Anatomy of a ‘Special’ Play
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Doug Pederson is not above stealing.
If someone else around the game of football comes up with a good idea, the Eagles coach actually encourages his staff to find it and put a green tint on it. That's how now-quarterbacks coach Press Taylor originally mined the original "Philly Special" from a meaningless Minnesota-Chicago game back in the 2016 season.
This time Pederson wasn't giving out projects to his quality-control people. He saw New England use one heck of a trick play itself in Super Bowl LII but the result wasn't quite there as Tom Brady failed to come up with the reception on what would have been a huge gain for the Patriots against the Eagles back in February.
Despite the result last February back in Minneapolis, anyone with a modicum of common sense shouldn't be comparing Nick Foles to Brady as a quarterback but as a receiver, the 6-foot-6 former basketball player is as adept as they come from that position.
The sequel to the "Philly Special" was unveiled with just under eight minutes to go in the third quarter of Thursday's 18-12 win over Atlanta and although it wasn't a scoring play or on the huge state of the Super Bowl it did inject some life into Lincoln Financial Field and into what had been a moribund Eagles offense to that point.
It wasn't a replica of the Trey Burton throw to Foles but instead a copy of the Pats' failed play to Brady in which Corey Clement took a handoff from Foles, slipped it to Nelson Agholor, a former backup QB in high school, on a reverse before Nelly lofted the pass to Foles for a 15-yard gain, Philadelphia's most successful passing play of the night to that point.
"Well, it was a play we had put in for this week," Pederson explained. "It was a play that was in our third-down menu. We were on the correct hash mark, and it was the right time of the game."
Foles, who had not been having a sharp game, realized the offense needed a jump and Pederson's "feel" for play-calling again came to the rescue.
"Honestly we [he and Pederson] were both thinking the same thing at the same time," the quarterback explained. "I went over there to talk to him to say this might be a good time and he pointed to the call sheet and it was like, 'That was what I was coming over here for.' So it worked again.'"
The new "Philly Special" was called "Philly Philly" on the play sheet, the name Foles mistakenly uttered when he suggested the original in the Super Bowl.
"I could not believe the call," tight end Zach Ertz. "Standing in the huddle, there was a break in play. I don't know if a guy got hurt or it was a TV timeout, but I was saying: I can not believe he's calling this. It was a perfect play call. They played a lot of man coverage in that situation. Instead of "Philly Special," it's called "Philly Philly." It's a little different."
Different play but same result -- the energy to lead the Eagles to a big win over a good team.
"Offensively, we were sort of misfiring a little bit early in the game, [the] first half in particular," Pederson acknowledged. "And we came out in the second half, and just the same type of thing, and just we're looking for a big play, somebody to make a play, and you kind of look for that from time to time. Again, just felt like it was the right time to make that call, and the guys executed it well."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen