Josh Huff had never seen a play like that. An opening kickoff from Dallas' Dan Bailey fluttered in the air at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday night and landed between upback Brad Smith and Huff, the deep man, at the Philadelphia 15-yard line.
And the trouble was on.
Huff sprinted to try to pounce on the live football, but Cowboys' cover man C.J. Spillman beat him to it and Dallas had the football on the Eagles' 15-yard line to open the game. Five plays later, the Cowboys scored a touchdown and led 7-0, en route to a 38-27 lead and first place in the NFC East.
"The ball just died and I was running up trying to get to the football," Huff said. "It was just a freak-of-nature play, I guess. I've never seen that happen in all of my years of playing football, the ball just dying like it did. i tried to run up there as fast as I could to catch it, but I got there too late."
The strategy was intentional as the Cowboys didn't want to give Huff a chance to break off a big kickoff return. He had four returns for 54 yards, an average of 13.5 yards per return. Smith had one return for 21 yards. Huff entered the game averaging 38.1 yards per return this season, including the 107-yarder against Tennessee.
"I think the wind was a little tricky tonight," said Dallas head coach Jason Garrett. "It certainly was a great night to play football, but that wind was a little bit of a factor on a couple of those kicks. So our guys really ran well. C.J. does a heck of a job making the play on that ball to give us that early opportunity."
Huff had a 44-yard catch and run and showed his explosiveness on the play. He's a talented rookie who said he put the team in a "bad predicament" on the opening kickoff, but it's hard to say that it was his fault. The Cowboys just executed a play to perfection.
"The normal protocol is that when the ball goes over Brad's head he calls back to me to come up and field it," Huff said. "Once the ball went over his head and I saw him point back to me, I was making my way to the ball and it just instantly died once it got over his head and I tried to come up and make a play on it. Unfortunately I got up there too short."
It's Sunday night and the biggest game in the NFL is the Cowboys-Eagles' showdown for first place in the NFC East ...