Jake Knott played the second-most special teams snaps Monday against the Redskins, and recovered Washington's onside kick in the final minutes of the game. (USA Today Images)
Down at the bottom of the pile, Jason Avant and Jake Knott were having a nice little conversation.
“I was like, ‘I have it, Jake,’ and Jake was like, ‘I got it,’” Avant said. “It didn’t matter. I heard his voice and I knew we were good.”
Thanks to Knott, the Eagles closed out their win over the Redskins Monday night before the 'Skins had one final chance at a game-winning touchdown.
The 'Skins had scored 20 straight points to cut a 33-7 Eagles' lead into a tenuous 33-27 edge. They had all the momentum on their side, and when Kyle Horvath’s onside kick squirted out of Avant’s hands, it looked like the 'Skins would have the ball less than 50 yards from a game-winning touchdown.
That’s when Knott went to work.
Playing in his first NFL game, Knott dove headlong toward Avant as first tight end Niles Paul and then-linebacker Bryan Kehl of the Redskins also went after the football. Within a second, there was a huge pileup, Knott somewhere on the bottom.
When the last of the players were peeled off the scrum, there was Knott with the football, and Chip Kelly’s first career win was secured.
“I saw it was going to be a tough kick to handle, the way it bounced off the ground, so I just went directly for the ball and ended up at the bottom of the pile with the ball,” Knott said. “It was definitely very special, but it’s something we’ve practiced a long time for.
“I wasn’t nervous or anything because it was a situation we had prepared for throughout the preseason.”
Knott, an undrafted rookie from Iowa State, became the first Eagle to recover an opponent’s onside kick in four years, since Moise Fokou recovered a kick by Lawrence Tynes of the Giants in 2009 in a game the Eagles won 45-38.
What a way to start your career.
“That was a great play by him,” special teams coach Dave Fipp said. “To be honest, it doesn’t surprise me. He’s made a bunch of great plays throughout the course of the preseason. He did exactly what we asked him to do, exactly how we asked him to do it.
“Phenomenal play, great effort, and it was great execution really by everybody. We had a bunch of other guys blocking their guys who were coming at us. There was one guy free, that guy makes a hit on Avant, and the next guy in is Jake Knott from the backside, which is what we talk about, so it was really a great job by everybody executing the play.
“We call that a get-it-done play. We’ve got to get the job done, and we got it done.”
As it turned out, the Redskins were offsides on the kick, so even if the 'Skins recovered, they wouldn’t have had possession. But still, Knott’s recovery secured the win and sent the Eagles back to Philly with a 1-0 record.
“Jake did a great job,” Avant said. “He did a great job of just hustling, and he just did a good job of not giving up on the play."
Knott made the Eagles because of his promise as an inside linebacker, but backup linebackers have to be able to contribute on special teams, and Knott was on the field for 25 of the Eagles’ 31 special teams snaps Monday night.
Only Colt Anderson (26 of 31) played more.
“I think it’s 57 percent of onside kicks the backside guy ends up recovering it, whether it’s our guy or their guy, so we coach always run to the ball,” Anderson said, “you never know what’s going to happen, and Knott did a great job seeing the ball.
“That was one of the best onside kicks I’ve ever seen. Give credit to their kicker. But Jake really made a nice play. He’s a really smart player, kept his composure. It’s fun to play with him.”
More: Under Fipp, Eagles' special teams shows promise (see story).