The Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl champions for the first time in franchise history, and that fact is owed, in part, to the ‘Philly Special,’ the memorable trick play that proved decisive in the 41-33 upset of the New England Patriots on February 4 in Minneapolis.
The only problem is, it probably shouldn’t have counted, according to former NFL official and current Fox Sports analyst Mike Pereira, who said the Eagles ‘lined up wrong’ on the play and should have been flagged for illegal formation.
And since the play came on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line with just 38 seconds remaining in the first half, a five-yard penalty likely would have prevented quarterback Nick Foles’s touchdown catch or at least forced Eagles coach Doug Pederson to reconsider attempting a field goal.
Nick Foles became the first quarterback in Super Bowl history to record a touchdown catch, but according to former NFL official Mike Pereira, the play should have been penalized
Trey Burton (left) was a college quarterback before moving to tight end and throwing a touchdown pass in Super Bowl LII. Former NFL official and current Fox Sports analyst Mike Pereira (right) believes the Eagles should have been flagged for an illegal formation
The issue, as Pereira told the Talk of Fame Sports Network podcast, was whether or not wide receiver Alshon Jeffery was close enough to the line of scrimmage before the play.
An offense is required to have seven men on the line of scrimmage before the play, according to the NFL Rulebook.
The Eagles appeared to have only six men on the line of scrimmage as Jeffery was about two yards out of position when the ball was snapped directly to running back Corey Clement. From there the ball was pitched to tight end Trey Burton, a former college quarterback, who then passed it to a wide-open Foles for the touchdown and a 10-point halftime lead.
The NFL rulebook does not specify how close a player needs to be to the line of scrimmage to avoid a penalty, and one league source told Pro Football Talk that the NFL considers it a ‘judgement call’ by the officials.
Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (circled) is well over a yard away from the line of scrimmage, meaning Philadelphia was lined up illegally on the play, according to Pereira
Jeffery (upper right) did check in with the line judge before the play, meaning the official gave him no reason to think he was lined up illegally ahead of the snap
Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery had three catches for 73 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl LII, but may have been lined up illegally on the trick play known as the ‘Philly Special’
But to Pereira, who spent 14 years officiating college games before spending another 14 in the NFL, the Super Bowl officials’ judgement was just wrong.
‘We always use a yard [within the line of scrimmage], maybe a yard-and-a-half,’ Pereira said. ‘But that’s two. And even a little bit beyond two. It’s kind of one of those that has no effect on the play. I get it. But they didn’t line up properly. And it really should’ve been called.’
Jeffery did ‘check in’ with the official before the snap, meaning that he asked if he was lined up correctly and the official apparently did not tell him otherwise.
But for Patriots players and fans, who were on the wrong side of two challenges that ultimately upheld Eagles touchdowns, that probably won’t offer much consolation.
Eagles fan Dan Morgan did not want to get a face tattooed on his arm, so he commemorated Philadelphia’s first Super Bowl title by diagramming the game’s unforgettable trick play
‘If you’re going to run a trick-type play, then you have to be lined up properly,’ Pereira said. ‘I know what the league has said, but they would have been a lot more comfortable if they would have called an illegal formation.’
Regardless of the legality of the formation, Eagles fans rushed to get tattoos to commemorate one of the greatest highlights in franchise history.
Eagles fan Dan Morgan wanted to memorialize the Philly Special, but instead of having an image of a wide-open Foles catching the touchdown, Morgan went for an equally simplistic and creative approach: he had the play diagrammed on his forearm.
Another fan, Matthew Ranauro, had a more intricate diagram of the play drawn up with ‘Philly Special’ drawn in cursive along the bottom.
And for what it’s worth, Jeffery is lined up on the line of scrimmage in both tattoos.
Matthew Ranauro proudly shows off his ‘Philly Special’ tattoo on Facebook