When Nick Foles lined up in the shotgun formation on the 1-yard line, then approached his offensive linemen and stopped behind the right tackle, New England was fooled. A thousand miles away, a fellow quarterback was not.
“Nick’s about to catch a touchdown,” Sam Ehlinger called out to his mother before the ball was snapped as they watched the Super Bowl on television.
Ehlinger recently completed his freshman season as quarterback at the University of Texas. Like Foles, he attended Westlake High School, a prep football powerhouse in Austin, Tex. And, unlike the Patriots, Ehlinger could see the trickery unfolding.
At Westlake, the play is called “Money 5.” Ehlinger ran it twice in three seasons there. Both times he caught a touchdown pass. The Eagles call the play the “Philly Special.” Different name, same result.
Just before halftime on Sunday, with Philadelphia facing fourth-and-goal, the ball was snapped to running back Corey Clement. He then flipped it to tight end Trey Burton. Foles, who had seemingly been calling an audible at the line, slipped into the right flat, uncovered, and caught a touchdown pass from Burton — the first by a quarterback in the Super Bowl.
Hopewell High School football coach Ricky Irby had a good idea what was coming when Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles stationed himself behind the right tackle with 38 seconds remaining in the first half of Super Bowl LII.
Irby figured it was a trick play because Hopewell ran it against Phoebus in the region playoffs in November.
It was a decisive play in what became a 41-33 victory for the Eagles, their first Super Bowl title and their first N.F.L. championship since 1960.
“The key is to sell that he’s just talking to the offensive line so that the defense is on their heels when the ball is snapped,” Ehlinger said on Monday through a university spokesman. “Then there’s a direct snap and you wait and pretend like you’re watching the play and slip into the flat. It’s selling that you’re not getting the ball.”
Ehlinger said he did not know whether Westlake’s coach, Todd Dodge, had introduced the play to Foles, who played at Michigan State and Arizona in college. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the Philly Special had been devised by the Eagles’ assistant quarterbacks coach, Press Taylor, who saw Chicago use the deception successfully against Minnesota in 2016.
At a news conference on Monday, Foles, who had seen a clip of Ehlinger scoring on the play, said, “I guess it’s a Westlake quarterback thing.”
“It was supercool to know that that’s the highest you can go in football and for that to be run at that level, knowing I’ve run it, too,” Ehlinger said Monday. “It’s really cool.”