Veteran punter Mat McBriar is in his ninth NFL season and fortunately he has not had to deal with surrendering a touchdown on too many occasions.
Unfortunately, McBriar added another return touchdown to his resume during Sunday's 38-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas return specialist Dwayne Harris scored on a 78-yard punt return early in the fourth quarter to provide the game-winning points as the momentum swung drastically in the Cowboys' favor.
"Personally, when it involves myself it's really frustrating. You really feel bad that you've let everyone down. You only get so many chances to go out there and make an impact. When it's such a big, negative play like that it's not a good feeling at all," said McBriar, who recalled it being the third punt return touchdown against him in his career. "At the time, we looked like we were playing quite well. It couldn't have been any worse, the timing of it."
The Cowboys tied the game late in the third quarter on a 30-yard touchdown reception from wide receiver Dez Bryant. On the Eagles' next drive, they gained a first down by penalty, but that's it. McBriar stepped out and launched a 49-yard punt that was fielded by Harris at the Dallas 22-yard line between the left hash and the numbers. Colt Anderson and Brandon Hughes raced down the field and both of them looked like they could have been blocked in the back. Harris went towards the left sideline and raced up the field. By the time Harris was at the 35-yard line, McBriar was the only person in position to make a tackle and he was blocked by safety Danny McCray. It was the first punt return allowed by the Eagles since Ted McGinn scored on an 87-yard return for the Dolphins in 2007.
"I know a lot of people saw the same thing as you. I just feel like my feet got tangled up. I have to stay on my feet and make that play," Anderson said. "They had a good scheme. They set up a nice wall and we didn't have anybody out there. The returner made a couple of guys miss and he was out of the gate."
McBriar said that the Eagles were well aware of Harris' potential after he made a 37-yard punt return last week against Atlanta.
"I caught the ball and had a guy leading me towards the kicker and I saw the sidelines and knew I could return it," Harris said. "I saw that the field was open so I knew that I needed to get the block to spring me through and I got it. I knew that I was going for the score and it was a big play."
For a coverage unit that has struggled throughout the course of the season, Sunday's big play sticks in the craw of the Eagles.
"It's just frustrating anytime you give up a big play like that," said Anderson, the team's Special Teams MVP in 2011. "We are making strides as far as getting better as a coverage unit. We just can't give up plays like that. We've got to get some plays like that ourselves."
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