There were nothing but blue skies over Philadelphia when the Eagles staged their Super Bowl celebration last Thursday.
A few days ago, someone tried to rain on the Eagles’ parade.
Fox rules analyst Mike Pereira, the NFL’s former head of officiating, recently opined that the biggest play in the Eagles’ 41-33 victory over New England in Super Bowl LII, “Philly Special,” actually wasn’t that special.
He insisted to Talk of Fame Network that the Eagles were lined up in an illegal formation, even though the NFL has said it was a judgment call.
Guess what? Pereira’s opinion is irrelevant. Down judge Jerry Bergman, the official who was in charge of checking the formation, kept his penalty flag in his pocket.
It’s still a touchdown, and it still produces chills every time I watch the mic’d up version, which at last count was about a dozen times.
“Philly Special” is now the most memorable play in franchise history, surpassing the original “Miracle of the Meadowlands” and “Fourth-and-26.”
It wasn’t just the play — a 1-yard touchdown pass from tight end Trey Burton to quarterback Nick Foles against New England — but the circumstances that led to it and the impact.
Fourth-and-goal from the 1. Thirty-eight seconds left in the first half. Eagles leading 15-12. No one would have blamed coach Doug Pederson for opting for a field goal.
Foles trots over to the sideline and suggests a play they had practiced for a few weeks with limited success.
“Philly, Philly?” Foles asks.
Pederson smiles and says, “Let’s go.”
“It just came to me,” Foles said after the game. “It just felt like the right time. That’s the great thing about Coach Pederson. He could have said no, but he has confidence in his players, and he has confidence in me. There’s a lot of trust and a lot of faith there.”
The play served as a microcosm of the Eagles’ entire season.
One of the reasons it was named “Philly Special” — a name dreamed up by Pederson and then-offensive coordinator Frank Reich — is because of the participants.
Like the entire team, center Jason Kelce, running back Corey Clement, Burton and Foles all overcame adversity to deliver the play in the Super Bowl that will go down in franchise lore.
You can also add Pederson.
Kelce, whose passionate, fiery speech at Thursday’s celebration will also never be forgotten, was a walk-on linebacker at the University of Cincinnati in 2006. He was a sixth-round draft pick in 2011, the third offensive lineman drafted by the Eagles after Danny Watkins and Julian Vandervelde. He struggled so badly last season that there was talk he might be traded or cut to make room for Isaac Seumalo.
Clement, who grew up on the other side of the Walt Whitman Bridge in Glassboro, wasn’t drafted at all after an inconsistent career at Wisconsin. He signed with the Eagles as a rookie free agent, partly on the advice of Eagles vice president of security and longtime friend Dom DeSandro.
Burton wasn’t drafted, either. He signed with the Eagles as a rookie free agent in 2014 after playing quarterback in high school and at the University of Florida. Until this season, he was primarily known as a special teams player.
Pederson was not the Eagles’ first choice to replace Chip Kelly in 2016. They were more interested in Adam Gase and Ben McAdoo and turned to Pederson only after Gase signed with Miami and McAdoo opted for the New York Giants. Before this season, one national analyst ranked him as the worst coach in the league.
They all delivered when it mattered most.
Foles crept toward the line of scrimmage, then drifted to the right while pretending to call out a blocking scheme for the offensive line.
Kelce fired a shotgun snap to Clement, who took off toward the left side, then pitched the ball to Burton as he sprinted in the other direction. Foles snuck into the end zone and caught Burton’s perfect pass.
“It was the right time at the right moment,” Pederson said. “It will be a pretty famous play I think now will be talked about for a long time.”
A long time?
(David Weinberg’s Extra Points column appears Wednesday and Sunday in The Press.)
Contact: 609-272-7201 DWeinberg@pressofac.com