Doug Pederson went for two fourth downs early in Sunday’s 28-23 loss to the Giants that left Eagles fans questioning whether the rookie head coach made the right calls.
The first came at the Giants’ 23-yard line on a 4th & 2, with the Eagles trailing 14-3. Pederson called a Carson Wentz left end run on a read option, which lost four yards and gave the Giants the ball back. It was an interesting play call in that the team’s read options weren’t working very well all day Sunday.
After the game, Pederson explained his decision to use so many read options, saying the Eagles felt the way the Giants’ defensive ends bend off the edge, the coaches thought they could exploit something with Wentz’s mobility.
“I think some of them were good choices, others were not so good,” Pederson said. “It’s something we have to look at when we evaluate the tape.”
The second fourth down came later in the second quarter, on a 4th & 1 from the Giants’ six yard line. Darren Sproles ran the ball horizontally to the right side of the field but couldn’t find a hole and was swallowed up for no gain.
Pederson successfully called a fourth down attempt in the fourth quarter, but the first two left a bad taste in the mouths of writers and fans alike. In retrospect, Pederson punted on six points considering how automatic Caleb Sturgis has been this season. The Eagles lost by five. Obviously everything is easier to analyze with hindsight, but when things shake out this way, it looks bad.
Still, Pederson said after the game that he was happy with the way he called the game.
“I think it’s a momentum thing,” Pederson said. “And I get what you’re saying. It’s an opportunity for us, offensively, to score seven points over three. I truly believe in our defense and special teams.
“If we don’t start the ball game the way we do, it’s different. It’s totally different. I’m going to continue to stay aggressive, trust the guys, and let our guys play.”
Pederson was asked if he was ready to come under some fire for his decisions in this game, and he didn’t seem to think his choices were all that criticizable.
“There’s a fine line, obviously, between being borderline crazy and doing the right thing, but I felt at the time it was the right thing to do,” Pederson said. “There was momentum, we were playing and moving the ball.
“I don’t think any of the decisions today were so aggressive that they necessarily made any — sent a bad message to our team or whatever. I still stand by them. We just have to execute better in those situations. That’s the bottom line.”
Pederson asserted that his aggressiveness will remain, and while all of the decisions didn’t pay off today, he thinks as the team gels and improves over time, the team’s aggressive mentality will start to pay off.
“I’ll stay aggressive. I think I have to,” Pederson said. “There’s opportunities to be had, plays to be made. This is part of our growth on offense. A rookie quarterback, young receivers, a veteran offensive line. So at the same time, we’re trying to build this thing and we’re trying to do it right.
“By putting them in these situations, they’re going to be better for this. They’re going to be better. Somewhere down the line it’s going to pay off for us, for all of us. I’m going to continue to be as aggressive as I can.”