The Philly Special will live in the hearts of Eagles fans forever. Hell, it'll live on some fans' skin for as long as they live. But the trick play, which the Eagles ran to perfection for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal in the first half of Super Bowl LII, shouldn't have counted in the first place.
That is, if you agree with NFL officiating guru Mike Pereira.
"They lined up wrong," Pereira said in an interview with the Talk of Fame Sports Network podcast.
“Not only that, it’s a trick play. And if you’re going to run a trick-type play, then you have to be lined up properly. You could either have six men on the line, or you could have an ineligible number lined up at the end of the line, which was the case. I know what the league has said, but they would have been a lot more comfortable if they would have called an illegal formation.
“We always use a yard (within the line of scrimmage), maybe a yard-and-a-half. But that’s two. And even a little bit beyond two. It’s kind of one of those that has no effect on the play. I get it. But they didn’t line up properly. And it really should’ve been called.”
The issue under debate here is whether Alshon Jeffery was close enough to the line of scrimmage. By rule, seven players have to be lined up on the line of scrimmage at the time of the snap, and pictures seemed to show only six Eagles at the line. Jeffery did "check in" with the referee standing at the line of scrimmage, a tactic receivers often use to confirm their team won't be flagged by officials.
There is no standard for how close a player must be to the line of scrimmage to count toward the seven. It's considered a judgment call, and the league told Pro Football Talk that the referees in the Super Bowl decided that Jeffery was close enough.
Pereira, whom Fox uses as an officiating analyst on its NFL broadcasts, frequently disagrees with referee's calls while on television. Disagreements like this one, on what will go down as the most famous play of this NFL season, is symptomatic of a much larger issue: there's seemingly no consensus on key rules. Like what a catch is.