MIAMI - As is so often the case with Eagles trick plays, the opposition didn't do what it was supposed to do. Chaos ensued.
"Bad ball security on my part," said rookie corner Curtis Marsh, after his fumble on a punt-return lateral play ended up not costing the Eagles, the Dolphins giving the ball back on the next snap, during a hectic, almost-comic second-quarter sequence.
The play called for DeSean Jackson to start running with the punt, then heave the ball across the field to Marsh, who theoretically would have lots of open space in front of him - assuming that's something you really want to try with a rookie, active for his fourth NFL game.
And then there was the fact that the Dolphins didn't bite.
"We anticipated me getting the catch and there kind of being a wall, 5 to 10 yards before I ran into anybody," Marsh said. "[Tyrone Culver, who forced and recovered] did kind of surprise me, probably soon as I tucked it . . . Still, I've got to hold onto the ball.
"It is risky. We felt we were gonna get that [coverage] look, and we got the look, the thing is, they just kind of smelled it out. We didn't anticipate [Culver and a teammate] being where they were . . . [we thought they would be] maybe seeing it late, but they caught it early."
The Eagles had a more costly special-teams gaffe early, when Jimmy Wilson blocked Chas Henry's first punt attempt, setting up the Dolphins' only touchdown of the day. Wilson came off the offense's right side, where Jason Avant was the last man for the Eagles. Avant was occupied with another Dolphin when Wilson streaked past.
"They had more people [coming] than we had to block," Avant said. "We had eight in protection, they had 10 [coming]. They caught us unprepared. We've got to get the ball out quicker. There was a lot of stuff that went wrong on that play. It was a collaboration of about three things that went wrong, and that equals a block."
Phillip Hunt, the ex-CFL defensive end who hadn't been active for the Eagles in 6 weeks, was tapped to imitate another former CFL star, Dolphins linebacker Cameron Wake, in practice this week. Hunt did such a good job, Eagles coach Andy Reid said, that the coaches decided to activate him in Miami, leaving both 2010 first-round pick Brandon Graham and veteran ex-starter Juqua Parker out of uniform.
"We put No. 91 on him this week, and he was giving us incredible effort," Reid said. "We thought we could use a little bit of that."
Hunt, who had 16 sacks last season for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, put a bow on yesterday's win when he sacked Dolphins quarterback J.P. Losman in the end zone for a safety, with 9:02 remaining. It was Hunt's first NFL sack.
"I wasn't getting in any games, so I just took it up on myself, I said, 'I'm fresh, I'm going to practice hard, give these guys a great look, because I know Cameron Wake's a great rusher,' " Hunt said. He added that "it is kind of special" to have your first sack result in points. "It didn't really click for me until I ran to the sideline and I noticed special teams was on the field. It was just a great feeling."
Eagles defensive end Darryl Tapp had missed the quarterback and was on the ground in the back of the end zone. He thought the play was over, at least for him, and he tried to rise.
Then . . . whump.
Pain blasted through his midsection.
Tapp looked up and saw offensive tackle Nate Garner on him. Garner is 6-7 and 325 pounds, most of which Garner threw into Tapp's rib cage.
The two were 6 yards from the play, on which quarterback J.P. Losman was sacked for a safety, anyway. Garner was whistled for a facemask, but that happened earlier in the sequence. He was not penalized for the shot on Tapp, which Tapp said he felt was dirty.
Tapp left the game for good. X-rays showed no break, but Tapp might have cartilage damage. An MRI is scheduled for today. Certainly, he was hurting.
"I feel awesome right now," he said as he struggled to put on his shirt, then his jacket.
Tapp said that, having watched film of the Dolphins, he and his teammates expected this sort of thing. As a defensive player subjected to scrutiny for hits punishable by fines, Tapp knows how much it can hurt to have the league pinch your paycheck. Tapp hopes the NFL exacts some revenge for him via Garner's pocketbook. Garner was playing because three-time Dolphins Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jake Long went out early with a back injury.
"We knew that stuff was going to happen," Tapp said. "They'd better do something in the league office. You can't just protect [offensive players]. You've got to protect us, too."
LeSean McCoy has 17 touchdowns, one away from Steve Van Buren's 1945 franchise record, and 14 rushing TDs, also second to Van Buren in '45, when No. 15 had 15 . . . Jeremy Maclin (hamstring) saw little of the field in the second half; he finished with one catch, after having been targeted four times . . . The Eagles last managed nine sacks on Sept. 21, 2008, against the Steelers . . . The Birds' defense allowed three first-half first downs . . . Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (ankle) played situationally.
Daily News sports reporter Marcus Hayes contributed to this report.