In the aftermath of Super Bowl LII, the play known as “Philly Special” received most of the attention. And rightfully so. The gadget play used on fourth and goal made Nick Foles the first quarterback in league history to catch a touchdown pass in a Super Bowl.
But Wristband 145 a/k/a Gun trey left, open buster star motion 383 X follow Y slant has much greater meaning to the outcome of the game.
Peter King of SI.com breaks down the play that would become the game-winning touchdown for the Eagles, with the help of Eagles coach Doug Pederson, former Eagles offensive coordinator (now Colts coach) Frank Reich, and Eagles receivers coach Mike Groh. The design and execution of the play demonstrates the kind of creativity and variety that is needed in order to counter New England’s ultra-thorough knowledge of everything that a team has done, and that in turn may do.
One of the keys to the play was the “star motion,” a Jet Sweep-style of pre-snap running back away from primary receiver Zach Ertz. The Eagles had used the device only 12 times in more than 1,200 total snaps over the course of the season. As explained by King, the safety who was supposed to be double-teaming Ertz ended up reacting to the star motion, giving Ertz single coverage, alone on the side of the field opposite bunch formation.
Contrast this with Super Bowl XLIX, when the Patriots knew the Seahawks’ tendencies so thoroughly that they practiced defending in a goal-line setting the pass play that Seattle used with a Lombardi Trophy on the line. Three years later, the Eagles had cooked up something that the Patriots had never before seen from Philly, and it helped the Eagles take the lead for good in the biggest game of the year.
The message to any team facing the Patriots is clear. They’re going to know what you’ve done, so you need to know what you’ve done even better — and to come up with something that the Patriots have never seen.