One That Got Away
Wiped-Away TD Catch Doesn't Deter Smith
Down 12 points with five minutes, 23 seconds left in regulation and with the Eagles driving in Kansas City territory, Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts identified a favorable matchup and floated a rainbow pass down the left sideline.
His target, rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith, had already won at the line of scrimmage to gain a step on Chiefs cornerback Mike Hughes, who frequently trailed Smith for much of the afternoon. Smith caught the pass in stride and scampered into the end zone.
For a brief moment, the Hurts-to-Smith connection for 34 yards to pay dirt had cut the Kansas City lead in half, effectively setting the stage up for a suspenseful final act.
However, the touchdown was ultimately overturned because of an illegal touching penalty on Smith, who had slightly drifted out of bounds inside the 10-yard line while tracking the football.
“I just need to squeeze and hold my line,” Smith acknowledged after the game. “I got pushed too far to the sideline, so I just need to squeeze and hold my line, and that will not happen.”
While the nullified touchdown served as a microcosm of a game riddled with self-inflicted miscues, and was the second time in three weeks an Eagles wide receiver was penalized for the same infraction on a touchdown, it also offered a silver lining.
As the Eagles return to the drawing board on defense, Smith single-handedly catalyzed a serious aerial attack on Sunday, accumulating career highs in receptions (7) and yards (122) on a whopping ten pass targets. By the third quarter, Smith had eclipsed the 100-yard receiving mark for the first time in his career.
Before his Week 4 eruption, the 6-foot, 170-pound wideout was virtually non-existent in losses to the 49ers and Cowboys after bursting onto the scene in the opener, mustering only five receptions for 44 yards on 13 targets as the Eagles struggled to administer a rhythmic passing attack and facilitate the ball to its playmakers.
Against the Chiefs, the refined Smith efficiently executed his releases, dazzled as a route-runner, showcased innate body control, and reaffirmed his ability to impact all three levels of the field when factored prominently within the game plan.
His 122 yards against the Chiefs were ninth-most in franchise history for a rookie and most since Jordan Matthews’ 138 against the Panthers on Nov. 10, 2014. Smith also became the first Eagles rookie to produce 100 or more receiving yards within his first four career games since Jeremy Maclin did on Oct 11., 2009, against Tampa Bay, with 142 yards.
Smith appears to have rekindled his chemistry with Hurts, his one-time college teammate at Alabama, as the timing and comfort level were on display against the Chiefs.
The revival comes as the Eagles continue a challenging slate of games over the next three weeks. Hurts and the offense will be asked to keep pace against their opponents and help atone for the defensive woes.
But if Sunday is any indication of what’s to come, the reestablished Hurts-to-Smith connection could be an ideal remedy to avoiding a prolonged skid.
“We are a good team,” Smith insisted. “We still have things we have to clean up. We are still right there. The mistakes we made, the things we have to do. It is all credit to the team getting better each week. The little things we leave out there, we need to correct. We are a good team.”
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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