Wide receivers aren’t supposed to stray into the “No Fly Zone,” but apparently Alshon Jeffery and the Eagles didn’t get that memo.
The Denver Broncos' secondary is usually akin to the Bermuda Triangle for receivers. They tend to disappear against the likes of Pro Bowl cornerbacks Chris Harris and Aqib Talib.
Not Jeffery, who enjoyed one his most productive games yet as a member of the Eagles on Sunday. Afterward, he didn’t sound surprised by the outcome of venturing into a restricted area, either.
“We’re in the NFL,” Jeffery said postgame. “Everyone is a pro, and I’ll show them a Pro Bowl wide receiver, too.
“It doesn’t matter who’s out there. It’s football. You’re going to get beat and make plays."
Jeffery finished with six receptions for 84 yards and a season-high two touchdowns. It’s the most yards and touchdowns by a wide receiver against the Denver defense in 2017.
Jeffery’s 32-yard touchdown is also the fourth-longest scoring play by a receiver against the Broncos this season, and it was a beauty. Carson Wentz faked the handoff to running back Jay Ajayi, and while Talib was peeking in the backfield, Jeffery took off.
The play was actually a run-pass option, and Wentz wound up making a perfect read and throw.
“That’s something that we practiced all week,” Jeffery said. “As (Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby) would say, ‘We practiced it to hell.’
“It was working in practice. They did a great job of scheming and game-planning, and Carson with a great read. We practiced it – if he pulls it, just take off and run, and that’s how it worked out.”
The Eagles dialed it up for one of the most dangerous ball hawks in NFL history. Talib ranks fourth all-time with 10 interception returns for touchdowns.
Talib is thinking six on every snap, so in a sense, he guessed right this time.
“It was just a zone-read play with that little tag to Alshon there,” Wentz said. “We knew Talib is an aggressive corner, so with that action I just knew I had to get enough time to let Alshon win, and he did the rest.”
The touchdown was just the latest evidence of the growing rapport between quarterback and star receiver. As Eagles coach Doug Pederson revealed, it was a play the duo had been working on since May.
“It's a Day-1-training-camp, Day-1-OTA play,” Pederson said. “It's just a one-step hitch-and-go, and we got (Talib) to bite on the play. Did a great job throwing the ball on the run and Alshon getting in the end zone.
“It's actually in our tempo package and we pulled it out this week. Just kind of dusted it off and worked on it all week and executed it to the perfection.”
Jeffery now has at least one touchdown in consecutive games, along with 146 yards receiving over the last two. He has quietly amassed 34 receptions for 500 yards and five touchdowns in nine contests – not quite a 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown pace, but closing in on such milestones.
Concerns over Jeffery’s chemistry with Wentz are beginning to fade, if the pair left any doubt at all against the Broncos.
“I think it’s always been there,” Jeffery said. “We’re on the same page in practice, working each and every day. Just work on it all the time in practice, then in a game, it’ll be easy.
“It surprised you guys, not us.”