Eagles Film Review: How Special Teams Sparked Win Vs. Cards

It's the third of football that gets overlooked the most. Just not in Philadelphia. 

The Eagles have prided themselves on having one of the best special teams units in the league since the arrival of Dave Fipp in 2013. It wasn't surprising at all when Doug Pederson kept Fipp on the staff last year. That decision was a no-brainer. 

Sunday's 34-7 win over the Cardinals was a true team win, in that all three phases really played a role. That definitely includes special teams. 

Because while Carson Wentz and the defense get all the love, Fipp's units had one of their finest games on Sunday. They had big returns, blocked a field goal, made their own kicks and even pinned the Cardinals deep. 

Maybe the Eagles have had better days on special teams, but it would be hard to have a more complete special teams performance. 

"It was just a good day for our special teams," special teams ace Chris Maragos said. "Really able to help our team win." 

Here's a look at three big-time plays from Sunday: 

We'll go in chronological order, which means Kenjon Barner's big 76-yard punt return is up first in the first quarter. In the game, Barner had three punt returns for 110 yards. As great as Darren Sproles has been as a returner over the last few years, he put up that many punt return yards just once with the Eagles. 

The ball is about to be punted away by three-time Pro Bowler Andy Lee. You'll notice at the bottom of the screen that Corey Graham and Dexter McDougle have completely wrecked the gunner's pursuit of the play. 

Barner catches the ball inside the 10-yard line, a bit of a gamble, but it was a booming 56-yard kick, so he has some space. McDougle got downfield to continue to block the gunner on the near side of the field and Barner has room to work with. 

This is where Barner starts to make it happen by himself. After all, most punt returners need to make at least one guy miss on their own. Barner makes a couple miss. Right here, he's about to cut this thing back up the sideline and then inside to find a ton more room. Give credit to receiver Marcus Johnson who held up and stopped blocking to avoid a blocking in the back. His man fell on the play and if Johnson still had hands on him a flag would have negated this whole thing. 

Barner already made a few guys miss and here comes the poor long snapper, Aaron Brewer. He's not equipped to take down Barner, who is about to cut back inside for a huge gain. Brewer was actually injured on the play and had to leave the game. 

Once Barner gets past Brewer, there's a ton of open space. Credit Cardinals receiver Brittan Golden for hustling on the play and making a touchdown-saving tackle. According to NFL's Next Gen Stats, Barner ran a total of 114.2 yards on the play and Golden ran 131.8 to tackle him. 

Three plays later, Wentz hit Zach Ertz for a 11-yard touchdown to put the Eagles up 14-0. It doesn't happen that easily without this big play. 

"He had a heckuva return, man," Maragos said. "He did it all." 

This next play is the 51-yard field goal attempt the Cardinals tried at the end of the first half. The Eagles were up 21-7 at this point, but this was a chance for Arizona to finish out the half scoring the last 10 points. Didn't happen. Patrick Robinson (circled) is about to get around the corner and make a play. 

Malcolm Jenkins, who lined up to Robinson's right, actually makes the play. He rushes so hard inside that Jared Veldheer, who struggled against Brandon Graham at right tackle all day, has to get inside to block him. Veldheer isn't going to touch Robinson. 

The rest is just an extremely athletic play from the veteran cornerback Robinson. He nearly goes full Superman to block this one. He doesn't need to leave his feet but Robinson leans in hard to get a big piece of it. 

Instead of going into the half on a 10-0 run, the Cardinals went into the locker room on this note. To start the third quarter, the Eagles drove down the field and kicked a field goal of their own. That was a six-point swing that made it almost impossible for the Cardinals to come back. 

After Jake Elliott made a 36-yard field goal to put the Eagles up 24-7, he gets set to kick it off. In this game, the Eagles did something a little different. Instead of kicking balls deep into the end zone to force touchbacks, Malcolm Jenkins said the players "challenged" the coaches to let them make plays. So Elliott took something off most of his kickoffs and allowed his group to make plays. They did. 

The placement of this ball from Elliott was masterful. It landed just inside the goal line, which made return man Kerwynn Williams think about it. He stuttered leaving the end zone, which was a fatal mistake. Two of the Eagles' best special teams players -- Kamu Grugier-Hill and Chris Maragos -- are coming in hot. 

As Williams starts to come out of the end zone, Grugier-Hill and Maragos (both circled) have already beaten their blockers and have just the upback in their way. He's not going to be able to stop them. 

Grugier-Hill was coming head on and forced Williams to bounce to this left. That's where Maragos simply went around the upback and, with the help of McDougle, took down Williams at the 13-yard line. Aside from two punts that dropped the ball at their own 10-yard line, this was the worst starting position of the day for the Cards. 

The Cardinals' average starting position on Sunday was at their own 19-yard line and their average starting position on kickoffs was at their own 21-yard line. The Eagles gambled a little on Sunday, but it paid off. 

"I think for us, we've got guys that take a lot of pride in what they do and we've got a lot of talent out there," Maragos said. "And anytime we can get out there and cover and spark our team and give them a bit of excitement and start them backed up, it changes the way their offense is going to attack our defense. 

"And on the flip side of that too, if our defense can get 3-and-outs, which they did, they're punting the ball back to us and now we're getting better field position." 

After Sunday's game, Wentz said he "absolutely" enjoys wins more when all three phases play a role. That's what happened against the Cardinals. While offense and defense normally get all the love, the Eagles' special teams unit continues to thrive. 

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