When the Eagles are faced with a tough third down, don't be surprised to see head coach Andy Reid point to the sky. If you ask wide receiver Jason Avant, that's where the inspiration comes from.
Avant, whose become an absolute third-down machine for the Eagles, converted three more chances on Monday night, bringing his total to 13 on the season. In all, Avant caught five passes for 101 yards, his first career 100-yard game.
And each catch, as always, is punctuated with a point to the heavens.
"Glory to God, man," Avant said. "I give God all the credit and praise for it."
Avant, a physical slot receiver, has now made 30 catches for 361 yards and two touchdowns on the season. Half of those catches have come on third down, and he's converted 13 of those 15 for firsts.
As a result, it's rare to see the Eagles line up on a critical third down without Avant in the huddle. Photo Gallery : CLE VS. PHI 12-15-08
Avant's first third-down catch, a 20-yard grab down the sideline on which he barely managed to sneak both feet inbounds was his most spectacular.
"I just think it was one of those games where I was getting open, and (quarterback Donovan McNabb) saw me," Avant said. "It wasn't any emphasis on the game plan at all, it was just something that happened."
The third-down slot role has been welcoming to Avant, on a Philadelphia team that asks its wide receivers to embrace less extensive, but critical, duties. Without a true superstar on the unit, that's how things have to work to keep the ball moving. Avant excels against man-to-man coverage, in large part because of his physicality, Reid said.
Part of Avant's appeal is his fearlessness to go across the middle, valuable in third-down situations that need to take advantage of every crease the defense might show. Fortunately for McNabb, Avant found them all en route to his 101-yard performance.
"Was that a 100-yard game?" Avant said, surprised. "Well praise the Lord, then. I haven't had one of those since I was at Michigan."
On Monday night, Avant was a machine. Three of his five catches went for 20 yards or more, three converted critical third downs, and all five went for first downs in some form.
So, whatever the third-down woes that plagued the Eagles earlier in the season, Avant has some of the answers. Despite some sloppy play, the Eagles were able to keep their ship pointed to the playoffs.
"We were just trying to make plays. I don't want to take any credit," Avant said. "We want to play good for the guy that's wearing the '5' jersey. And we want to win."