Anatomy of a Play: Polk’s Kick Return Score

Before the Eagles offense could even step on the field versus the Redskins, the special teams was able to get the ball in the end zone. Running back Chris Polk was back to receive a kickoff for the first time this season, and he took his first return 102 yards for a score.

The Redskins use a coverage scheme that many other NFL teams use. The ball is kicked down the middle while all players just run down the field and stay in their lanes in an effort to make the tackle on the ball carrier. The R2 and L2 defenders, the second closest to each sideline, are the Redskins’ safeties. Instead of charging downfield, they drop back and attempt to contain any long returns to their respective sides. The kicker is the safety over the middle. The other 8 players just run down field and attempt to make the tackle.

The Eagles are trying to create a lane for Polk between the R5 and R4 defenders. Emmanuel Acho and Casey Matthews are going to peel back to double team R4 while Trey Burton and Brandon Graham are going to work together to trap R5. Zach Ertz and James Casey are going to kick out R1 and R3. The safety, R2, is the unblocked defender on the right side. On the backside, Chris Maragos, Bryan Braman, and Nate Allen are going to drop back and pick up L5, L3, and L1 to prevent them from crossing the field to tackle Polk. Brad Smith, the Eagles up back, is going to lead through the hole and block the most dangerous safety.PHI KR 1.1Here we see what went wrong for Washington. Trenton Robinson, the Redskins’ R5, did one of the worst things a coverage player can do. He crossed the returners face. Coverage players are taught to stay on their respective side of the returner no matter where the returner goes. This is so the return stays in the middle and can not get outside. By running too far inside, Robinson opened up a huge hole for Polk to run through.

We also see the blocks setting up here. Burton and Graham are in position to trap Robinson from the running lane, Casey and Ertz are preparing to make their blocks, and Matthews and Acho are in perfect position for their double team.PHI KR 1.2Burton gets a great peel back block on Robinson while Acho and Matthews combine for a dominant double team. Smith is leading the way for Polk and will block the left safety. This leaves Polk one on one in the open field with the right safety.PHI KR 1.3Acho drives his man to the ground and Matthews is able to come off to block the kicker. Polk makes the only unblocked defender miss and he’s off to the end zone.
PHI KR 1.4

This is excellent execution by the Eagles players. All 11 players did their job and the result was a huge touchdown. The blockers opened up a big lane and the unblocked defender was unable to bring Polk down.


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