Huff, spe­cial teams ‘turn the tide’

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Jack McCaf­fery jm­c­caf­fery@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Jack­McCaf­fery on Twit­ter

PHILADEL­PHIA >> Be­cause he was con­fi­dent, be­cause he was pre­pared, be­cause that’s what the Ea­gles do on spe­cial teams, Josh Huff had an early in­di­ca­tion Sun­day that he was about to turn around a game and, per­haps, a sea­son.

How soon did he know he was go­ing to re­turn a kick­off 98 yards for a touch­down?

“Once I saw him kick it,” Huff said, af­ter a 21-10 Ea­gles vic­tory over the Vik­ings.

So Blair Walsh launched a sec­ond-quar­ter kick­off to the two, Huff snatched it from the sky, ac­cel­er­ated, found a hole and raced for a touch­down. That gave the Ea­gles a lead that they would not lose, the road to a 4-2 record, some re­stored con­fi­dence and a burst of energy head­ing into Dal­las next week.

It was one play in one game. But for the Ea­gles, who’d en­joyed a kick­off-re­turn touch­down from Wen­dell Small­wood the pre­vi­ous week in Washington, it was some­thing of an iden­ti­fy­ing mo­ment.

“The guys did a great job up front open­ing a hole for me,” Huff said. “And I was able to make a play. To us, the spe­cial teams are im­por­tant. Our guys up front take their job se­ri­ously. And we are al­ways trying to score ev­ery time we go out there on the field. That’s our goal, to score ev­ery time out there. And if that doesn’t hap­pen, that’s a dis­ap­point­ment for us. And that’s not our stan­dard.

“Our No. 1 goal is to score on spe­cial teams.”

On that par­tic­u­lar play, the Birds’ spe­cial teams would pro­vide more than a touch­down. For af­ter Vik­ing Har­ri­son Smith was flagged for rough­ing Caleb Stur­gis dur­ing the en­su­ing PAT, the Birds would take the penalty and try a two-point con­ver­sion from the one. When Car­son Wentz pushed into the end zone, they were ahead, 8-3.

“That’s why there are three phases to this game,” Huff said. “We have our de­fense, which did a great job to­day, and our of­fense, which played iffy. But we were able to get the job done. Our spe­cial teams were able to step up in a big way and turn the tide of the game.”

As for Huff, his wide-re­ceiv­ing ca­reer, in its third sea­son, is blos­som­ing, too. Two weeks ago, he’d made three catches in Detroit. And Sun­day, he was tar­geted four times, making four catches for 39 yards, be­ing one of the Birds’ most re­li­able op­tions in a game where

AG­GRES­SIVE PLAY­CALL­ING

they would score only one of­fen­sive touch­down.

“It’s just where the game took us,” he said. “Ob­vi­ously, I’m al­ways go­ing to be ready when my num­ber is called. To­day my num­ber was called big-time and I was able to cap­i­tal­ize and help our team get the win.”

No play was more sig­nif­i­cant than his kick re­turn, which came af­ter the Ea­gles had gone score­less in the first quar­ter, that af­ter a two-game los­ing streak.

“It was huge,” Car­son Wentz said. “Huff made some plays to­day. There was that kick re­turn and then, and you see it, any time you can get the ball in his hands, he’s dy­namic. That kick re­turn at that point in the game, it kind of just got the game go­ing a lit­tle bit. We were ob­vi­ously strug­gling on of­fense. And that was huge for us.”

It made the dif­fer­ence in a game.

It may have made the dif­fer­ence in a sea­son.

“The sky is the limit for this team,” Huff said. “We just have to tune in, cor­rect the mis­takes we made on of­fense, and go from there.”

CHRIS SZAGOLA — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The Ea­gles’ Josh Huff re­turns a kick 98 yards for a touch­down, the only one for ei­ther team in the first half Sun­day, as the Ea­gles got on their way to a 21-10 vic­tory over the Vik­ings at Lin­coln Fi­nan­cial Field.

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