbone of other NFL stadiums as part of the plan to “future-proof” the building.

“Being in the heart of Silicon Valley it just became a natural that this had to be the most advanced stadium in the country just being in the middle of that culture,” Nichols said. “People expected not just cutting edge, but bleeding edge technology.”

One of the highest priorities in the design was making the stadium as environmentally friendly as possible and that was realized when Levi’s became the first football stadium to receive LEED Gold certification.

That was accomplished with nearly 20,000 square feet of solar panels, a 27,000-square-foot living roof above the suites planted with native California species, 80 percent of the water used coming from recycled water and efficient use of electricity that allows the stadium to be a net zero energy user on game days.

“From day one, that is something the York family and Santa Clara wanted to make a statement that `Why can’t a stadium be green?”‘ Cahill said.

The biggest flaw from the first two seasons of the stadium should not be an issue for the Super Bowl. The 49ers had several problems with the turf at the start that led to players slipping on the grass and chunks of sod coming loose. The team had to move practices this summer out of the stadium because of those issues. But after making changes to the base of the field earlier this season, the turf has mostly held up and should be in good shape for the game.

NFL field director Ed Mangan, working his 27th Super Bowl, oversaw the installation of a brand new field earlier this month. The 75,000 square feet of grass from West Coast Turf in California’s Central Valley was all in place by Jan. 12 and a crew of about three dozen workers has been mowing, painting and protecting the field ever since.

Preparing a field for a Super Bowl is a tall task with it getting heavy use from pregame and halftime performers, who must rehearse at the stadium as well as the players. Mangan’s staff will keep the field tarped as much as possible during those rehearsals to keep it fresh and will do on-the-fly maintenance when necessary after the show on game day.

“It’s not just the game we’re preparing this field for,” he said. “It’s all the activities that will be on this field, the pregame and halftime shows. They all get the field starting this weekend.”

Information from NBCSports.com news services was used in this story.


Eagles fly to first Super Bowl win with memorable victory vs Patriots

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As their delirious fans sang their theme song and their owner lifted the Lombardi Trophy, the Philadelphia Eagles’ finally could breathe freely.

Yo, Philly, you really did beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in a thrilling Super Bowl that rewrote the offensive record book.

Nick Foles guided the drive of a lifetime, Zach Ertz made a bobbling touchdown catch that had to survive replay review, and an exhausted defense came up with not one but two stands in the final moments Sunday for a 41-33 victory. For the first time since 1960, the Eagles are NFL champions.

“Fly Eagles Fly,” indeed.

“We’ve played this game since we were little kids, we dreamed about this moment,” game MVP Foles said. “There’s plenty of kids watching this game right now dreaming about this moment and someday will be here.”

In a record-setting shootout between backup QB Foles and five-time champ Brady of the favored Patriots, Foles led a pressure-packed 75-yard drive to the winning touchdown, 11 yards to Ertz with 2:21 to go .

Then Brandon Graham strip-sacked Brady and Derek Barnett recovered, setting up rookie Jake Elliot’s 46-yard field goal for an 8-point lead.

Brady got his team to midfield, but his desperation pass fell to the ground in the end zone.

“For us, it was all about one stop we had to make. We went out here and made that one stop,” Graham said.

The underdog Eagles (16-3), even injured starting quarterback Carson Wentz, came bolting off the sideline in ecstasy while Brady sat on the ground, disconsolate.

It was the first Super Bowl title for Philadelphia (16-3), which went from 7-9 last season.

“If there’s a word (it’s) called everything,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said. “That’s what it means to Eagles fans everywhere. And for Eagles fans everywhere, this is for them.”

Super Bowl MVP Foles orchestrated the victory with the kind of drive NFL MVP Brady, a five-time champion, is known for. The drive covered 14 plays, including a fourth-down conversion.

“I felt calm. I mean, we have such a great group of guys, such a great coaching staff,” Foles said. “We felt confident coming in, and we just went out there and played football.”

The Eagles had to survive a video replay because ball pop into the air as Ertz crossed the goal line.

The touchdown stood — and so did thousands of green-clad Eagles fans who weren’t going to mind the frigid conditions outside US Bank Stadium once they headed out to celebrate. But not before a rousing rendition of “Fly Eagles Fly” reverberated throughout the stands once the trophy was presented to Lurie. Later, fans danced along with the “Gonna Fly Now,” the theme from “Rocky,” the city’s best-known fictional underdog.

The Patriots (15-4) seemed ready to take their sixth championship with Brady and coach Bill Belichick in eight Super Bowls. Brady threw for a game-record 505 yards and three TDs, hitting Rob Gronkowski for 4 yards before Stephen Gostkowski’s extra point gave New England its first lead, 33-32.

Then Foles made them forget Wentz — and least for now — with the gutsiest drive of his life.

“We couldn’t make a play to give the ball back to the offense,” Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore said.

Foles has been something of a journeyman in his six pro seasons, but he has been spectacular in four career playoff games. He finished 28 of 43 for 373 yards and three TDs.

The combined 1,151 yards were the most in any modern NFL game, and Brady’s 505 were the most in any playoff contest. The 40-year-old master finished 28 of 48 and picked apart the Eagles until the final two series.

It was such a wild game that Foles caught a touchdown pass , and Brady was on the opposite end of a Danny Amendola throw that went off his fingertips.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson brought home the championship in his second year in charge. Belichick is 5-3 in Super Bowls and his teams have only a plus-4 overall margin in those games.

So this one was in keeping with that trend: breathtaking and even a bit bizarre.

Brady and the Patriots looked ready for another comeback by opening the second half with a 75-yard touchdown drive. Gronkowski was unstoppable, grabbing four passes for 69 yards, including the 5-yard score.

Philly didn’t flinch, answering with a precise 75-yard march and three more third-down conversions; the Eagles were 10 for 16. The last was on Foles’ perfect pass to Clement over double coverage. The rookie’s reception was upheld by review, and the Eagles were back on top by 10.

Brady shrugged and, getting steadfast protection, connected with Chris Hogan from the 26 for another touchdown.

When all the Eagles could manage was Elliott’s 42-yarder for a 32-26 lead, it seemed inevitable the Patriots would go in front, then become the first repeat Super Bowl winner since they did it in the 2004 and ’05 games.

Foles, Ertz, and — at last — a revitalized defense said otherwise.

The weird image of Brady ambling downfield on a pass pattern came three plays after New England lost receiver Brandin Cooks to a concussion on a vicious but clean hit by Malcolm Jenkins in the second quarter. Amendola’s pass required an over-the-shoulder grab and the ball fell off Brady’s outstretched hands.

Brady got back to passing after a wild interception. Alshon Jeffery nearly made a spectacular catch near the Patriots’ goal line, only to juggle the ball into the air. Duron Harmon picked it off at the 10. Moments later, Brady was connecting with Chris Hogan for 42 yards.

James White broke several tackles with a brilliant 26-yard run and it was 15-12. That gave White seven touchdowns in his past three postseason games, including the overtime winner in last year’s Super Bowl.

But the Eagles still had 2:04 left in the half — and some more magic in their bag.

A short third-down throw to rookie Corey Clement on a circle route turned into a 55-yard explosion down to the Patriots 8. Philly got to the 1 and on fourth down, it was Foles’ turn to morph into a receiver.

He did better than Brady. On fourth down, Clement took a direct snap, pitched to tight end Trey Burton, and the former Florida QB hit an uncovered Foles. The Eagles were up 22-12 at halftime, the most points New England has allowed in the opening half of a Super Bowl under Belichick.

Each team started with 67-yard drives to field goals — New England had never scored a first-quarter point with Brady in a Super Bowl.

Each kicker later faltered, with Elliott missing the extra point, his fifth failed PAT this season, after Jeffery’s 34-yard touchdown. Then Gostkowski hit the left upright with a 26-yard field goal after holder Ryan Allen mishandled the snap. Gostkowski also missed an extra point.

When LeGarrette Blount, who won the title last season with the Patriots, scored on a 21-yard burst, Pederson went for 2, but the pass failed, making it 15-3.

The Eagles and Pederson brushed it off and stayed with their usual aggressive approach. Breathtakingly, it eventually paid off.

Eagles’ rush could be key vs. Patriots’ Brady

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MINNEAPOLIS — Neither New England nor Philadelphia is a tropical paradise, so for the Patriots and Eagles, the Minnesota winter weather has been pretty normal for them. That’s a good thing as both teams head into their Super Bowl LII meeting on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium trying to treat it like just another 60-minute game.

After the media circus they endured Monday in St. Paul, the players for both the Patriots (15-3) and the Eagles (15-3) welcomed the opportunity to get back to some semblance of normal game week preparation and to focus on the football, even if it’s in a new place.

“We’ve got to go out and practice and kind of get away from the madness,” said Philadelphia defensive end Fletcher Cox on Wednesday after the Eagles practiced at the University of Minnesota. “I just treat it as a regular game week. Things I would do at the facility, I’m doing here.”

Road to Super Bowl LII: Stream, start time, highlights and more

One thing the Eagles did successfully at home and on the road all season was pressure the opponent’s quarterback, and when the Patriots have faltered in two Super Bowl losses to the Giants in the past decade, a relentless pass rush has contributed. But the highly touted Eagles defense, which did not allow a point after the Vikings’ opening drive of the NFC title game, is wary about putting too much of their attention on Patriots star Tom Brady.

“It’s Tom plus 10 guys on the field. We can’t just focus on one guy, if we’re going to be real about it,” Cox said. “I think we have to focus on their whole offense, because they’ve got a lot of great players. We have to go out and be ourselves. We’ve got to go out and do the little things right and not beat ourselves in order to be victorious.”

New England tight end Rob Gronkowski, who missed the second half of the AFC title game win over Jacksonville due to a concussion, is slated to play.

“Rob’s a tough guy. Obviously, this isn’t something you can just fight through,” said Brady.

While the Patriots offense has revolved around Brady since their first Super Bowl win in 2002, the defense has been one of constant evolution, and the unit adopted yet another new look late in the regular season when linebacker James Harrison came on board after he was jettisoned by the Steelers.

“When you’re in a system for as long as he’s been, there are a lot of things that are habits that get ingrained, which they should be. Some of those things carry over. Some of them kind of don’t,” Belichick said of Harrison, who has played 178 of his 193 NFL regular-season games for Pittsburgh. “He’s done a great job of trying to separate them and do what we’ve asked him to do.”

While the Eagles will be looking for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title, having lost the big game after the 1980 and 2004 seasons, there may be more pressure on the Patriots, who will be seeking their sixth title and their second in a row, knowing that the coaching staff will look significantly different next season. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia are both widely expected to be head coaches in Indianapolis and Detroit, respectively, next season.

“I realize and I understand and I appreciate the talent in the coaches in our building. I’m grateful for the opportunity to even be coached by them,” said Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola, sounding very much like he was saying goodbye. “Whatever their opportunities are in the future, I’ll be excited for them.”

There’s one more opportunity for them on Sunday. And it sounds plenty exciting.