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Eagles Know Special Teams Need to Be Special, Especially in Playoffs

That phase of the game determined the outcome of two recent Eagles playoff games, one a win, the other a loss, while there's no concern over punter Arryn Siposs
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The Eagles showed in Carolina earlier this season that they can win games with their special teams, doing so when T.J. Edwards swooped in to block a Panthers punt, setting up a struggling offense just 27 yards away from the go-ahead and, ultimately, winning touchdown in a 21-18, Week 5 victory.

They also saw how special teams can help lead to a loss, such as the one Saturday night against the Cowboys. Punter Arryn Siposs had the worst game of his first season, and his 21-yard punt at the end of the first half gave Dallas at the Eagles’ 43 with just 24 seconds to go in a half that was close.

Dallas cashed the good field position into points, scoring their second touchdown just 1:40 after their previous one to take a 30-17 lead at halftime. In the fourth quarter, Siposs’s 24-yard punt helped set up another short TD drive.

“Not concerned at all,” said special teams coach Michael Clay on Tuesday. “Guy had a bad game in 18 weeks, it happens to the best of them. If we didn't have an answer to what happened in the game then we would be a little bit more concerned, but we know exactly what happened. 

"It was just something mechanically with his drop where it just got outside of him and just shanked the ball, which happens to everyone. Not everyone is going to hit a perfect ball, so not too concerned about Arryn.”

Special teams in general and Siposs, in particular, cannot afford a bad day on Sunday, when they meet the heavily favored Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a Super Wildcard playoff game at Raymond James Stadium (1 p.m./FOX).

RELATED: How Tampa Bay Changed the Eagles' Season - Sports ...

Mistakes in what is known as the third phase of the game behind offense and defense are particularly glaring in a one-and-done scenario.

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The Eagles have been involved in two big ones in their recent playoff history, one that went their way, another that did not.

The most recent was their last playoff win when Cody Parkey double-doinked a 43-yard field goal try with five seconds left in Chicago, allowing the Eagles to escape the Bears, 16-15, in a 2018 wildcard game. 

Trevon Hester helped, getting a fingernail on the kick that may have altered its trajectory, to send the Eagles into the next round.

Before he became an Eagle, Darren Sproles helped the Saints beat Philadelphia with a long kickoff return in the playoffs

Before he became an Eagle, Darren Sproles helped the Saints beat Philadelphia with a long kickoff return in the playoffs.

Further back, the Eagles lost to the New Orleans Saints, 26-24, in a 2013 wildcard game. After a 3-yard TD pass from Nick Foles to Zach Ertz gave the Eagles a 24-23 lead with 4:58 to play Daren Sproles returned Alex Henery’s kickoff 39 yards.

A horse-collar tackle on Cary Williams added 15 more yards and the Saints set up shop at Philadelphia’s 48. Nine plays later, eight of which were runs, Shayne Graham connected from 32 yards away with three seconds left to let the Saints march out of Philly a 26-24 winner.

“Just because it's a playoff game you're not going to go out of the ordinary, out of left field or something like that,” said Clay. “We're going to come back and do what we have been doing. It's really helped us. 

"We've had some opportunities to help the game from a special teams standpoint. And it's a 1-0 week, it's a 1-0 play. You can go and dominate for a play, but in the special teams world, you got to wash that out because the next one is coming. We just got to be ready to go out there, put our best foot forward.”

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.