PHILADELPHIA – The celebration was unrehearsed because, well, nobody expects an offensive lineman to catch a touchdown pass.
So after Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson blocked his man, faded into the end zone and caught Jalen Hurts’ 5-yard TD pass, he ran to the back of the end zone and tried jumping over the restraining wall into the sea of fans.
The rest of his teammates ran over and high-fived him, then tried to do some kind of dance that left tackle Jordan Mailata described as “half ballroom dancing, half making it up on the spot, half Lincoln Field leap.
“It was a mess.”
The touchdown with 11:40 left in the fourth quarter put the icing on a 34-10 Eagles victory over the New York Giants on Sunday. It was long after the Eagles’ brutal first half in which they were locked in a mistake-filled 3-3 tie.
But Johnson’s touchdown was beautiful in so many ways that went well beyond the final score.
As Mailata put it: “I’m not going to swear.” Then he did, saying it was “(expletive) awesome.”
That’s because Johnson was snubbed for selection to the Pro Bowl last week. He also missed three games earlier this season to deal with a mental health illness.
Johnson wasn’t made available to the media after the game, but he answered a few questions from the Eagles’ PR staff.
“The play was called ‘East Texas’ because (Hurts) is from East Texas and I’m from East Texas,” Johnson said. “I knew that we were going to run it if we were ahead. We had this play for a few years, or at least I’ve had it a couple times, but we were always (losing).
“I know Jalen whizzed that thing in there … 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.”
Hurts admitted that Johnson was motivated by the Pro Bowl snub, and he was all too happy to oblige by getting him the touchdown.
Hurts said it meant so much to both players that they exchanged jerseys after the game.
“He gives me his jersey and leaves it in my locker,” Hurts said. “And he wrote on there, he said, ‘When I caught that ball, I didn’t know what to think. All I could think was, ‘What’ch y’all know about them Texas boys?'” Hurts said.
“It’s just so much fun to see him out there making plays, and obviously, playing at such a level like he has all year. I know he may not be in the Pro Bowl, but I know he better be first-team All Pro for the player he is.”
All of which, of course, made it hard to believe that the Eagles played so poorly in the first half before scoring 31 straight points to overwhelm the offensively-challenged Giants.
In the first quarter alone, the Eagles fumbled twice, beginning with the opening kickoff, but recovered both. Hurts threw an interception deep in Eagles’ territory that was ruled incomplete after a video review.
And the Eagles punted four times in the first quarter alone.
“It starts with me,” Hurts said. “We had some different things that we just didn’t execute, but we put it together, made some big plays, put up some points.”
Hurts was 3-for-10 for 11 yards in the first quarter, with a passer rating of 39.6. But he finished 17 of 29 for 199 yards and 2 touchdowns and a passer rating of 102.5.
The Eagles’ defense kept them in the game, in part because the Giants’ quarterbacks in Jake Fromm and Mike Glennon had little to work with. They had just 105 yards total after three quarters. At that point, Fromm and Glennon were a combined 10-for-26 for 50 yards and 2 interceptions.
That’s why, after Rodney McLeod intercepted Fromm to start the third quarter, giving the ball at the Eagles’ 21, they knew the game was pretty much over. Boston Scott capped off that drive with a 3-yard TD run, giving the Eagles a 10-3 lead.
“You end up going up seven, defense feels like they are not going to get any more points,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “Like, we’re up seven? We aren’t fricking losing this game because the way our defense is playing.”
All of which put the Eagles (8-7) in sole possession of the final NFC wildcard game with two games remaining.
But it didn’t come without a price as both of the Eagles’ main running backs, Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard, left with injuries. Sanders hurt his hand late in the first half and Howard suffered a “stinger” in the fourth quarter.
And the Eagles saw their streak of consecutive games with at least 175 yards rushing end at seven. The Eagles finished with 130 yards on the ground.
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After Scott’s touchdown, Jalen Reagor’s 39-yard punt return set the Eagles up again at the Giants’ 21. That resulted in a field goal.
Then DeVonta Smith scored on a toe-tapping touchdown reception in the corner of the end zone from the 4 to make it 20-3. The play was initially ruled a touchdown, overturned, then overturned again after a replay review.
The Giants punted on their next possession. At that point, the Giants QBs had completed 9 passes and punted 8 times.
That led to Johnson’s touchdown, which was followed shortly after by Alex Singleton’s 29-yard interception return for a touchdown. Hurts was asked if he had to take anything off the pass for Johnson.
“Nah,” he replied. “I worked out with Lane a lot in the offseason. He was equipped and well prepared.”
That was more than could be said about Johnson’s celebration
Smith’s 4-yard touchdown reception was initially called a touchdown, then reviewed and ruled an incomplete pass, then reviewed again and ruled a touchdown.
Senior vice president of officiating Walt Anderson explained the situation to a pool reporter after the game.
“It was really just a communication lapse on our part,” Anderson said. “We originally were seeing a heel down. So, the original communication between the replay booth and the referee was that it looked like it was going to be an expedited review.
“And I know the referees are trying to make those announcements quickly. By the time we could say there are additional angles, he had already made that announcement.”
They said an additional angle showed that Smith’s toe touched down first, then he dragged it before his heel landed out of bounds.
Smith said he never had a doubt, adding that “I felt like Michael Jackson.”
Boston Scott continues to have success against the Giants. Scott was not expected to carry the ball much, or at all, with both Sanders and Jordan Howard playing.
But Sanders left late in the first half with a hand injury, and Scott got a chance on 3rd-and-goal from the Giants’ 3. He bulled his way up the middle for a touchdown, giving the Eagles a 10-3 lead.
For his career, Scott has 7 TDs in 6 games against the Giants. He has 4 TDs in 38 games against the rest of the NFL.
Eagles kicker Jake Elliott had a chance to move into third place in team history as the Eagles lined up for Elliott’s attempt at a 41-yard field goal midway through the second quarter.
But the snap was low and Elliott kicked it wide right, thus ending his streak of field goals made at 17. Caleb Sturgis had made 18 in a row in 2016.
Elliott has made all 39 of his extra-point attempts.
DE native elevated from practice squad
Giants wide receiver David Sills was elevated from the practice squad as a COVID replacement, and was on the game-day roster.
Sills, the Red Lion Christian Academy and Eastern Christian Academy star, has been on the game-day roster for one game this season. That occurred on Oct. 24 against Carolina.
Sills caught a pass for 5 yards in the fourth quarter.
In addition, running back Gary Brightwell, the St. Georges star, was not on the game-day roster Sunday. Brightwell has played in 13 games this season, primarily on special teams. He has one carry and one reception this season, for 4 and 6 yards, respectively.
Contact Martin Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.