All games depend upon a set of rules and agreed upon expectations. Of course, most games also leave some room for those rules to be bent. Football's version of this is known as a "trick play," but exactly what is a trick play in the Super Bowl? The Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots both pulled out some classic examples during Sunday's Super Bowl LII.
Because they're unexpected and risky, trick plays tend to get extra attention, especially when they're successful. And in the case of the Eagles, their first trick play had the added hazard of getting called on a 4th down on the one-yard-line. In short: stakes were very high.
Even those who have just a passing familiarity with football will know that the quarterback is usually the one who throws the ball, not the guy who catches it. But in the first quarter, the Eagles pulled a quick one on the Patriots, with quarterback Nick Foles passing the ball off before running into the end zone and catching a touchdown pass from tight end Trey Burton.
No one saw it coming, in part because it was a trick play, but also because the smart, safe move — especially in a Super Bowl — would have been a field goal.
The Patriots attempted their own version of a similar play, but it didn't work out quite as well. Wide receiver Danny Amendola threw the not-so-winning pass to quarterback Tom Brady. As Will Brinson puts it at CBS Sports, Brady got a case of "gator arms."
Trick plays are rare in Super Bowls, but they're not unheard of. Alex Gelhar gives a rundown of what he sees as the top ten trick plays in NFL history at NFL.com. Gelhar lists the Pittsburgh Steelers' trick play during Super Bowl XL as one of the top ten, noting that to "call a trick play in a Super Bowl verges on insanity." The play in question in known as the "Fake-39 Toss X-Reverse Pass," and here's what happened: the Steelers' handed the football off once, then again, then threw it downfield for a touchdown.
It's not the only example of a trick play from Super Bowls past. In the 2006 matchup between Seattle and Pittsburgh, the latter called a surprise trick play that saw wide receiver Antwaan Randle El throw a touchdown pass to Hines Ward.
That's the only Super Bowl touchdown pass thrown by a wide receiver in NFL history.
And President Obama expressed his own admiration of a trick play called by Sean Payton, coach of the New Orleans Saints, who won the 2010 Super Bowl. The Saints opened the second half against the Indianapolis Colts by a trick play called an onside kick, or "ambush." Kicking off to the Colts, the Saints instead recovered the kick for themselves, employing a tactic where the kicker fakes the big football boot, and instead kicks it softly.
The Saints went on to win that game on a score of 31-17, and when they went to the White House, Obama reportedly told Payton that he was impressed by the guts to call and pull off that stunning second-half opening move.
But for Eagles fans, it is probably difficult to imagine any trick play topping the touchdown pass to Foles that helped give their team an early lead over the Patriots. Adding an extra pinch of serendipity to the joy is the fact that it represented Foles' very first career catch. That's not a usual thing for a quarterback to be doing, of course.
With the Eagles now officially the Super Bowl champs, their trick play clearly paid off.