PHILADELPHIA -- It's not uncommon for a running back to praise his offensive line or for a receiver to credit his quarterback after a victory. What made Alshon Jeffery's comments stand out when discussing his second touchdown reception against the Giants is that the Eagles receiver reserved his praise for an entirely different team.
"Give credit to the Patriots," Jeffery said Thursday with a wide smile, "because we actually took that play from them."
Stealing plays from around the NFL -- and from the Patriots in particular -- has proven to be a successful practice for the defending Super Bowl champs.
Facing a third-and-goal from the Giants' 1-yard line midway through the third quarter, coach Doug Pederson dialed up a wide receiver screen. He split Jeffery out wide to the left with wideouts Kamar Aiken and Nelson Agholor bunched together on the same side of the field closer to the formation. Jeffery came in motion, and just as he was nearing Aiken and Agholor, quarterback Carson Wentz called for the snap and threw it quickly to Jeffery, who strolled into the end zone behind a caravan of blockers.
"It was just something that we saw on film that we could take," Jeffery said, "and it works."
The Eagles' coaching staff didn't have to dig deep into the Patriots' annals to find this one; New England had run it just the week before on its opening drive against the Indianapolis Colts. Third-and-goal from the 1. Same look. Tom Brady to Cordarrelle Patterson. Touchdown.
"We're always watching plays across the league," Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz said. "The coaches do a great job of that, of implementing things, seeing what's working around the league and bringing those up. They schemed that one up, and it was definitely an easy passing touchdown for me. I'll take it."
It wasn't the first time this season that the Eagles had taken a play from the Pats and made it their own. In need of an offensive spark in the opener against the Atlanta Falcons, Pederson called a QB throwback to Nick Foles -- the exact one that the Patriots dialed up against the Eagles in Super Bowl LII. Brady was unable to haul in the catch that night, but in this instance, Agholor's throw to Foles was true, and they converted the trick play -- which they renamed "Philly Philly" -- energizing the team in the process en route to a Week 1 win.
This really shouldn't come as any great surprise, seeing as how the most legendary play in franchise history, "Philly Special," was plucked from another team's playbook. Quarterbacks coach Press Taylor, working as the team's quality-control assistant at the time, was tasked with finding different trick plays from around the league that fit with what the Eagles were doing offensively. He identified a reverse QB throwback that the Chicago Bears used against the Minnesota Vikings, presented it to offensive coordinator Frank Reich, and the rest is history.
One of Pederson's primary strengths is his lack of ego and openness to outside concepts. He'll pull from anyone and anywhere if it will help his offense produce. He took elements of Chip Kelly's system and used it to get Foles into Super Bowl MVP form last winter, and he often explores college football for ideas, as well.
“As we study these college kids [leading up to the draft], we’re always looking at the college world a little bit," Pederson said back in March. "So we’ll pull some stuff from there. We just break it down by situation -- who’s the best third-down offense? Who’s the best red zone offense? Who’s the best short-yardage, goal-line offense? We just kinda pick a couple and see if there’s anything unusual that they did, maybe a formation or a personnel group, something that might benefit us, and see if we can incorporate it into our system.”
That philosophy led them to the Patriots' wide receiver screen and helped them to a much-needed Week 6 win over New York.
"Well, offensively we're always looking at plays around the league and different things. You catch something on TV. I mean, listen, it fits into who we are. It fits into our DNA offensively," Pederson said. "And it might be one of his easier TD receptions all season."