Eagles

Eagles

After an all-too-familiar drop, Torrey Smith assured Nick Foles he would redeem himself. What followed was one of the most memorable catches in Eagles history: a 41-yard flea flicker in an NFC Championship Game.

Smith struggled with dropped passes all season long and never really materialized as the consistent deep threat the Eagles hoped for. But the seventh-year veteran knew they had the Vikings' number and pleaded with Foles to keep taking shots down the field.

Finally, Smith reeled in the long touchdown that felt like the dagger in the Eagles' 38-7 victory.

"We were talking about it all week, and we knew we were going to hit on one," Smith said postgame. "Just don't do anything differently, and I knew he was going to come back at some point."

Despite the trickery at the line of scrimmage, there was a high degree of difficulty involved with the catch. With All-Pro Vikings safety Harrison Smith in hot pursuit, Smith cradled the pass over his right shoulder as it came plummeting back to earth, got two feet inbounds and maintained control of the football while being tackled to the ground.

No matter. Smith wasn't about to let that one fall incomplete.

"I thought it I was inbounds, but I knew it was pretty close," Smith said. "Probably should've dragged my foot, but the ball kind of disappears a little bit when you catch it at that angle, and I wanted to catch it first."

 

Smith failed to haul in a potential 50-yard gain on the Eagles' first possession. The ball was slightly underthrown by Foles, allowing Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes to get back into the play and break up the pass.

Still, the ball was in Smith's hands, and he took full responsibility, going so far as to approach Foles on the sideline after the Eagles' drive ended in a punt.

"I had it," Smith said. "I should've caught it.

"I just told him, 'Don't do anything different.' I don't want him to think that it's his fault. That's my fault. That's a play I can make. I knew it was going to be contested when I slowed up a little bit, but that's a play I can make and I should make."

The opportunity for redemption came in the third quarter. Already leading the Vikings 24-7, Eagles coach Doug Pederson decided to go straight for the jugular after halftime, capping off an eight-play, 75-yard drive with the flea flicker.

Smith sold the call brilliantly, running at half speed to fool Waynes into thinking the ball was going elsewhere, only to take off and leave the defensive back in his dust.

"I knew that I had to get far enough down the field that he thinks I'm releasing like a pass, but then get my eyes back like lazy receivers do sometimes," Smith said. "We all do it, where you're like kind of looking to see where the ball is going.

"He looked, and I took off."

With the cornerback out of the play, the safety help was a little too late to break up a perfectly delivered pass from Foles.

"I don't know if I've ever run a flea flicker," Foles said. "It was my first time so I just tried not to smile. Any time you're a quarterback and you can have a play like that, it's pretty exciting."

Smith has taken his share of criticism throughout the season, finishing sixth in the NFL out of 94 qualifying receivers in drop rate, according to Pro Football Focus. Prior to Sunday, he caught just two passes of 40 yards or more all season long.

Yet neither Foles nor Pederson lost confidence in Smith and were comfortable going to the veteran wideout when it was time to drive the final nail in the Vikings' coffin.

"Nick did a great job of stepping up and sliding right, and then what a finish," Pederson said. "What a catch by Torrey, and right in the front corner of the end zone."