Film shows how Eagles blocked 3 kicks


Film shows how Eagles blocked 3 kicks

The Eagles have had one of the best special teams units in the NFL for the last several years, but the last few weeks have been a little disappointing. They just hadn't lived up to their incredibly high standard. 

That changed Sunday in East Rutherford (see story).

In the 34-29 win over the Giants on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, the Eagles' special teams group made some huge plays that helped the team squeak out the win. In fact, they became the first NFL team to block an extra point, field goal and punt in the same game since the 1991 Bills. 

"All week we knew we could do things here, pick apart them here," Kamu Grugier-Hill said, "so we went in with a really good plan and we executed."

Let's take a look at all three of those huge plays: 

The Giants just cruised down the field on the opening drive of the game. They went 75 yards on 13 plays and made it look pretty easy. The extra point, even after moving it back, is still pretty much a formality in the NFL. But rookie Derek Barnett (circled) was about to go hard on this play. 

Barnett simply uses a quick swim move to go right past left tackle Ereck Flowers, who didn't give much effort. It looked like he was worried about the rush coming inside, but Barnett got around him really easily and had a clear path to the kick. Sure, the Eagles overloaded that side, but Flowers didn't block anyone. 

Barnett got his right hand up and rejected the kick like a basketball player swatting a jump shot. 

Take a look at the video. Nice swim move from Barnett, but the Giants just need to get some better effort out of a veteran player who looked like he took a special teams play off. 

At the time, maybe this play didn't seem huge, but the Eagles drove down the field on the ensuing drive to take a 7-6 lead. And eventually, when the Giants scored to make it a two-point game in late in the third, they went for two and failed. 

This next play came with 3:23 left in the first half. The Giants had a three-and-out and are punting the ball away. They're up 20-14 at this point. Grugier-Hill (circled) is going to end up getting the block on this play, but it's going to be set up by Bryan Braman, who just got back into town earlier in the week. 

At the snap, Braman pushes inside, which creates a lane for Grugier-Hill. Darian Thompson (circled in green) should pick up Grugier-Hill coming through the line, but instead tries to help block Braman, who garners plenty of attention himself. 

The result is Grugier-Hill's coming with a free lane to the punter to force the block. 

This blocked punt gave Nick Foles and the Eagles' offense the ball at the Giants' 18-yard line. Three plays later, Foles hit a wide-open Trey Burton for a 13-yard touchdown to give the Eagles a 21-20 lead with just over two minutes left in the half. 

This is the most fun one. 

The last play we'll look at was a 48-yard field goal attempt from the Giants early in the fourth quarter. Malcolm Jenkins (circled), who has amazingly played 139 special teams snaps this year on top of his huge workload on defense, is going to make the play. 

At the snap, Brandon Graham (circled) takes a step back, which leaves offensive lineman Jon Halapio off-balance. Halapio's momentum took him forward to block, but then there was nothing there, so he literally fell down. 

Had Graham pushed forward, the lineman would have blocked him, but it would have created more congestion at the line. In this case, Halapio was completely out of the way. 

Once Halapio falls down, it creates enough of a hole for Jenkins (circled) to jump through and have a straight path to the field goal attempt. Meanwhile, Ronald Darby was coming off the edge and got close too. 

"We saw some things on tape that we knew we could attack," Jenkins said. "I've been close a few times over the years, but wasn't able to get one. I was able to come through clean and get a hand on the ball."


At this point, the Giants were down just two points. If they make this field goal, they take a fourth-quarter lead. 

These three blocks were huge on Sunday afternoon. Sure, the third-quarter neutral zone infraction from Najee Goode was a big play. It allowed the Giants to stay on the field and then score a touchdown. But as PhillyVoice's Jimmy Kempski pointed out, it sure looks like Goode was drawn off. Goode still can't jump there in a 4th-and-4 situation. 

But aside from that penalty, the Eagles got the kind of game from their special teams unit that they desperately needed. And it got them a win on Sunday. 

Lane Johnson using underdog status to raise money for Philly schools


Lane Johnson using underdog status to raise money for Philly schools

How do you turn being a home underdog into a good thing? Use it as motivation to win a football game.

How do you turn being a home underdog into a great thing? Raise money for Philadelphia schools and win football games. That’s what Lane Johnson is doing.

After the nation doubted the Eagles against the Falcons, Johnson and Chris Long donned dog masks after divisional round win, embracing the role of underdogs. Now, Johnson has his own T-shirt and is raising money. A lot of it, too.

Shirts can be purchased at lj65.shop for just $18 and Johnson tweeted that more than 3,000 have already been sold.

Hopefully, the home dogs continue to eat this weekend against the Vikings.

Game-winning stand just another play for Eagles' defense

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Game-winning stand just another play for Eagles' defense

There were no special instructions. No extraordinary measures taken. Not much was said. Not much needed to be said.

The game was on the line. The season was on the line. For the Eagles' defense, it was just another play. The stakes were just incredibly high.

It was 4th-and-goal for the Falcons at the Eagles' 2-yard-line in the final seconds Saturday.

Give up a touchdown, and the season's over. Stop the Falcons and you're one game closer to the Super Bowl.

"Our guys, we don't do a whole lot," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "Our guys know what to do, and they have downloaded that software enough that it's a little bit automatic for them.

"We also didn't change. We don't surprise the players. What we practiced in our red-zone period is what we played."

The Falcons had already driven from their own 24-yard-line down to the 2-yard-line.

Their quarterback, Matt Ryan, has the fourth-highest passer rating in NFL postseason history, behind Jeff Hostetler and Hall of Famers Kurt Warner and Bart Starr.

That's what the Eagles' defense was up against.

"At that point, you sort of have to trust the players and the players have to trust the scheme," Schwartz said. "I think you saw a combination of both of those. We didn't feel the need to blitz. Played coverage, played good technique."

The clock showed 1:05.

Ryan’s two favorite receivers, Julio Jones and Mohamad Sanu, both lined up on the right side of the formation, Jones outside with Jalen Mills on him and Sanu in the slot with Malcolm Jenkins covering him in a battle of North Jersey natives.

Ryan took the shotgun snap from center Alex Mack at the 7-yard-line and immediately rolled to his right, retreating to the 10 as he neared the sideline.

Nigel Bradham, lined up as the left linebacker, trampled blocking tight end Levine Tollolo, who had his hands full with Brandon Graham, and ran around guard Wes Schweitzer, giving him an angle on Ryan. 

Meanwhile, Vinny Curry, after getting cut blocked to the ground by Falcons running back Tevin Coleman, quickly bounced back up and began pursuing from Ryan’s left. 

Ryan pumped once toward Sanu, who was covered by Jenkins. He quickly looked left but saw only Curry closing in. Thanks to the pressure, he had to quickly backpedal back to the 14-yard-line and finally was forced to unload that lob toward Jones at the right sideline in the end zone.

At that point, it was up to Mills, who had Jones blanketed, and the rest is history.

The ball went through Jones’ hands, his feet came down out of bounds anyway, and after an agonizing moment looking for flags, the play was over.

"A lot gets made of what Jalen did, rightfully so," Schwartz said. "You're talking about a Pro Bowl, All-Pro receiver, 1-on-1. But Malcolm playing the seven route to Sanu and Rodney (McLeod’s) ability to help him leverage that, that was because he's looking for Julio Jones first.

"Julio slips, he's looking for Sanu, nowhere to go and now he has to re-rack that thing and by then, Nigel is closing down on him and everything else.

"If Malcolm doesn't get that route that he covered, if he doesn't get that covered, nobody's talking about Jalen Mills right now."

Mills was physical with Jones but not physical enough to draw a flag. Schwartz said Mills has made huge strides this year with his technique, and on the biggest play of his life, his technique was perfect.

"It's one thing to have confidence, but that's just not the sole requirement for the position," Schwartz said.

"There's a lot of technique that goes along with playing, and I think if you look at that last play, he did a great job of staying square. Meaning his shoulders were perpendicular to the line of scrimmage.

"What the receiver there is trying to do is get you turned so he can come back for the ball. He could never get Jalen turned."

Mills is 23 years old, a second-year pro, a former seventh-round pick, a first-year starter.

To think that he made one of the most historic plays in Eagles postseason history is remarkable.

"I think every player makes a big jump from year one to year two, as far as knowledge of scheme and knowledge of opponents and things like that," Schwartz said.

"(Defensive backs coach Cory) Undlin and Jalen have worked really hard. He's haunted the hallways quite a bit, even on off days this year, just trying to improve his technique. It hasn't been by chance that his technique has gotten better. It's a lot of hard work that's gone into it from a coaching standpoint and from a player's standpoint."

The bottom line is that this defense has played tremendous football all year.

And with the season on the line, everybody simply went out and did their job. Nothing more, nothing less.

"I just think a part of our success is our guys just understand what's asked of them in the schemes," Schwartz said.

"They communicate well. We don't make a lot of mistakes, mental mistakes, and I think that makes it hard to drive the ball on us.

"When you get into those situations where is it's closed quarters and you don't have to defend deep balls, our guys have a good understanding of what opponents are going to do. I was proud of them on that play."