Philadelphia Eagles fans who watched the Chiefs-Patriots divisional round playoff game on Saturday evening recognized a sight all too familiar towards the end of the game. Down two scores, Andy Reid seemingly did a poor job of managing the clock in order to give the Chiefs a lot of time to get the ball back for a second score. Instead, Kansas City scored, the Patriots recovered the onside kick, and then got a first down to win the game.
But while Reid took the criticism for the loss, it was actually new Eagles head coach Doug Pederson who called the plays on that drive. He revealed as much during his introductory press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
"I'll tell you -- I'll even go back a little bit further," Pederson started. "I was able to call plays [this season] really since the Pittsburgh game on, if you follow the Kansas City Chiefs. Coach Reid and I had a great understanding and a great feel for the game. He allowed me to call the second half of every football game from that Steeler game on. The second half of our playoff game the other night, I had the second half. I did have the second half and so I called the entire second half at that point."
There's some good news revealed in that quote. The Steelers game is when the Chiefs began their 10-game win streak to end the regular season. If Pederson really called the entire second half of games, that shows he has more play-calling experience than previously thought. Pederson did say he will be calling the offensive plays for Philadelphia.
But back to the Chiefs-Patriots game. Here's Pederson's explanation for why the drive took so long:
"It took us time because No. 1, we did not want to give Tom Brady the ball back," Pederson said. "We knew we were going to score. We knew we had timeouts and time. We were also limited with the number of receivers; we had Jeremy Maclin out of the game at the time. We were down numbers. We felt like at that point, not to give the ball back to Tom Brady. We still had timeouts and time, even with the onside kick, to put ourselves in a position to tie the football game."
Reid echoed the same refrain one day after the loss.
"We wanted to maintain our timeouts the best we could," Reid said on Sunday, one day after the loss. "We didn't want to give the ball back, at any point, to New England after we go ahead and score that next touchdown."
Despite the criticism Reid got, his plan almost worked. Kansas City came very close to picking off Brady on 2nd-and-12. At the least it probably would have been a deflection but instead the ball bounced right to a wide open Patriots receiver for a first down. If that doesn't happen, it would have been 3rd-and-12 for the Patriots and the Chiefs would have had two timeouts with about 1:04 to go. New England probably would have ran on third down in order to make Kansas City burn their second timeout. So the Chiefs would have gotten the ball back with about 50-something seconds left and one timeout to work with. Certainly not optimal, but it would have at least given them some kind of chance to tie the game. If you're still questioning this logic, check out this surprisingly good defense of Reid from Colin Cowherd:
In any case, it should be noted Pederson wasn't necessarily the one dictating the tempo. Just because he called the plays doesn't mean Reid wasn't controlling the pace.
Even if we assume the worst and say Pederson was to blame for the Chiefs' failure in this game ... it's just one game. It's entirely possible he could learn from his mistake and fix it moving forward. Or maybe not and maybe the Eagles are doomed. We'll find out soon enough!