Doug Pederson faced a massive decision on 4th-and-1 from the New England Patriots 1-yard line with under a minute remaining in the second quarter. The Philadelphia Eagles held a narrow, 15-12, lead and Pederson figured there was no sense in playing it conservative against Tom Brady and Co.
But what came next surprised everyone. Surely you've seen it a million times by now. The direct snap to Corey Clement. The reverse to Trey Burton. The touchdown pass to Nick Foles. Pederson revealed postgame that the play is called "Philly Special".
Kyle Shanahan discussed the bold play call last week at the NFL Combine. Turns out that the San Francisco 49ers head coach didn't think it was that bold at all, but rather just smart coaching.
"New England is 100 percent man coverage down there," Shanahan said. "They're going to double everybody, but they're not going to account for the quarterback. I thought it was an extremely high percentage play."
It's not surprising that Shanahan watches the Super Bowl through a different lens than the rest of us. As one of the NFL's heralded offensive minds, he takes a keen interest in what works (or doesn't work) in big moments of big games. Shanahan shared that he will always go back and watch the offensive tape and defensive tape from each Super Bowl to glean as much as possible from championship-caliber teams.
"If you just get in your world and look at your stuff all the time – (the game) is always evolving and you've got to know what else is out there," Shanahan said.
Specifically in regards to the "Philly Special", Shanahan recalled the first time he saw the play design. Former Browns quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains showed a high school YouTube clip to Shanahan while he served as Cleveland's offensive coordinator in 2014.
They never used the play in Cleveland, but Loggains pulled it out of his bag of tricks in 2016 as the offensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears. The play worked to perfection just as it did in last month's Super Bowl as wide receiver Cameron Meredith tossed a 2-yard touchdown pass to Matt Barkley.
Shanahan noted that the "Philly Special" was similar to what the Patriots ran for Tom Brady in the second quarter. On 3rd-and-5, Danny Amendola threw an incomplete pass to Brady on a ball that bounced off the quarterback's hands. The Patriots used a double reverse instead of a direct snap to a skill player, but it was essentially the same play.
"When you have man coverage and they're doubling everybody, who has the quarterback?" Shanahan asked rhetorically. "It was a good play call."