In pivotal moment, Doug Pederson dials up gutsy 'Philly Special'

In pivotal moment, Doug Pederson dials up gutsy 'Philly Special'

MINNEAPOLIS — Frank Reich just started laughing. 

A mere few hours before, his head coach made one of the gutsiest play calls in Super Bowl history ... and it worked to perfection. And now, here's Reich, just off the field from celebrating the Eagles' 41-33 win in Super Bowl LII (see breakdown), and he's being asked about it. 

What's your reaction when Doug Pederson dials it up?

"I can't say exactly what it is, except to say, 'What a gutty call,'" Reich marveled, shaking his head. "What a gutty call. That epitomizes Doug. It really does."

On Sunday night against the Patriots, the Eagles used the incredible trick play on 4th-and-Goal from the Patriots' 1-yard line with just 38 seconds left in the first half. 

Undrafted rookie Corey Clement took a direct snap, tossed the ball to third-string tight end Trey Burton, who then threw the ball to backup quarterback Nick Foles in the end zone for a touchdown. 

In the Super Bowl! 

"Have you ever seen a play like that called in the Super Bowl!?" Burton asked. "I haven't. And I've been watching football for a long time."

The Eagles got the play from the Bears, who actually used it against the Vikings last year on a two-point conversion. Alshon Jeffery and wide receivers coach Mike Groh both came over from Chicago this offseason and were able to help install it. 

Jeffery said they called it the "Clemson Special," because Clemson used to run the play before the Bears did. Sometimes plays like this get passed along. The Eagles noticed it watching film of the Bears and Vikings as they began preparations to possibly play Minnesota. 

Once the play got to the NovaCare Complex, it needed a new name. They call it the "Philly Special." That works. 

"That's just something we've been working on, and Doug and I were talking," Foles said. "I was like, 'Let's just run it.' It was a good time, and the end was a little wider than I thought so I was like, 'I really need to sell like I'm not doing anything.' And it worked. Trey made an amazing throw, right on the money. I just looked it in and yeah, we've ripped it for a while, so I was excited to get to run it in the Super Bowl."

The Eagles have been working on the play for a few weeks now and have practiced it once or twice every week during the playoffs; they say Foles never dropped it in practice. Nelson Agholor wasn't worried about Foles dropping it on Sunday. 

"Nick is an awesome ultimate frisbee player so you know he has great hands," Agholor said. 

They were ready to run it against the Vikings last week, but they questioned whether it was wise to run it against the same team the Bears did last year. And in the end, they blew them out and they didn't need it. 

Good thing. Because it came in handy on Sunday night. 

For Burton, who was once recruited out of high school as a quarterback, throwing a touchdown in the Super Bowl was a dream come true. Although he admitted he hadn't dreamed about throwing a touchdown pass since college. 

"Coach got some guts, huh?" Burton said. "It shows you the confidence that he has in the team. Low key, the last couple games we've been in the red zone and I let him know we still had that play. I can't believe he called it."

Believe it. 

At the biggest moment in the biggest game of his life, Pederson didn't get scared. He actually became bolder (see Roob's observations). He became more aggressive, even facing one of the best coaches in NFL history. 

And this is after he seemingly pushed the right buttons all season. For a guy who was questioned more than seemingly any coach in the league, Pederson just pulled off an incredible year. What's even more impressive is that he stayed true to himself. He was aggressive from the first snap in Week 1 until the last snap in the Super Bowl.  

Pederson's team fed off that aggressiveness all year. 

"He said he was going to keep his foot on the gas, he said he was going to do what it takes, said he was going to keep them off balance," Reich said. "And when you do that kind of stuff, you have to put a lot of trust in your players. There's a lot of moving parts. You gotta have poise. You have to not just trust the call, but trust the players, too."

NFL Week 15 schedule: Derrick Gunn's 5 games to watch

NFL Week 15 schedule: Derrick Gunn's 5 games to watch

Here are my games to watch for in Week 15 of the NFL season:

Bears at Packers — Sunday, 1 p.m. on FOX
The Bears are growling again. They have three straight wins and are playing like a playoff team. The only problem is their many stumbles along the way have them at just 7-6, and currently the No. 8 seed in the NFC playoff pitcure. They travel to Green Bay with revenge on their minds, still remembering the season-opening loss to the Packers. That the Packers are 10-3 — currently the No. 2 seed in the NFC — is amazing in itself. Defensively, they stop either the run or the pass but never both in a game. Offensively, they don’t score a lot of points and rarely win impressively, but the bottom line is more times than not they have found a way to win. First-year head coach Matt LeFleur has his squad believing in his system. The Pack will rack up their 11th W at Lambeau.

Texans at Titans — Sunday, 1 p.m. on CBS

One team is exciting by land, the other by air. Houston wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins gives defenses fits weekly. Tennessee RB Derrick Henry is a battering ram. These two are currently tied for the lead in the AFC South but after getting blasted by Denver last week, Houston is still in control based on best win percentage in division games. The Titans are currently the No. 7 seed. Since QB Ryan Tannehill replaced Marcus Mariota after Week 6, the Titans have won six of their last seven and four in a row. Houston has the capability of rising up for big games with wins over the Patriots and Chiefs, but the Titans are hot, and I’m going with the hot team at home. Side note: They'll meet again Week 17.

Vikings at Chargers — Sunday, 4:05 p.m. on CBS

The only thing the Chargers have left to play for is pride and the Vikings are jockeying for better seeding and a possible division title. Under Mike Zimmer, the Vikings have not fared well when traveling west, sporting a 1-6 record in road games played in the Mountain or Pacific time zones. Two of the Chargers' five wins have come against the NFC North. The Vikings' defense is starting to jell again and they’ll need cohesiveness on D because Philip RIvers' offense can light it up at any given moment. The Vikings know what’s at stake — it wont be easy, but they’ll find a way to get the job done.

Rams at Cowboys — Sunday, 4:25 p.m. on FOX

Don’t look now, but the Rams are starting to play like the team that represented the NFC in last season’s Super Bowl. They’ve won three in a row with the offense functioning like a well-oiled machine and the defense making plays. As for Dallas, fans are calling for heads to roll, starting with head coach Jason Garrett. They’ve lost three straight and haven’t beaten a quality opponent all season. With that said, they somehow still control the NFC East. They have the the talent all over the field, yet don’t have the wins to show for it. What should have been a promising season will be a disaster if they don’t find a way to rebound and make the playoffs. Sorry, Dallas, until you prove otherwise, you’re just not ram tough enough to win this one.

Bills at Steelers — Sunday, 8:20 p.m. on NBC

Just when it looked like Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin would have to endure his first losing season in Pittsburgh, his squad has risen from the ashes. A team that was 1-4 at one point is now 8-5, riding a three-game winning streak, and currently the sixth seed in the AFC. What’s even more impressive is that Tomlin is using his third QB of the season. Rookie free agent Devlin “Duck” Hodges has been on the winning side on all three of his starts. The defense has tightened the loose gaps and is playing 'Burgh ball. The Bills have been writing an incredible story of their own. They are currently the fifth seed and just one game behind New England in the AFC East. Buffalo is striving for its first 10-win season since 1999. It will also be Buffalo’s first Sunday night appearance in 12 years. Two good defenses in this one. Two teams hoping to move one step closer to solidifying a playoff spot. This one has the makings of a brass knuckles brawl with the Steelers delivering the final knockout blow.

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Here comes wide receiver Robert Davis … to save the day?

Here comes wide receiver Robert Davis … to save the day?

He’s big, he’s fast, he’s strong. 

Can he play? Who knows? I guess we’ll find out on Sunday. 

Meet Robert Davis. He’s the 6-foot-3, 210-pound receiver who once ran a 4.44 at the combine and tested through the roof. He’s also the receiver whom the Eagles called up from their practice squad earlier this week after even more injuries at the position. 

It’s probably unfair to expect a 24-year-old receiver with four career games and one career catch under his belt to suddenly cure all the Eagles’ ails at wide receiver. But here we are.  

I tweeted that video on Thursday and most of the responses were hilarious. Some were tongue-in-cheek, like suggesting that since he caught a ball the Eagles should sign him a long-term deal. But some were genuine — in that, hey, here’s a guy with an impressive frame and possibly some untapped potential. Heck, it’s gotten so bad at receiver, he’ll surely help, right? 

Last week’s 23-17 win over the Giants should be remembered as the practice squad game because three guys — Boston Scott, Josh Perkins and Greg Ward Jr. — all played a big part of the victory and all three were on the practice squad less than two months earlier. 

So … on one hand, Davis uses that as encouragement. Hey, if they can do it, so can I. 

On the other hand, maybe there are now some unfair and unrealistic expectations on just how big of an impact Davis will be able to have in his first game with the Eagles. 

“We’re all competitors,” Davis said. “That’s why we’re in the NFL. Seeing [Ward] go out there and have success, I want to go out there and have success, too.”

The Redskins saw that potential in Davis when they drafted him in the sixth round out of Georgia State back in 2017. It’s pretty easy to see why they used a pick on him. 

Despite his athleticism, Davis split time between the 53-man roster and the practice squad as a rookie and then broke his leg in 2018. Davis came back in 2019 but didn’t play much and eventually got cut. He’s been with the Eagles since he signed to the practice squad on Oct. 7. 

This weekend, Davis will play his first game as an Eagle and it’ll come against his former team in Washington. He’s as excited about that as Eagles fans are about seeing him play. 

And if you want to get even more over-hyped about Davis, here’s what his former Redskins and current Eagles teammate Nate Sudfeld said about him last month: 

He’s a freak of nature. He’s got muscles on top of muscles. Definitely looks the part of a big, freak wide receiver, and he plays big. He’s got speed, really good at running routes, he’s smart. He’s got a bright future, definitely.

Maybe Davis will just have a short stay on the Eagles’ active roster. Maybe he won’t even be able to make an impact. But, for now, it’s fun for fans to dream about finding another diamond in in the practice squad. 

After his call-up, Davis took over a real locker stall at the NovaCare Complex, moving up from the pop-up variety. While he’s listed as Robert on the roster, his nameplate said Rob. 

What does he prefer? 

“My mom named me Robert,” he said. “I go by Rob for my homeboys.”

You can decide what to call him after watching Sunday’s game.  

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