MINNEAPOLIS — The Chicago Bears seem so far away from a Super Bowl, and yet they had a big influence on the Philadelphia Eagles winning their first title in a thrilling 41-33 win over the New England Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium.
And not just because they let Alshon Jeffery get away.
Thirteen months ago, the Bears were trailing 17-0 to the Vikings late in the second quarter in a meaningless Week 17 game at U.S. Bank Stadium. That’s when former offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains dialed up a trick play near the goal line that put quarterback Matt Barkley in motion as running back Jeremy Langford took the shotgun snap. Langford started left before reversing the ball to wide receiver Cameron Meredith, who then tossed an easy touchdown pass to Barkley. Barkley was wide open.
According to Jeffery, whose job on that play was to run a route that opened up the space for Barkley, that play was something they called, “Clemson special.”
“I know I’m a Gamecock, but Clemson ran the play and we took that in Chicago and we took that here,” Jeffery said Sunday night.
By “here,” he meant Philadelphia, but more specifically, back to Minneapolis where the Eagles ran the exact same play — now called “Philly Special” — to perfection on a much bigger stage. Leading the Patriots 15-12 late in the second quarter and facing 4th-and-goal at the 1-yard-line, quarterback Nick Foles went into motion as running back Corey Clement took the shotgun snap and started left before reversing the ball to tight end Tre Burton, who then tossed an easy touchdown pass to Foles. Foles was wide open.
“We saw it on film,” Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “There’s several different variations of that play that we’ve seen people run. We were in particular copying the Bears version of it.”
And there’s a reason why. The Bears evidently had it in the offense for at least two years, because according to Jeffery, it was wide receivers coach Mike Groh who put it in the Eagles offense. Groh was the Bears wide receivers coach from 2013-15 and a big reason why Jeffery ended up in Philadelphia.
“Coach Groh put that in and Frank and them dialed it up,” Jeffery said. “It worked the same way.”
And in the same exact end zone in the same exact building.
“We were thinking about running it (two weeks ago),” Reich said. “We were wondering, could we run it against the Vikings after the Bears had already run it against them a year before? And we were ready to run it two weeks ago, but the opportunity didn’t come up and we didn’t need it. So it probably worked out for the best to hold it against these guys.”
Who knew that Dowell Loggains and Matt Barkley would leave an imprint on Super Bowl LII? None of the three players who touched the ball on that play 13 months ago even played a snap for the Bears in 2017.
Of course, it wasn’t as surprising to see Jeffery have such a big impact on Sunday’s game. On that same day in Minneapolis on Jan. 1, 2017, Jeffery guaranteed that he would be winning the Super Bowl “next season.” Technically, he said “we,” but intentionally left it vague as to who he was talking about, knowing that there was a good chance he would be signing elsewhere.
“Man, I told y’all. I said ‘we.’ I never said a team,” Jeffery reiterated Sunday. “I told y’all I was going to the Super Bowl and we was going to win it. I said it this week, that we was going to bring the trophy back to Philly. I said that.”
According to Reich, Jeffery has been saying it since mid-season. And he backed up his words with a strong game, delivering three catches for 73 yards and an impressive 34-yard touchdown catch.
“He delivered big time,” Reich said. “But here’s the thing about Alshon, he’s been unselfish the whole year. All he talked about was winning … He was just continually, week-in and week-out saying, ‘Coach, all I care about is winning. We’re going to win the Super Bowl.’ He was telling me we were going to win the Super Bowl half way through the season. He was saying, ‘This is a special team. We’re going to win.’ And he never wavered from that. I give him a lot of credit.”
Perhaps the best example of a change of scenery, Eagles coaches and teammates praised Jeffery all week long for his unselfishness, even though his numbers were actually worse this season than they were with the Bears in 2016.
“This is who wanted me,” Jeffery said. “The Eagles wanted me more than any other team. I went where I was wanted. Not where I was unwanted. I went where I was wanted, the best place where I could win a championship.”
Of course, Jeffery wasn’t too upset about leaving the Bears either, and general manager Ryan Pace’s only real option was to place the franchise tag on the wide receiver for the second straight year.
Meanwhile, the move to Philadelphia made his absurd Super Bowl prediction a lot more realistic.
“I wasn’t on the Eagles then. The moment I got here man, the work in the offseason. We put in on and off the field. Just knew it was going to be something special, man,” Jeffery said.
Of course it helped being on a much better team with an outstanding offensive coaching staff.
“I love Coach Pedersen. I mean, him and his staff, man. Best staff I’ve been around man,” Jeffery said, while also mentioned Groh.
So with the coaching staff and the help around him, it was just a matter of “speaking it into existence,” as the wide receiver put it. That, and backing up the words with the type of big plays he delivered Sunday night.
“I told y’all I was going to the Super Bowl and we was going to win it. I said it this week, that we was going to bring the trophy back to Philly. I said that.”
He did. And he meant it.