Eagles

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."

Eagles' new coach thinks team's WR corps is underrated, can be among NFL's best

Eagles' new coach thinks team's WR corps is underrated, can be among NFL's best

They're tired of being known as the worst group of wide receivers in the league.

And they may finally have a coach who can help them get rid of that tag.

"We have an expectation to be one of the top groups in the league," new Eagles receivers coach Aaron Moorehead said Thursday. "That's what we expect. This group is coming out with a little bit of a chip on its shoulder I think because of last year, and that's a good thing."

Eagles receivers last year combined for just 137 passes for 1,488 yards and nine touchdowns, the worst WR numbers in the league.

It was the fewest yards by an Eagles receiving corps since 2000, when Charles Johnson, Torrance Small and Friends had 1,481.

For the first time since 1966 no Eagles wide receiver even had 500 yards.

Out with Carson Walch, in with Moorehead, the Eagles' fifth receivers coach in five years under Doug Pederson.

It doesn't take much time with Moorehead – even on a Zoom call – to sense his confidence, passion, dedication and communication skills.

And he's already instilled a hunger in this wide receiving group to go from one of the worst in the league to one of the best.

"At the end of the day, a little added extra motivation (doesn't hurt)," he said. "In this day and age (with) social media, you can try to ignore it, but people hear what (critics) say, and I think guys understand that we do have something to prove, and that's OK. There's nothing wrong with that, and I enjoy a good challenge and I enjoy coaching a group that has something to prove."

DeSean Jackson is 33 and managed one healthy game last year. Alshon Jeffery struggled then got hurt and has been largely disappointing since he signed here. Second-round pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside had a miserable rookie year. And rookie Jalen Reagor keeps hearing how the Eagles should have taken Justin Jefferson instead.

You can understand why this group feels disrespected.

"I think that's good," Moorehead said. "I've coached groups that people believed were the best [...] and I've coached groups that people disrespected and felt like they weren't very good, so it's not anything new to me. I think we have a really good group. I know we have a really good group. It's just up to us to stay healthy and prove it week in and week out."

The Eagles haven't had a wide receiver with back-to-back 100-yard games since Jordan Matthews in 2015.

They haven't had a 1,000-yard receiver since Jeremy Maclin in 2014.

On paper they should be better. How can they not be?

Their goal isn't just to be better. It’s to be among the best.

"So far they've taken the approach that [they're] ready to go out there and prove every day why we should be one of the top groups in the NFL," Moorehead said.

You have to love Moorehead's approach and his personality.

If his receivers can match his confidence and swagger, the Eagles just might finally have a receiving corps to get excited about.

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Eagle Eye podcast: Is Zach Ertz next in line for a contract extension?

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Eagle Eye podcast: Is Zach Ertz next in line for a contract extension?

On the latest Eagle Eye podcast, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro take a look at Zach Ertz’s contract situation after George Kittle and Travis Kelce got huge extensions. 

The guys pick some things they would have watched in the preseason opener, talk about Doug Pederson’s structure for practice and give their first impressions on a couple of new Eagles coaches. 

Plus, remembering the great Howard Mudd, who died at 78 this week. 

  • (1:02) — What Travis Kelce and George Kittle's contract mean for Zach Ertz.
  • (16:45) — Things we would have watched tonight in preseason opener.
  • (23:08) — Doug Pederson details Eagles’ 2020 training camp structure
  • (28:45) — Aaron Moorehead and Matt Burke speak on their roles. 
  • (36:54) — Remembering Howard Mudd
     

Subscribe and rate the Eagle Eye podcast: 
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Stitcher / Spotify / Art19

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles