Zech McPhearson, special teams rise to the occasion
The Lions tried to catch the Eagles off guard after scoring a touchdown to shoot within 10 points late in the third quarter of Sunday’s season opener.
They left with a kick outside.
In a game that featured James Bradberry’s first-of-6 career pick, an outstanding 54-yard completion from Jalen Hurts to AJ Brown, a pass that Brown said was a dime and “just fell from the sky,” four rushing touchdowns from all three Eagles and Hurts running backs, the onside kick is easy to ignore.
Specifically, cornerback Zech McPhearson’s recovery of the Lions onside kick attempt with 4:09 left in the third quarter of what would eventually become a 38-35 Eagles win, was what the Eagles did. head coach Nick Sirianni called it a “huge game”.
At the time of the play-test, the score was 31-21.
When asked about the decision afterwards, Detroit coach Dan Campbell simply said, “I wanted to get the ball back.”
The Eagles were ready.
“Zech (was) just disciplined in the sense of what he taught there, and he taught a very specific fundamental there while the ball is being kicked,” head coach Nick Sirianni said.
“Zech stayed true to his rules and he executed a tremendous play in this game. It wasn’t just Zech. The ball went to Zech and Zech caught it. Our whole line and everyone up front was doing that.
McPhearson also had a team-high two tackles on special teams while tying for team high in ST reps with Shaun Bradley. Both players had 25 each (81%).
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Undrafted rookie Josh Jobe had 23 ST reps and sixth-round rookie Kyron Johnson had 18.
Sirianni gave a lot of credit to special teams coordinator Michael Clay, ST assistant coach Joe Pannunzio and ST quality control coach Tyler Brown for onside kick recovery.
“They groomed these guys for this,” he said. “They knew it was in the repertoire and prepared them for it, and we practiced that. Zech did this in practice.
Sirianni compared the onside kick recovery to a turnover.
The Eagles took over at 49 from the Lions and, five plays later, Boston Scott rolled into the end zone from one yard with 1:45 left in the third.
These would be the last points the Eagles would score, and they turned out to be the winning points.
“Where do we get football and how do we get it, that momentum, like hey, you just tried to get us and we got you, you know what I mean, it’s a great feeling,” he said. said Sirianni.
The Eagles’ special teams struggled last year, but they seem to have a knack for putting in a big play at the right time.
TJ Edwards had a punt block last year at Carolina that bailed out the offense and helped the Eagles win this game. ST units also had a big punt return from Jalen Reagor to set up an important touchdown in another win.
Now this piece.
“I think the special teams played really well (Sunday) and it was huge, huge play in that game,” the head coach said. “… it’s great to see all the phases contribute to winning the football game.”
Ed Kracz is SI.com’s Fan Nation Eagles Today editor and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles Where www.eaglesmaven.com and follow him on Twitter: @kracze.