Why Lane Johnson's touchdown had a deeper meaning for the Eagles

PHILADELPHIA -- How did Lane Johnson's teammates feel about his touchdown catch against the New York Giants on Sunday? Eagles left tackle Jordan Mailata summed it up well.

"I'm not going to swear," he said. "But it was f---ing awesome."

Everyone loves a big-man touchdown. That's part of the reason there was so much joy postgame following the offensive lineman's fourth-quarter score, which was promptly described as a "Thick Six" on social media. But it ran deeper than that.

For one, Johnson was snubbed in the Pro Bowl voting, in the team's view. Entering Sunday's game, the standout right tackle had not allowed a single sack this season in 704 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus, while boasting the second-highest pass block win rate in the NFL at 94%, per ESPN Stats & Information.

Johnson was "very motivated all week by not making the Pro Bowl," according to quarterback Jalen Hurts.

"You've got a chance to have a guy that's going to be first- or second-team All-Pro and not in the Pro Bowl," added coach Nick Sirianni, who had the play in his back pocket for weeks and chose Sunday to unleash it. "And so it was great to be able to get him a touchdown. He just deserves so much credit -- so much more credit than he's getting."

Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said the whole sideline stood up in excitement as the play unfolded. The reaction had something to do with what Johnson has gone through this season. He missed three games to address his mental health. Upon his return in mid-October, he revealed that "depression and anxiety are things I've dealt with for a long time and have kept hidden from my friends and family." His candor has been lauded both inside the building and out.

"I think it's a testimony of perseverance and obviously being strong," Hurts said. "Lane knows that his teammates have his back. He knows I have his back. Going through the things he went through early in the season and being able to come back and be with us and be a big part of our football team and our offense, I'm happy for him. I'm happy he's good, and I'm happy he got in the end zone today."

The play was named "East Texas" because both Hurts and Johnson are from there. On second-and-goal from the 5-yard line early in the fourth quarter, Hurts faked the handoff to running back Boston Scott, planted, and zipped a pass to a wide-open Johnson in the right side of the end zone.

Safety Rodney McLeod joked with Hurts afterward that he had too much heat on the throw, but Hurts said Johnson, who played quarterback and tight end in junior college, was "equipped and well-prepared" after training with Hurts all offseason.

"I know Jalen whizzed that thing in there," Johnson said. "What was worrying me was that I was wearing those thumb guards that are all like plastic, so I can't really bend my thumb. I'm just glad I caught it and after that, I tried to do a Lambeau Leap, but I guess our gates are pretty tall."

Hurts and Johnson exchanged jerseys afterward at Hurts' suggestion, seeing as he had never thrown a TD to a lineman before. Johnson even signed it with a message saying, "When I caught that ball, I didn't know what to think. All I could think was, 'What do y'all know about them Texas boys?"

Mailata was jokingly critical of the group celebration, calling it "half ballroom dancing, half making it up on the spot, half Lincoln [Financial] Field Leap -- it was a mess." But it was sweet nonetheless because of what Johnson means to the team and what he went through this year and, of course, because of the position he plays.

"It's all three of those," Mailata said. "It's Lane, he's an offensive lineman -- big-man touchdowns, everybody wants to see that. But when you actually know the guy, you play with the guy, you know how much he gives himself to the team, you love that for him."