Frank Reich had a feeling Doug Pederson was going to break out the flea flicker during the NFC Championship Game.
When the two met Saturday night — which has become their normal custom — Reich got the sense the head coach was going to dial up the gadget play against the Vikings the next day.
He was right.
"I don't know, just an instinct," Reich said. "I think he just had an instinct, and he was committed to being aggressive, trust in Nick (Foles), trust in our players."
Reich said the play has always been in the playbook but had only been in the game plan maybe one other time. In practice, the play looked just "OK," according to Reich. Foles said he had never run one before. And Pederson called it when a rookie running back was on the field.
Despite all that, the play worked for a 41-yard touchdown pass that was the dagger in the hearts of the Vikings. That touchdown put the Eagles up 31-7 early in the third quarter as they cruised to the 38-7 win and into the Super Bowl.
Here's how it all happened:
It's 1st-and-10 from the Vikings' 41-yard line. The ball on their own 25 and have already picked up three first downs on this drive. It's time for a shot. Foles is under center, with Clement nine yards deep in the backfield. Torrey Smith (circled) is at the top of the screen with Trae Waynes in coverage. The safety on that side of the field is Harrison Smith.
The Eagles are in 11 personnel, but just before the snap, Nelson Agholor slides inside next to Brent Celek and Alshon Jeffery in a bunch formation to help the illusion that a run play is coming next.
“I think you just try not to smile," Foles said. "I don’t know if I’ve ever run a flea flicker. It was my first time so I just tried not to smile."
Here we are at the mesh point, where Foles hands the ball off to Clement (circled in red). Agholor and Celek immediately start blocking like it's a run play, while Jeffery starts to run a route, but will quickly stop to fake block, before running again. Smith begins the play running a normal route. The defense begins to crash the box (green).
It happens so quickly in real time, but after taking a couple quick steps, Clement tosses the ball back to Foles. The safety, Harrison Smith (green), actually doesn't bite too hard. But he does hesitate for just a split second, which is going to be deadly.
The most impressive part of the play is happening at the top of the screen. Smith looks back, acting like the play is a simple handoff (red). That's when Waynes buys it and gets caught looking back at the play.
"I knew that I had to get far enough down the field that he thinks I'm releasing like a pass, but then get my eyes back like lazy receivers do sometimes," Smith said. "We all do it, where you're like kind of looking to see where the ball is going. He looked, and I took off."
Before we get to see how quickly Smith gets past Waynes, here's Clement selling it completely. He really took off quickly, acting like he was carrying the ball. Once he gets past Foles, he quickly tosses it back and starts looking to pick up a block.
What was Clement thinking when the call came in?
"S---, I'll do it," he said. "You just don't flinch. I've got to thank (running backs coach) Duce Staley for allowing me to go out there and do that. That's just not a play that you let a rookie do because everything has to be down, the timing."
Once Smith (red) fakes out Waynes, he lets his speed take over. He's got a couple steps on Waynes now and the corner simply isn't going to catch him. The only chance the Vikings have is if Harrison Smith is able to slide over in coverage, but he hesitates just enough to let the Eagles gain ground. Another underrated part of this play is the job Halapoulivaati Vaitai does against Everson Griffen on the left side of the line. He gives Foles a pocket to step into and make a perfect throw.
We've heard that Foles is an aggressive gunslinger, but this might show it. Look how wide open Jeffery is coming across the field. If Foles throws it there, the Eagles pick up a first down easy, but he's thinking touchdown and he knows if he places the ball perfectly he has it.
Foles needed his pass to be perfect and it absolutely was. He threw dimes all night, but there weren't many nicer than this one.
"That play, it was well run, but just Torrey made a great catch, Nick made a spectacular throw," Reich said. "Sometimes you see in a flea flicker you're running 10 yards behind a guy. It wasn't one of those deals. At the end of the day, it was two players making a great play."