On January 11, running back Derrick Henry threw a game-sealing touchdown from the wildcat formation to Corey Davis to help the Tennessee Titans upset the championship-favorite Baltimore Ravens. The next day, the Houston Texans tried to run a fake punt against the Kansas City Chiefs to keep them from gaining momentum in a 24-7 routing. They lost 31-51.
Each year, it feels like coaches are utilizing trick plays more and more to keep their offense fresh and unpredictable. Nowhere has it been more evident than in the playoffs this past year. This century trick plays have been quite commonplace throughout the regular season, but recently teams have seemingly been much more willing to open the bag of tricks against their opponents.
And you can thank Nick Foles for that.
On February 4, 2018, the New England Patriots vs Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl (52), the Eagles executed one of the boldest trick plays ever. On a fourth down clinging to a 15-12 lead with 30 seconds left in the first half, the Eagles motion to call “Philly Philly”.
Quarterback Nick Foles pretends to audible, or change the play at the line of scrimmage, and walks away from the snap. Running Back Cory Clement takes the snap, and shovels the ball to Tight End Trey Burton, who throws the ball to Nick Foles for a touchdown.
Executing a trick play of such complexity is hard by itself, but in the largest game of the year, against Bill Belichick, one of the greatest coaches of all time, in a close game where passing on a field goal could swing the momentum of the game, it takes balls.
“Against an aggressive goalline defense, a play like that can be super effective” former high school Wide Receiver Chris Civilikas said about the Philly Special. “But what a lot of people forget is that the Patriots tried the same play like three minutes before.”
This is also true. With 12 minutes left in the first half the Patriots tried essentially the exact same play, only quarterback Tom Brady dropped the pass that Foles caught. The Eagles ultimately won the game 41-33, winning their first Super Bowl since 1960.
Going back to the Divisional Championship, both the Titans and the Texans head coaches stem from the Patriots and Bill Belichick’s coaching tree. Any given week, a team can be the Titans or the Texans, and it was the Patriots’ turn to be the Texans. That’s the magic of trick plays.