Eagles

Eagles explain how ‘East Texas,’ Lane Johnson’s TD play, came to be

Eagles

This is Lane Jonson’s 10th season in the NFL. He’s been a Pro Bowler, All-Pro, Super Bowl champ. He’s been through ups and downs, the highest of the highs the lowest of the lows. He started his 111th career game on Sunday.

And he did something he’s never done before: He scored a touchdown.

“I’m not going to swear,” Jordan Mailata said, “but it was f—ing awesome.”

Yeah, it was pretty f—ing awesome.

And for a lot of reasons.

Not only has Johnson been through a ton this season, missing three games earlier the year as he battled mental health issues that have plagued him since college, but he also just got snubbed by Pro Bowl voters this week. Heck, this was a super snub. Johnson is playing some of the best football of his career and when the rosters were announced last week, he wasn’t even an alternate.

READ: Roob's observations after the win

“Whoever votes, they motivate him,” Jalen Hurts said after the Eagles’ 34-10 win. “He’s very motivated all week by not making the Pro Bowl. I’m happy he got him one.”

The Eagles dialed up the play “East Texas” — named after Johnson and Hurts’ home region —early in the fourth quarter when they already had a commanding 20-3 lead. On 2nd-and-5, Johnson reported as eligible. He began the play by blocking the defensive end before leaking toward the end zone, where he was waiting wide open for a pass from Hurts.

 

Johnson caught it, making him the first Eagles offensive lineman to catch a touchdown pass since Todd Herremans in 2010.

“I know Jalen whizzed that thing in there,” Johnson said. “What was worrying me was that I was wearing those thumb guards that are all like plastic, so I can’t really bend my thumb. I’m just glad I caught it and after that, I tried to do a Lambeau Leap, but I guess our gates are pretty tall.”

Johnson ran directly toward the stands, passing off the football to a fan on his way — the Eagles have since gotten that special ball back — before doing a Lincoln Leap into the stands. Well, a half Lincoln Leap. He didn’t make it all the way.

Mailata lamented the fact that the Eagles’ offensive linemen hadn’t prepared a celebration.

Johnson said this play — or at least some version of it — has been in the Eagles’ playbook during the Chip Kelly years, then during the Doug Pederson years and now again with Nick Sirianni as the head coach. The Eagles had the play in their game plan this week, so Johnson was ready for it and when they were up big in the fourth quarter, Sirianni called it.

“He just deserves so much more credit than he's getting,” Sirianni said. “This guy is just — I've never been around an offensive tackle as talented as this guy. Like he could play tight end if he wanted. You should see him throw the football. This guy is so immensely talented, and I just got so much respect for him. It's always great when you can reward guys that don't get in the end zone with a touchdown like that.”

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Earlier this season, Johnson went through an extreme low. He was a last-minute scratch before the Kansas City game as he dealt with anxiety and depression. More specifically, Johnson suffered severe withdrawal symptoms after he stopped taking his antidepressants.

Johnson was in a bad place when he drove to Oklahoma when he should have been on the field playing the Chiefs. But after missing three games, he returned to the field in Las Vegas and has started the last nine games for the Eagles, playing at an extremely high level. You could make an argument that this is as well as he’s ever played.

 

And you can also make the argument that given all he’s gone through, his success now means even more to him and those with whom he’s closest.

“I think it’s a testimony of perseverance and obviously being strong,” Hurts said. “Lane knows that his teammates have his back, he knows that I have his back. Going through the things he went through earlier in the season, obviously being able to come back and be with us and be part of our football team and our offense I’m happy for him. I’m happy he’s good.”