ARLINGTON, Texas – It seemed innocent enough, as Dallas kickoff return man Ryan Switzer took Jake Elliott's opening kickoff and headed toward and up the right sideline, taking big gulps of yards with him. At the end of the play, though, everything changed.
Elliott was forced to make a tackle, his first of the year, as he and Switzer collided at the end of the 61-yard return. It was a physical moment, one that no kicker wants. But Elliott bounced up from his first NFL tackle, downing Switzer at the Philadelphia 37-yard line, and seemed none worse for the wear.
In fact, Elliott handled the point-after attempt following the Eagles' first possession, a touchdown drive, and then kicked off to the Dallas 1-yard line after the PAT. Late in the first half, though, after an Eagles interception, Elliott pushed a 34-yard field goal attempt wide right, and alarm bells went off.
Elliott was taken into the locker room for evaluation for a head injury and was unable to kick the rest of the game. In the meantime, linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill took practice kicks into the net in the bench area – he missed the net entirely on his first practice attempt – as the Eagles scrambled the rest of the game in the placekicking department.
Grugier-Hill kicked off in the second half and had great success. His first kickoff went to the goal line and was returned to the 29-yard line. Grugier-Hill then kicked off after the Eagles took a 23-9 lead and the ball went 3 yards deep into the end zone.
A touchback. For a linebacker. The last time an Eagle kicked, other than an actual placekicker, was when linebacker Mark Simoneau booted an extra point in 2005 during a game in which placekicker David Akers suffered a hamstring injury.
This time, it was Grugier-Hill.
"I was a punter in high school," Grugier-Hill said. "That's about it. I knew I was the backup kicker, but it's not like we've practiced it. I took some warmups and went out and kicked as well as I could."
There's more to the story than that, said punter Donnie Jones.
"I knew Kamu was the backup kicker when he came over and said, 'Uh, how do you put the ball on the tee?' I set the ball up on the tee for him and I moved the net over for him and he still missed the net and his first practice kick went up into the stands. All we could do was laugh.
"Seriously, he did a great job."
Meanwhile, the Eagles unveiled an extensive two-point playbook, putting the football in the hands of quarterback Carson Wentz and letting him do his thing. He completed passes to Corey Clement and Alshon Jeffery and then one in the fourth quarter to tight end Trey Burton as the Eagles converted three of their four two-point conversions. Only a Zach Ertz fumble marred the two-point tries.
Grugier-Hill, of course, was a big topic of conversation after the game.
"I didn't have a lot of time to think about it. I just wanted to make solid contact," Grugier-Hill said. "I shanked one in a practice on the sidelines, but after that, I felt OK. I just wanted to kick it down the field and keep it inbounds and let our guys go down and make the tackle. That's kind of how it played out. It was pretty fun, actually. Maybe if it happens again they will let me kick a field goal or a point after."
The Philadelphia Eagles moved to 9-1 on the season after defeating the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in Week 11.