The Philadelphia Eagles couldn't have gotten off to a worse start in their 38-27 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Dan Bailey, who ranks seventh in touchbacks, saw his opening kickoff fall well short of the end zone and land in the field instead. The ball landed in-between rookie kick returner Josh Huff and veteran upback Brad Smith. Smith ran up the field as Huff stood waiting for the ball to come to him. But it didn't. The ball bounced back and the Cowboys recovered it. It set a really bad tone for such an important game. The Cowboys took a 7-0 lead not too long after that recovery.
Huff accepted responsibility for the mistake after the game. "I did a bad job of communicating with Brad back there," Huff said. "I take full responsibility for what happened."
On Monday, however, Eagles head coach Chip Kelly absolved Huff of the blame and instead blamed the gaffe on Smith.
Chip: On the kickoff, the upback (Brad Smith) should have taken it. It was a communication thing.— Eagles Insider (@EaglesInsider) December 15, 2014
Chip Kelly said Brad Smith -- not Josh Huff -- should have fielded the opening kick. He said Smith is on the field for that situation.— Zach Berman (@ZBerm) December 15, 2014
A look at the play does show that Smith pointed to Huff while the ball was in the air.
But here's a look at the moment the ball hits the ground. Smith is only one or two yards away while Huff is about seven or eight.
Of course, Smith didn't think it was his responsibility at that point.
This play really seemed like an anomaly more than anything. How is Huff supposed to know that ball is going to bounce back TOWARDS the Dallas kickoff coverage? This isn't a punt where a ball goes up high and has a weird spin on it that makes it bounce backwards. This is just a case of the wind making an impact and the ball taking a weird bounce. As much as people want to assign blame and point fingers, I'm just not sure what Huff could have really done here. It doesn't seem realistic to ask him to charge the ball when he's the last line of return. If the ball gets by him somehow, he would be toast. The Dallas kick coverage would be charging down the field while he would be reversing course to scoop up the ball.
Huff has made a number of mistakes this season and has become an easy target for when things go wrong. It is very easy to understand why he draws frustration. But for those saying the Eagles should cut him... stop. He has some issues to work through but the talent is there. Look at his big 44-yard reception in the game. That's legitimate talent. (GIF via @OhWowHmm)
But getting back to the kickoff... that's going to be one that haunts the Eagles for a long time. And the worst part for them is that it was something they didn't have much control over. It was such a fluke play.