Eagles

'Philly Philly' or 'Philly Special 2.0'? Eagles explain latest trick play

'Philly Philly' or 'Philly Special 2.0'? Eagles explain latest trick play

Anything the Patriots can do, the Eagles can probably do better. It could be winning the Super Bowl, or executing the exact same trick play.

In the Eagles’ first meaningful contest since winning the Super Bowl six months ago, with a statue outside Lincoln Financial Field immortalizing the game’s most famous moment, Doug Pederson shocked the world once again with his gutsy play-calling Thursday. On 3rd-and-5 in the third quarter, his team trailing the Falcons by three, Corey Clement took the handoff, then pitched the football to Nelson Agholor — who quickly threw it to quarterback Nick Foles for a 15-yard gain and a first down.

The stadium went crazy. The internet exploded. Who could believe they would do it again?

“It’s Philly Philly,” Pederson said of the call, the famous words Foles spoke to his head coach before catching a touchdown in the big one.

But if the play looked familiar, it wasn’t just Foles doing his best Alshon Jeffery impression. It wasn’t the same play the Eagles ran in the Super Bowl, either.

It was the same design the Patriots tried — and failed — to execute against the Eagles because Tom Brady dropped the wide-open pass.

“That's where we got it from,” Pederson said. “We just put different people in the game,” noting the Eagles were in 12 personnel at the time, while the Patriots ran it out of 11.

Initially, Pederson stated matter-of-factly that Philly Philly was part of the game plan, and it was the right down, distance and spot on the field to make the call. There was more to it than that, though. At that point in the game, midway through the third quarter, Foles was still struggling to find his rhythm, and the Eagles had scored all of three points.

“Offensively, we were sort of misfiring a little bit early in the game, first half in particular,” Pederson said. “We came out in the second half, and just the same type of thing, and just were looking for a big play, somebody to make a play, and you kind of look for that from time to time.

“Again, just felt like it was the right time to make that call, and the guys executed it well.”

The Eagles needed a spark, and Clement had a feeling before the game Philly Philly might be the play to provide it.

“I think something about this play was definitely going to make an impact,” Clement said. “It got the crowd into it, got us into it. It gave us a little boost, and that’s what we needed.”

Foles’ catch extended the drive, ending in a touchdown to give the Eagles their first lead. They would only reach the end zone one more time in an 18-12 victory, but the offense seemed to loosen up from that point on.

There was never any concern the Falcons would know what was coming, either. The Eagles varied the look enough that the defense would never suspect it.

“We knew what we were getting on this play,” Clement said. “Catch them on their toes and hit one over the top.”

People joked about the possibility Pederson could pull such a stunt again, but who actually saw this coming?

“Coach Pederson has a great gut feeling, and when he feels like something needs to be called, he just lets it go and believes in the players to make it happen,” Clement said.

The guys in that huddle must have some great poker faces. No cracking a smile, no laughing, no running to the line of scrimmage with extra gusto. Nothing before the snap can give the defense the slightest hint of what’s to come.

“You don’t want to give it away,” Agholor said. “You don’t want to get too excited and somebody’s thinking trick play. You just have to make the play.”

Easier said than done for Agholor, who had arguably the toughest job of all on Philly Philly, running to his right and delivering a perfect strike to Foles streaking down the field. Trey Burton made it look easy in the Super Bowl. Of course, Burton — a tight end by trade — played quite a bit of quarterback, even in his college years at the University of Florida.

Agholor was the backup quarterback for his high school team but hadn’t been under center since he was in “little league.” And the last time he attempted a pass in an organized setting did not go so well.

“Spring game in college,” Agholor said. “Interception.”

Despite his lack of experience, Agholor’s pass earned the approval of Burton, who was watching the his former teammates while awaiting his Bears debut Sunday.

Then again, maybe Agholor’s task wasn’t as difficult as it looked. After all, Foles is proving himself to be quite the receiver.

“Nick Foles is an absolute athlete,” Agholor said. “Ultimate frisbee, like All-American. As long as I just give him an opportunity, he’ll go get it.”

First, Foles needs to get the record straight about something. There seems to be a lack of clarity regarding which play was "Philly Philly," and which was the "Philly Special."

“The first version was the ‘Philly Special,’” Foles said. “This is actually ‘Philly Philly.’ I miscalled it, I guess, in the Super Bowl, so it got both. Now, we have a ‘Philly Philly.’”

Foles really is a good receiver, by the way, or at least he works on it. Neither the Patriots nor the Falcons seemed to take notice, but a reporter observed the quarterback running some routes during pre-game workouts Thursday.

It turns out, that wasn’t a signal to opposing defenses or anything at all. That’s just Foles being Foles.

“I actually do that every warm-up,” he said. “It’s a way for me to go out there and be a kid for a little bit. Warm up the body, catch. I’ve done it my entire life and it’s something I still do. Coaches probably think I’m crazy for doing it, but it’s something I enjoy doing.”

One coach who almost certainly does not think Foles is crazy is Pederson. To the contrary, those two are apparently on the exact same wavelength when it comes to this trickery.

When Foles — incorrectly — requested Philly Philly during the Super Bowl, his coach was already considering it. Six months later, different play, different opponent, different building, different personnel, different situation, but Foles and Pederson still on the exact same page.

“Honestly, we were both thinking the same thing at the same time,” Foles said. “I went over there to talk to him to say this might be a good time and he pointed to the call sheet and it was like, ‘That was what I was coming over here for.’”

They say Pederson is a players’ coach, after all. He was just giving his quarterback and the rest of the team what they want.

“I love having plays like that,” Foles said. “Our team loves it. I mean, everyone loves a good trick play.”

And why not when it’s working?

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That Golden Tate trade looks worse with each passing minute

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That Golden Tate trade looks worse with each passing minute

Amari Cooper put together an all-time great performance against the Eagles on Sunday and has helped transform the Dallas Cowboys’ offense. 

Golden Tate could barely get on the field. 

In the biggest game of the season, more than a month after he joined the team, Tate played just 38 percent of the Eagles’ offensive snaps. 

That’s unacceptable for a lot of reasons. 

In the wake of the Eagles’ 29-23 crushing loss in overtime at AT&T Stadium, it’s almost impossible to avoid the comparison. At the time, when the Cowboys traded a first-round pick for Cooper, a lot of us laughed at them. And then many of us in Philly were seemingly on board when the Eagles shipped a third-round pick for eight games of Tate. 

Oops. 

Look at Cooper’s stats from Sunday: He played 90 snaps and had 10 catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns. 

Tate played just 20 snaps. He had one catch for seven yards. He was targeted just three times. 

Cooper had more yards and touchdowns on Sunday afternoon than Tate has in five games (189 yards, 1 touchdown) since he joined the Eagles at the trade deadline on Oct. 30. 

Really, the inability for Tate to get involved in the Eagles’ offense falls directly on their offensive coaching staff. Howie Roseman handed them one of the most productive receivers over the last half decade and they haven’t been able to use him properly. In Dallas, they got Cooper and he has already had two monster games and looks like a Pro Bowl player, even in a new offense. 

The hardest part to swallow about Tate’s ineffectiveness and misuse on Sunday was that he finally had a big impact the previous week. Against Washington, he had seven catches for 85 yards and a touchdown. It looked like the Eagles had finally figured out how to use him, they were turning a corner. It looked like they were finally going to at least make that trade a little more worth it. 

And then one catch for seven yards. His worst game since October 2016 when he had one catch for one yard. During the last few seasons, Tate consistently produced every Sunday. And now the Eagles have no idea how to use him. The Eagles on Sunday prioritized using 12 personnel to get Dallas Goedert on the field and that worked, but keeping Tate on the bench is just unacceptable.

Maybe you can look at Tate and think at 30 years old maybe he just isn’t the same player anymore. But exactly a month before the Eagles traded for him, he had a game with eight catches, 132 yards and two touchdowns. The Lions obviously knew how to use him. 

Roseman had to be pulling his hair out watching this Sunday. He parted with a third-round pick to get Tate and to show the front office still had faith in the Eagles when they were 4-4. Well, the trade looks awful now and the Eagles’ playoff hopes are dwindling.  

I was on board with the trade when Roseman pulled the trigger in late October, but back then I had faith that the Eagles’ coaches were going to be able to figure out how to make it work. They haven’t. And because of that, this trade looks worse by the minute.

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Pump the brakes on calling Eagles cornerback Sidney Jones a bust

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Pump the brakes on calling Eagles cornerback Sidney Jones a bust

Sidney Jones is 22. He’s basically in his rookie season after recovering from his pre-draft Achilles tear last year. And he’s played most of this year with a nagging and lingering hamstring injury. 

Are there reasons to be concerned about him? 

Absolutely. 

It’s just waaaayyyyy too early to call him a bust. Let’s go ahead and pump the brakes on that. 

Jones started Sunday’s 29-23 loss in Arlington, Texas, but was hampered by that hamstring injury, saying he was nowhere near 100 percent. He gave up a few big plays and was eventually pulled by the trainers.

But I get it. Even when Jones has been “healthy” this season, he hasn’t been good. We haven’t seen the same guy the Eagles thought they were stealing at No. 43 in last year’s draft. So I get why fans are concerned. I get why, when you see him not get his head around in coverage, you’re thinking “that’s not injury related” and I can’t argue. He needs to get better and I think even he’d admit that. I think everyone knows it. 

I was bullish on Jones before the start of this season, saying I thought he has all the makings to become a star cornerback in the NFL. Over the last few weeks, I’ve had some folks try to throw that back in my face. I know it’s not everyone who is calling him a bust or a miss, but there’s at least a very vocal minority. And I get that this has been a frustrating season and Jones has been a part of that, but it’s just way too early to make a statement like that. 

It’s even too early for the Eagles to evaluate his play. He’s played in 10 career games and has had this hamstring injury almost all season. Here’s what Doug Pederson said about that Monday.  

Well, yeah, I think it's hard. It's tough to get a true evaluation. We knew the player we were getting based on what we saw in college. He's a tremendous corner. He's a good cover corner. I think for any player that's dealing with injury, you focus on that just a little bit and it can pull you away from playing at a high level at times.

I think that's where I can appreciate guys, and Sidney is one of them, guys that each week — everybody is a little banged up, a little sore, going through stuff. For them to battle through it, be out there at practice every day, and put themselves out there for the team I think is a credit to each player. Sidney is one of those guys.

I’m not ready to evaluate Jones either. It’s too early. He’s been hurt. 

And this is a significant hamstring injury. Although, it is interesting that Pederson mentioned the mental side of injury twice while talking about Jones. There’s an art to playing hurt — not injured — and part of that is avoiding getting hyper-focused on that injury. 

By the way, I also get the concern that Jones might just be an injury-prone player. Toss the Achilles aside because it was sort of a freak thing, but he’s dealt with this hamstring injury for months, had an ankle injury in the preseason and even got hurt in his NFL debut in Week 17 last year. You’re probably thinking Jordan Hicks 2.0 and if you feel that way, I can’t really do anything to move you off that stance right now. 

But some players grow and blossom at different rates. Remember when Super Bowl hero Brandon Graham was a bust? That was premature and some folks have gotten to that point — using the word “bust” — even earlier for Jones, who is 22 years old and is hurt. 

It’s just way too early. I get everyone is frustrated. But we gotta give the kid a chance. 

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