McPhearson honored for huge onside kick recovery vs. Lions

Posted on September 14, 2022

One of the biggest plays in the Eagles’ 38-35 victory over Detroit was also a play not getting much attention.

The Lions cut the Eagles’ lead to 31-21 with a touchdown with 4:09 to play in the third quarter. Detroit coach Dan Campbell called an onside kick — hoping to capitalize on the momentum that a 14-play, 75-yard drive had given the Lions.

The trickery backfired. A heads up Zech McPhearson recovered the kick on the bounce. The Eagles went on a five-play, 49-yard drive capped off by a 1-yard Boston Scott touchdown run, giving the Eagles a 38-21 lead.

That timely recovery, and two special-teams tackles, earned McPhearson the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week award that was announced Wednesday. McPhearson, a cornerback, was a 2021 fourth-round pick from Texas Tech. He tied for the team lead with 25 special-teams snaps against the Lions.

  • “Yeah, it’s always great when you have a full offseason going against an opponent that you know can pull out some trickery here and there,” Eagles special teams coordinator Michael Clay said at his weekly news conference Tuesday.
  • “I could tell the guys until I’m blue in the face, watch out for the onside kick, but kudos to Zech to stay disciplined, stay in there at that time of the game not to panic. He stayed patient right there.
  • “It was actually pretty cool listening to the guys talk about it. They noticed — and we always talk about, we have rules on our kickoff return team, always see the ball kicked.
  • “But for him to stay in there and kind of alert — there was a different pace by the kicker in terms of that. Then you can see also [linebacker] Patrick Johnson, who plays our rover, was darting there because he saw it, also.
  • “So, it’s kudos to them just being so locked into that opportunity right there.
  • “We had gone over it and we’ve worked on it in practice. The cool thing about it is what we worked on in practice, it happened in the game. Kind of makes you feel good as a coach that you had these guys prepared.”

Eagles coach Nick Sirianni credited the special teams preparation for helping pull off the recovery.

  • “Zech just being disciplined in the sense of what he’s taught there, and he’s taught a very specific fundamental there while the ball is getting kicked,” Sirianni said.
  • “Zech stayed true to his rules and he executed a huge play in that game. It wasn’t just Zech. The ball happened to go to Zech and Zech caught it. Our whole line and the whole of everybody in the front was doing that.
  • “So, hey, we talk about this all the time and this is why we walk through so much. We have so much walk-through.
  • “It’s like, hey, this game — yeah, we are expecting this, or we are expecting that. But what do you do when it’s not that?
  • “And so, what you have to do is play your rules in everything. Like it doesn’t matter if it’s offense, defense or special teams, you play your rules and when you play your rules, that doesn’t mean you’re always going to be successful against all the unknowns, but it at least gives you a chance to be.”


The Eagles are ranked No. 4 in Pete Prisco’s Power Rankings for CBS Sports. Prisco said one of his overreactions from Week One was that the Eagles are headed to the Super Bowl.

OK, we’re only headed into Week Two of an 18-week season.

Prisco also wrote: “If Jalen Hurts can play like he did against the Lions, this could be a deep playoff team. The defense was not good, though, which has to be a concern.”


  1. Buffalo
  2. Kansas City
  3. Tampa Bay
  4. Eagles
  5. LA Chargers
  6. New Orleans
  7. Minnesota
  8. Baltimore
  9. Green Bay
  10. LA Rams

Among NFC East teams, Prisco ranked Washington 17th, the Giants 23rd and Dallas 24th.


No Eagles rookies started against the Lions.

Jordan Davis (22 snaps) and Nakobe Dean (three snaps) were the only rookies to get non-special teams snaps.

On special teams, Josh Jobe got 23 snaps, Kyron Johnson got 18 and Cam Jurgens six. Punt returner Britain Covey had four snaps.

Reed Blankenship, Josh Sills and Grant Calcaterra were inactive.

The consensus about the rookie class is positive. It is not surprising none of them started, however, as the Eagles have a deep, talented roster. Rookies waiting their turn is a byproduct of that roster.


After giving the Eagles a scare in their season opener, the Lions have impressed the oddsmakers.

Detroit has played 24 consecutive games as an underdog, the NFL’s longest active streak. But the Lions are currently 2.5-point favorites against the Commanders, according to Caesars Sportsbook.

And remember, the Commanders won their opener, albeit over the Jaguars, by 28-22.

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Chuck Bausman

Chuck Bausman is an Eagles writer for Chuck formerly was the Executive Sports Editor of the Philadelphia Daily News and the Executive Sports Editor of the Courier-Post in South Jersey. He learned how to cuss by watching Philly sports.

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