Eagles running back Wendell Smallwood earned plenty of extra television time this past week, with one play dubbed the London Special.
After the Eagles grabbed a 16-15 lead late in the fourth quarter of their wild-card win by that score over the Chicago Bears, Smallwood took a direct snap, on the two-point conversion, and was barely stopped.
Or was he?
Smallwood is so focused on Sunday’s divisional-round playoff game at the New Orleans Saints that he said earlier this week that he hasn’t bothered to check out the replay.
“I honestly don’t know,” he said when asked if he thought he had crossed the goal line.
Wasn’t he a little curious?
“I haven’t really watched that play yet,” he said. “We have been all Saints since that game ended.”
For Smallwood, it’s better to look forward because last year at this time was bittersweet. He had the thrill of being on the team that won the Super Bowl, but didn’t appear in any of the three playoff games.
“It was very hard,” he said about being inactive for the postseason games.
He used his inactivity as motivation once last season ended.
“It was a trying time and tough for me and gave me a lot of steam in my head going in the offseason to work my tail off to get back on the field and be able to help the team and make plays and prove I belong," he said.
Smallwood, who still is working to be more consistent in pass protection, has recently been a bigger part of the offense. He has had eight or more carries in three of the last four games, including against the Bears when he gained 20 yards on eight carries and caught two passes for 20 yards. He had a key 22-yard reception on the first drive of the game that eventually led to a field goal.
Smallwood played 41 percent of the Eagles' offensive snaps against the Bears and also was a key contributor on special teams.
“There have been a couple of games down the stretch he has had the hot hand and we have kept him going,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Friday. “So he is one that we count on and rely on, and he will have his opportunities again this weekend.”
A fifth-round draft choice out of West Virginia in 2016, the 5-foot-10, 208-pound Smallwood is known for his all-out style.
“The dude runs hard,” center Jason Kelce said. “... He is always eye-catching on tape whenever he gets the ball; he is going to take it and hit the line of scrimmage moving 1,000 miles an hour when he makes that read. Whether it is the right or wrong read, he is going to give it everything he’s got on every single play. There is a lot of things I respect about that guy.”
Sometimes, though, Smallwood realizes that he has to take his foot off the accelerator.
“Earlier, I was looking to make the big play all the time and trying to force some things,” Smallwood said. “It is happening naturally now, and that has gotten better and my opportunities have gone up.”
Smallwood says he isn’t sure, from game to game, how much he will be used. This year, there have been seven games in which he has had two or fewer rushing attempts.
“You sort of never know. It can plan to go one way, and then things can change,” he said.