Andy Reid has never been afraid to put the pedal to the metal during games, but in his fourth year with the Eagles, that aggressiveness historically backfired — against Philadelphia’s biggest rival, no less.
In Week 6 of the 2003 season, Reid tried to catch the Cowboys off guard by calling an onside kick on the opening kickoff in Dallas. Pulling an onside kick out on the first play of the game is a huge risk — if the opposing team recovers it, they’re starting the game with impeccable field position.
Philadelphia got hit with a double whammy on the play. Not only did the Cowboys recover the onside kick, but they returned it for a touchdown.
After David Akers kicked the ball, Cowboys receiver Randal Williams caught the ball in mid-air and brought it back for a touchdown. The play took just three seconds of game time off the clock, making it the fastest touchdown in NFL history with 14:57 left in the first quarter — a record that remains today.
The Cowboys went on to win the game, 23-21, which means they needed every bit of those six points in three seconds to help them win the game.
Dallas was more than ready for the onside kick
After the game, Cowboys running back Troy Hambrick said they were prepared for the onside kick. Former ESPN reporter Len Pasquarelli noted the Cowboys’ special teams coach told the return team to watch out for an onside kick:
“Just as the Cowboys broke the huddle, special teams coach Bruce DeHaven cautioned Williams about the potential for an onside kick, and warned him about peeling back too soon to block for a return. So when David Akers knuckle-balled the opening kickoff to his left, Williams stepped slightly forward instead of in reverse, and won a jump-ball with Eagles special team players Roderick Hood and Correll Buckhalter.
Caught flat-footed by Williams’ countermove, the Eagles could only chase the Cowboys backup wide receiver to the end zone. His 37-yard touchdown in a blinding three seconds now ranks as the quickest score at the outset of any game, since the NFL began using the scoreboard clock as the official timepiece in 1970.”
This wasn’t the first time Reid called for an onside kick against Dallas on the first play of the game. In the 2000 season opener, Philadelphia executed an onside kick that ignited a 41-14 victory for the Eagles.
The Cowboys had been waiting for that opportunity for three seasons, and their preparation for the play was evident as Williams sprinted into the end zone. Reid’s forward-thinking is part of the reason he’s still a coach today, but that time, the only one he pulled a fast one on was himself.
It’s all OK, though. The Eagles won the division that year and got their revenge on Dallas, winning, 36-10, in Week 14. And it’s not like Reid’s misfortune has followed him throughout his coaching career or anything.