Josh Huff said after Sunday’s game he knew he was going to score a touchdown as soon as Blair Walsh booted the football into the air midway through the second quarter.
“He hung the ball up in the air,” Huff said. “He got caught with some wind, and once I caught it at the 10, I had full confidence in my guys up front.”
Huff actually caught it at the two-yard line, but he was busy looking for an opening to put the Eagles ahead of the Vikings, so you’ll have to excuse him if he gets the yard marker wrong.
What he did see, though, was an offensive teammate clearing the way with a key block.
“The one block that I’d seen was [Zach] Ertz,” Huff said. “He drove his guy out of the picture, and he allowed me to take the seam right up underneath him.”
Ertz and Brent Celek, the team’s top two tight ends, were the keys to this kickoff return touchdown. Let’s watch it, and see if you notice their contributions:
Ertz’s is pretty easy to pick out. He comes across Huff’s face and shoves Vikings running back Ronnie Hillman all the way out to the left of the screen, giving Huff a huge hole. From my seat in the press box, it looked like Ertz’s block gave Huff a 50-yard gap to hit. Just gigantic.
Celek’s block is less singularly noticeable, if only because it comes as part of a seven-man maelstrom on the right side of the hole. But his seal on Vikings wide receiver Charles Johnson is the absolute key to Huff’s return. Let’s look at it, in two frames:
In the first frame, look where Johnson is: five yards from Huff, effectively right on top of him. If Celek takes a lesser angle, maybe coming at him head-on, Johnson could work off the block and, at the very least, severely hinder Huff’s momentum, if not tackle him. But Celek takes the perfect angle to seal Johnson off completely.
In the second frame, Celek’s work becomes readily apparent. Just look at that gap. With one Viking on the ground, and the rest accounted for, Huff hits the hole Celek and Ertz have opened up for a relatively straightforward six points.
Celek, who has long been a tremendous blocker in both phases, clears Huff’s way just in time, so that the speedy returner doesn’t need to slow his momentum to avoid any white jerseys.
Huff’s kickoff return marked the second week in a row the Eagles scored a touchdown on a kickoff return for the first time in franchise history. Dave Fipp’s special teams unit? It’s earning the first half of that moniker.
“Dave Fipp really has those guys ready every week,” Doug Pederson said after the game. “You need those things. You need special teams scores, defensive scores, and all that helps you, especially late down the stretch. It was great to see it two weeks in a row.”
Huff echoed Pederson. He loves playing for Fipp.
“It’s personnel, and just competing every day in practice,” Huff said. “Those things you guys don’t see that Fipp does, he’s a great coach, always putting us in the position to win.”