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."

Why Jeff Lurie's response to national anthem policy was disappointing

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Why Jeff Lurie's response to national anthem policy was disappointing

On the latest edition of Roob Knows, a Philadelphia Eagles podcast, Reuben Frank discusses the NFL's new national anthem policy and why he was disappointed by Jeff Lurie's reaction. A look at the Eagles' linebacker situation and what's the next move after a couple losses. Don't bet against Carson Wentz.

Also, rookie cornerback Avonte Maddox joins the podcast. And a look at some Zach Ertz statistics that may surprise you.

Subscribe and rate Roob Knows: Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Stitcher / Art19

Roob's 10 observations: Anthem policy, Kendricks' career, Wentz

Roob's 10 observations: Anthem policy, Kendricks' career, Wentz

Some thoughts on the NFL’s new anthem policy, Mychal Kendricks’ release, Carson Wentz’s return to practice and – of course – the Joe Callahan Stat of the Day!

It’s all in this week’s OTA edition of Roob’s 10 random Eagles observations!

1. The NFL’s anthem policy banning players from peaceful demonstrations during the anthem bothers me for a few reasons. First of all, it’s a dangerous precedent for the league to unilaterally restrict any such form of personal expression. Legislating opinions never works. Players are going to find other ways to express their opinions, and the policy is only going to breed resentment between the players and the league, which is the last thing the league needs right now. But more than that, I really have problems with the word “disrespect.” When someone arbitrarily decides what is and what isn’t “disrespectful,” you really get yourself in a lot of trouble. Nobody who’s listened to Malcolm Jenkins so eloquently discuss his reasons for raising his fist during the anthem would ever accuse him of being disrespectful. And also, since this is a policy that affects mainly African-American players, it has strong racial implications. These are issues that aren’t going to just go away, whether or not the NFL tries to make them disappear.

2. And I found Eagles owner Jeff Lurie’s statement uncharacteristically tepid and vague. Lurie has been courageously supportive all along of Jenkins, Chris Long and all the players league-wide who’ve used their platform to fight for equal rights and social justice. All that statement did was avoid taking a stand on the new NFL policy. Disappointing.

3. Onto football matters! There’s no question the Eagles are a better football team with Mychal Kendricks on the field. Kendricks was solid last year and very good in the postseason. But the bottom line is Kendricks has felt unwanted and disrespected for a long time. The Eagles have been trying unsuccessfully to unload his contract for a couple years, and Kendricks knew he had no future here. If a team doesn’t want a player and the player doesn’t want to be with the team, it’s not a healthy relationship. And that’s why Kendricks is gone. But Kendricks handled what could have been an ugly situation with class and professionalism, and he’s got a Super Bowl ring to show for it. He never became the Pro Bowl player I expected when I first saw him play in 2012, but he was a decent player here for six years, and he leaves as a champion.

4. Jason Kelce announced the start of the 5K at the Eagles Autism Challenge at the Linc in terrible conditions and parodied his Super Bowl parade speech: “They said it was too cold! They said it was too rainy!” Hilarious.

5. Watching Carson Wentz actually participate in individual drills at practice Tuesday morning was pretty wild. For him to be out there looking comfortable and fluid taking drops and firing passes just 5 1/2 months after hobbling off the field at L.A. Coliseum was awfully encouraging.

6. I’m really starting to think Wentz plays Sept. 6.

7. One note about the Eagles’ linebacker depth. The days where teams ran three linebackers out there on every play are long gone. The Eagles last year played three linebackers on about 12 percent of their defensive snaps. In the Super Bowl, the Eagles played a total of three reps with three LBs. So if Jordan Hicks can stay healthy and Nigel Bradham plays like he did last year, the Eagles will be fine. Big if with Hicks. When the Eagles do play three ‘backers, I expect Corey Nelson to handle that role. Really, it comes down to Hicks staying healthy.

8. Career completion percentages of current Eagles quarterbacks:

82.6 percent … Nate Sudfeld
71.4 percent … Joe Callahan
61.5 percent … Carson Wentz
61.1 percent … Nick Foles

9. Was fun watching Mike Wallace run around at practice on Tuesday. Excited to see what he brings to this offense. He’s 31, an age where many receivers are slowing down, but he was one of just two receivers in their 30s last year who caught 50 passes and averaged 14.0 yards per catch (Ted Ginn was the other). And with Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffery here, he doesn’t have to be THE GUY. None of them do. That’s the beauty of this offense.

10. Potentially, this is the best trio of receivers the Eagles have ever had. Would you rather have DeSean, Maclin and Avant or Jeffery, Agholor and Wallace? I think this group is more versatile and slightly more talented. It’s close.