Microsoft Teams Top Connection: A special TD for a special person, player in Lane Johnson
The play call was "East Texas," which is where the quarterback and the pass catcher hail from. The role of the receiver on this play was to block the defensive end and then try to create some separation.
Block the defensive end? Did the Eagles put DeVonta Smith in a 3-point stance again?
The quarterback was Houston native Jalen Hurts. The pass catcher was the pride of Groveton, Texas, Lane Johnson, who blocked Quincy Roche and slipped unnoticed – how does a 6-foot-6, 325-pound tackle get that open? – into the right side of the end zone where Hurts drilled the pass into his hands for the touchdown. In pure delirium, Johnson handed the ball to a fan – Johnson got it back and promised to reward the fan – and attempted a Lincoln Leap into the stands, but that proved to be the only thing that stopped the Eagles in the second half as Johnson's fourth-quarter, 5-yard scoring reception gave the team a 27-3 lead on the way to an important 34-10 triumph over the Giants at Lincoln Financial Field.
It's a play that has been in the playbook since Johnson first entered the league with the Eagles as the No. 4 overall pick in 2013, but wasn't dialed up until Sunday. Johnson became the first Eagles offensive lineman with a touchdown since Todd Herremans in 2010.
"I know Jalen whizzed that thing in there," said Johnson, who added that it was his first touchdown since junior college. "What was worrying me was that I was wearing those thumb guards that are all like plastic, so I can't really bend my thumb. I'm just glad I caught it and after that, I tried to do a Lambeau Leap, but I guess our gates are pretty tall."
As great as the design and execution were, Johnson's teammates felt it was a tremendous way to honor a leader who has battled through so much personally this season yet is still one of the game's elite offensive linemen – even if it's not necessarily recognized by everyone outside of Philadelphia.
"Lane's a phenomenal football player," Head Coach Nick Sirianni said. "I don't agree that he's not in the Pro Bowl. I think you got a chance to have a guy who's going to be a first- or second-team All-Pro and not in the Pro Bowl. He just deserves so much more credit than he's getting. I've never been around an offensive tackle that is as talented as this guy."
Johnson missed three games earlier this season so that he could take a leave of absence to focus on his mental health. Johnson has been open and honest and candid about his struggles away from the field.
"I think it's a testimony of perseverance and obviously being strong," said Hurts, who grew a bond with Johnson training with him in the offseason. "Lane knows that his teammates have his back, he knows that I have his back. Going through the things he went through earlier in the season, obviously being able to come back and be with us and be part of our football team and our offense I'm happy for him. I'm happy he's good."
Hurts said that he and Johnson exchanged jerseys after the game. Hurts admitted that it was the first time that he ever threw a touchdown pass to an offensive lineman.
"He wrote on there: 'When I caught that ball, I didn't know what to think. All I could think was, 'What you know about them Texan boys?'' It's so much fun to see him out there making plays like that and obviously playing at such a high level like he has all year at tackle. I know he may not be in the Pro Bowl, but he better be first-team All-Pro for the player he is."
Jordan Mailata was blunt in his assessment of Johnson's touchdown – "I'm not going to swear, but it was (expletive) awesome."
Mailata knows that he wouldn't be the player he is today if not for Johnson.
"Lane and (former Eagle Jason Peters) were like my older brothers when I first got here, and the amount of detail that they emphasized every day and made sure I was self-correcting," said Mailata, a seventh-round pick in 2018 after never playing the sport. "So, you don't rely (only) on the coaches telling (you) what to do. (Johnson and Peters would) teach me how to coach myself and held me to a higher standard. That was (Peters') and Lane's thing. They always did it. They were never shy to offer help, and that's one thing I'll never forget."
Pro Football Focus ranked Johnson as the second-best right tackle in the league entering this week among players with at least 700 offensive snaps. Sunday's touchdown was a key play in a critical NFC East win that furthered the Eagles' playoff hopes. But it also was a tip of the cap to a player – more importantly, a person – who has meant so much to the team's success.
"It was unique," Johnson said. "I'll remember this for the rest of my life."
– Chris McPherson
Toe-tapping DeVonta Smith says, 'It's kind of my thing'
Just in his rookie year, it seems like wide receiver DeVonta Smith has mastered the toe-tap. Following Tuesday night's toe-drag to another one in Sunday's 34-10 win over the Giants, Smith should definitely consider teaching classes on toe-tapping, especially after he said in his postgame press conference, "It's kind of my thing."
"When I get on the sideline, I got like a second sense," Smith said.
Smith showed off his toe-dragging talent in the third quarter with a 4-yard pass from quarterback Jalen Hurts that Smith reached up to bring the ball in while dragging his toes in the end zone for the touchdown. It seems like every week Smith has a highlight-reel catch, but he seemed to think this one was his best. In the win versus Washington just a few nights ago, Smith had another notable toe-tapping catch for 28 yards.
"I would say the one today was better," Smith said. "I was going backwards so I had to drag my foot. I felt like Michael Jackson."
"DeVonta has been really good on the backline and on the sideline all year. That's something you got to learn because you only have to have one (foot down) in college," Head Coach Nick Sirianni said. "He's just been really good and clean with his footwork on the sideline for his first year. He's a technician."
Smith says his body awareness just comes with playing the game more and more.
"I would say the past few years. As you play the game kind of get used to it, your awareness goes up because you know where you are," Smith said. "With your momentum, you just got to know how to have your feet and things like that."
"He's the guy who loves football and wants to be better at football. A guy can go from here to here because of the technique he plays with," Sirianni continued on Smith. "He works endless hours to do that. He had to catch like that last week where he dragged the foot from behind. A great job to (Wide Receivers Coach) Aaron Moorehead of drilling that as well. I know he drills that every single day. And then DeVonta obviously playing with great technique."
Smith was the game's leading receiver with 80 yards and the touchdown, his fifth of the season. On the Eagles' first drive in the second quarter, Hurts found Smith for a 23-yard pass on third down to get the offense moving down the field. Although this play didn't lead to any points, the throw and the catch were worth a highlight. Then later in the second quarter, Hurts threw a beautiful 46-yard pass to Smith that led to a 22-yard field goal from kicker Jake Elliott. That field goal tied the game up at 3-3 and took them into the half.
The 6-foot, 170-pound wide receiver perfects his craft each week and it's paying off in critical moments.
– Jillian Oddo
News and notes
• Philadelphia improved to 8-7 (.533) this season. The Eagles, who own a 6-2 record (.750) dating back to Week 8, have won a season-high 3 consecutive games. Philadelphia is tied with Green Bay (6-2) and San Francisco (6-3) for the most wins in the NFC since Week 8. This is the first time the Eagles have won 6+ games during any 8-game stretch in a season since 2017. The Eagles have won 3 straight games by 10+ points for the first time since 2017 (5 games).
The Eagles currently sit as the No. 7 seed in the NFC's playoff picture, which would qualify for the final Wild Card spot. San Francisco is also 8-7, but is No. 6 based on their Week 2 win over the Eagles. New Orleans can join the Eagles and the 49ers at 8-7 with a win on Monday night against Miami. The Eagles face Washington in a rematch of the Week 15 showdown next Sunday at FedEx Field. The Football Team entered Week 16 with a 6-8 record, but trailed the Dallas Cowboys 42-7 at halftime. The Eagles host Dallas in Week 18.
"I'm not in the business of talking about anything other than being in the moment," quarterback Jalen Hurts said. "Everything that we do is just focusing on getting better every day and being 1-0 every day. And we know that as a football team, if we control the things that we can control, we should be alright. So, any external factors, any rat poison out there, everybody's – I don't really care for it. I'm not trying to hear it. We know as a football team, and I know in my heart, we have yet to play our best game. We have yet to put it all together and we're striving for that. I know that it'll come at the right time, but we're striving for that."
• Philadelphia's defense allowed a season-low 192 total net yards vs. New York, including 84 rushing yards and 108 net passing yards. Overall, the Giants averaged 2.6 yards per play (73 plays). The Eagles' 192 total net yards allowed were their fewest surrendered in a single game since their 22-14 home victory over Chicago in 2019 when they gave up just 164 yards. The Eagles' defense has forced either a punt, takeaway, or turnover on downs on 15 of its last 18 opponent drives, excluding the last two game-ending possessions as time expired. During that stretch, Philadelphia has allowed just 17 points over its last 18 opponent drives (0.94 points per drive). The Eagles have allowed 18 or fewer points in their last 4 games.
"We know as a defense we've been playing well for the last month, just not enough turnovers. That was kind of the emphasis. Obviously, it's always the emphasis we're talking about all the time. To be able to get those and give the offense more opportunities, it's what we wanted to do and we were able to do it today," said linebacker Alex Singleton, who took a tipped pass from safety Rodney McLeod and returned it 29 yards for his second career pick-six.
• Boston Scott, who finished the game with 12 carries for 41 yards and a TD, scored the go-ahead TD in the third quarter following an interception by Rodney McLeod. Scott's 3-yard rushing TD, which gave the Eagles a 10-3 advantage, marked his 8th career TD in 6 games vs. New York (7 rushing). Scott has scored a TD in all 6 of his career games against the Giants.
Here are the best photos from Week 16.