Lightning delayed the start of the Eagles' season for 45 minutes. Incompetence delayed any real defense of their championship for 2 ½quarters more. The team and their fans needed a spark. So … Why not?
Philly Special: The Sequel.
It was a blockbuster in the Super Bowl.
It was a smash hit again Thursday night.
It changed everything. It awakened the offense. It resuscitated the crowd.
"That was a huge momentum burst for us," quarterback/receiver Nick Foles said.
It was the play the Patriots' Tom Brady tried — and failed — to convert in Minneapolis in February. It was a play the team practiced once. One time.
And it spurred the Eagles to an 18-12 comeback win. Ka-boom.
Foles received a shotgun snap, handed off to running back Corey Clement and took off. Clement ran left, then flipped the ball to Nelson Agholor, who had reversed and was running right. Agholor, a backup quarterback in high school, took two steps and spun a lovely toss 15 yards to Foles.
>> READ MORE: Eagles' win had reminders of the Super Bowl
That turned third-and-5 at the Falcons' 41 with into first-and-Let's-Get-This-Thing-Going, at the Falcons' 26. Three plays later Foles completed an 18-yard pass to Zach Ertz. Two plays after that, Jay Ajayi scored a touchdown and gave the Eagles a 10-6 lead with
It wasn't exactly the Philly Special, and, as such, its name is different: "Philly Philly." It wasn't a direct snap to Clement, with Foles slyly lined up at the end of the line of scrimmage, who flipped it to Trey Burton, who hit Foles for a touchdown.
It wasn't fourth-and-goal at the 1, possibly taking three precious points off the board.
And it didn't score a touchdown in the waning moments of the first half of the Super Bowl against the best team in modern pigskin history, giving those diabolical Patriots a dose of their own nasty medicine to take a 10-point lead with 34 seconds to play before intermission.
This was less dramatic. It was just the regular-season opener. It was just the Falcons, most famous for their collapse against those same Patriots in Super Bowl LI, the year before the Eagles won LII, which they celebrated with a banner and some screaming, as the Falcons looked on, bitterly.
But the moment was huge, nonetheless.
There was less time left: 7:41 in the third quarter.
The Eagles trailed, 6-3. They had gained 102 yards. They looked every bit the team whose starters had failed to score in the preseason.
There was less chance to surprise the Falcons, Foles having earned his pass-catching credentials seven months prior (in the same game that saw Brady lose his cred forever).
Consider that, for a moment.
The Falcons got fooled by devious Doug Pederson on a play similar to the one that that duped Darth Hoodie and his Evil Empire … in the last game anybody played.
The film was fresh.
"I think I expected them to have some what we can gadget plays up," said Falcons coach Dan Quinn, who seemed still stunned and a bit abashed.
This is the essence of Pederson, who lost his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach to other teams who gave them promotions. Pederson coaches with the temperament of a gambler with tuberculosis — like a man with nothing to lose.
This is the essence of Foles, too. He was generally awful. His sixth intercept-able pass of the game was actually intercepted, and quickly led to a Falcons touchdown. But Foles fancies himself a gunslinger, an elite athlete possibly miscast as a quarterback instead of the NBA's slowest shooting guard, ever. He spent about 20 minutes before the game running pass patterns, which, of course, does not delight his handlers.
"I do that every warmup. It's a way for me to go out there and be a kid a little bit," Foles explained. Some coaches probably think I'm crazy, doing it, but it's something I enjoy doing."
Anything to develop the hands.
In case the Falcons somehow forgot, there's a Bud Light-commissioned statue inside the grounds of Lincoln Financial Field of Foles and Pederson discussing the Philly Special on the sideline at the Super Bowl — "You want Philly Philly?" Foles said, misidentifying the play. "Yeah, let's do it," replied Pederson, who apparently misspeaks the same language.
Thursday night's decision to run Philly Special: 2.0 wasn't nearly as dramatic.
This time, they decided to run it while Falcons defensive Takk McKinley's injured leg was being attended to. Foles said he ran to the sideline to suggest it, and when he got there, Pederson was pointing to it on the play sheet. The Falcons played man-to-man coverage, and nobody covered Foles.
This time, Burton was in Chicago getting ready to debut with his new team.
This time, it wasn't quite as tricky.
But it was something … special.
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