Eagles' long-snapper circus a costly sideshow in loss to Redskins

Eagles' long-snapper circus a costly sideshow in loss to Redskins

No, the Eagles were not holding open tryouts for a long snapper in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 27-22 loss to Washington (see Instant Replay).

It just looked that way. 

After longtime long snapper Jon Dorenbos suffered a wrist injury and his backup Brent Celek suffered a stinger, the Eagles were driving down the field trailing by two points. Trey Burton, who eventually filled in as the third long snapper, was on the field with the offense. 

That’s when linebacker Mychal Kendricks took it upon himself to grab a football on the sideline and start long snapping to someone on the sideline.

“I don't know what Kendricks was doing, but I know I was the third guy (on the depth chart),” Burton said.

Kendricks said he wasn’t asked by coaches to start snapping, but he practices on his own quite often. He just wanted to be ready.

“I just did it. I just did it,” Kendricks said. “I'm ready for whatever, man. S---. I'm not playing much anyway, ya feel me?”

Where is Kendricks on the long-snapper depth chart?  

“I'm not on it. I'm just ready,” he said. “I was just ready. You know?”

Kendricks said he began to long snap this year and claimed that he’ll sometimes randomly snap a hundred balls at a time, trying to hit targets. “But that's for me, 10 years down the line, if I can be a backup snapper and be a linebacker too,” Kendricks said. “The more you can do, the longer you can stay in the league. And I'm just trying to learn that.”

The Eagles didn’t need his services in that capacity on Sunday.

Instead, Burton came on the field with five minutes left to play in the fourth quarter. On fourth down at the Washington 23-yard line, Burton snapped the ball high to Jones, but the punter and holder was able to get the snap down in time for Caleb Sturgis to boot a 41-yarder. 

At the time, the field goal gave the Eagles a 22-21 lead. 

“I trust [Burton] to play any position on the field,” Sturgis said. “He just about did at Florida. He added long snapper into his repertoire.”

“I did a couple of (warmups),” Burton said. “I was excited. I'm trying to take advantage of every opportunity I get and it went well. Donnie (Jones) made an unbelievable play. The majority of it's on him and he did a really good job.”

Burton said he practiced long snapping during training camp, but hasn’t really practiced since then. Celek said he snaps some balls every week in practice.

Before Celek was knocked out of the game, his attempt to long snap didn’t go so well.

Celek came into the game with three and a half minutes to go in the third quarter. At the time, the field goal would have given the Eagles a 16-14 lead, but Celek’s snap was low and Jones was forced to try to run with it. He was tackled immediately and Washington scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive. 

“I could have done better,” Celek said. “I don't know what else to say. I should have done better.”

He wasn’t willing to deflect any blame just because it was a unique situation. 

“I think when something like that happens, you just have to step up and do it,” he said. “It was my job to step up and be the snapper. Obviously, I did not do a good job on that first one and that was a field goal. I am a professional and I should get it done.” 

There hasn’t been much need for a backup long snapper since Dorenbos got to Philly in 2006. Sunday marked his 162nd consecutive game played, which tied him with Harold Carmichael for the longest streak in franchise history.

“It's rare you get even your third guy that much time even in practice,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “I think it was a credit to Trey stepping up, and Donnie obviously did a great job of getting the ball down and a kick to at least go ahead in the game."

What Eagles' DBs can learn from Saints disaster

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What Eagles' DBs can learn from Saints disaster

With just a few seconds left in Sunday's Vikings-Saints game, Eagles cornerback Patrick Robinson walked away from his television and went to throw out some garbage. 

"I thought it was over," Robinson said. 


By the time Robinson walked back inside, his friends were eagerly waiting to tell him what he missed. Somehow, the Vikings pulled off a miracle 61-yard, walk-off touchdown pass. Rookie safety Marcus Williams whiffed on a tackle that would have ended the game. And the elusive Stefon Diggs scampered into the end zone. 

For the Eagles' defensive backs, seeing that mistake on Sunday served as a reminder. 

"Make that tackle and we're playing the Saints, but he misses that tackle and now the Vikings are here," safety Rodney McLeod said. "Just like that, your season can be taken away from you in the playoffs."

McLeod, Robinson and Corey Graham, three veterans of the Eagles' secondary, said they feel really bad for Williams, a rookie who had a good season until the last play that ruined it. Robinson pointed out that Williams actually had a huge interception earlier in the game that will be all but forgotten. 

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson stressed the importance of situational awareness all week heading into the divisional round. McLeod thinks that missed play will be a teaching moment for the Eagles this week. The Eagles always show their players a bunch of those types of plays in two-minute situations. They all know their responsibilities on them. 

"That's crazy," Graham said. "That might be like one of the worst plays I've ever seen. It's tough. I feel sorry for that guy. We all know that situation. He's supposed to be outside that guy, don't let him get out of bounds, so that's what he's thinking. So I'm pretty sure that's why he ran out of bounds, ran outside like that, trying to get outside leverage. But, I mean, I don't know, man. You've gotta do something. Either play the ball or make the tackle. It's tough, you don't obviously want to let the guy score the touchdown and lose the game like that. You've gotta find a way to make that play."

Graham broke it down a little further. He said if he was in that situation, he would have tried to play the ball. There were two choices: Either play the ball or back up some and allow the receiver to catch the ball and then tackle him in bounds.

Williams unfortunately saw what was behind Door No. 3.

"What you can't do is be too conservative where you do neither and the guy catches the ball and scores a touchdown," Graham said. "It's a tough situation for that guy. I feel sorry for him. I wish him the best."

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz declined to say specifically how his defense would handle a situation like the one the Saints found themselves in with 10 seconds left on the clock Sunday. Schwartz didn't want to lose any kind of tactical advantage; the playoffs are stressful times. 

But he did say his players are coached up for those types of situations. 

Having been a defensive assistant in Tennessee during the 1999 season, Schwartz was at Adelphia Coliseum on Jan. 8, 2000, when the Titans pulled off the Music City Miracle.  

"Playoff football, those plays are big," Schwartz said. "And they're remembered for a long time." 

Unfortunately for Williams, he's going to be remembered from Sunday for the worst possible reason. He's going to be remembered as the guy who blew the game and the Saints' chance at a Super Bowl. That's something he'll have to live with and it seems like he's determined to not let this blunder define his career. Good for him. 

For the Eagles, his mistake serves as a reminder of the importance of doing their individual jobs and of the fragility of life in the NFL playoffs. 

"I know he's a good player and he would like to have that play back," McLeod said. "The one thing is, you don't get it back, man. You have to make the most of every play, every opportunity and every second out on that field."

Even Jaguars would be favored over Eagles right now

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Even Jaguars would be favored over Eagles right now

According to Bovada's early Super Bowl lookahead, the Eagles would be underdogs against both AFC teams if they advance.

Nothing new for the Birds.

The Patriots would be 7-point favorites over the Eagles and the Jaguars 2½-point favorites.

As for this weekend, the Vikings are currently favored by 3½ points over the Eagles, with 62 percent of the betting public taking Minnesota.

And some prop bets for championship weekend:

• Nick Foles has the longest odds of the four remaining quarterbacks to throw for the most yards. He's 7/1.

• Vikings WR Adam Thielen is tied with Rob Gronkowski at 5/1 to lead the weekend in receiving yards. Teammate Stefon Diggs is next at 6/1. The highest Eagles on the list are Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffery, tied at 8/1. Nelson Agholor comes next at 10/1.

• In terms of rushing yards, the order goes: Leonard Fournette, Dion Lewis, Jay Ajayi, Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon.

• John DeFilippo is 4/1 to be named the Titans' next head coach, trailing only Mike Vrabel (3/1).