Huff, special teams ‘turn the tide’
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
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.”
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.