In Week 5, the Eagles were down 14 points to the Vikings early in the fourth quarter. Wendell Smallwood caught a touchdown to trim the lead to 8, and then he scored on the 2 point conversion to make it a 6 point game. At the time, Doug Pederson’s decision to go for it surprised many. Fail to convert and the Eagles would have to try another conversion to “get back” the points. The math said he was right to go for it, converting the attempt greatly increased their chances of winning while missing it only slightly decreased them.
It shouldn’t have been surprising, for two reasons. One, Pederson embraces the calculated gamble, as evidenced by his high rate of fourth down attempts. The touchdown against the Vikings was the first (and so far only) time where the Eagles were down 14 and scored a touchdown. It seems a safe bet that if he’s in that situation again, he’ll go for it. And two, although it may not feel like it, over the three years he’s been a head coach, Doug Pederson leads the league in 2 point attempt rate.
2 Point Attempt Rate 2016-2018
Pederson’s rate of going for it is even more impressive when you take out teams trying to play catch up and only look at 2 point attempts when a team is winning.
2 Point Attempt Rate While Leading 2016-2018
And he gets results, with a 71.4 conversion rate against a league average of 61.5%.
It’s interesting that while the rest of the league passes on 76.3% of conversion attempts, Pederson passes only 42.9% of the time, the 3rd lowest rate behind the Rams (37.5%) and Saints (33.3%).
With that kind of success, he should do it more, and earlier. Just 8 of his 21 attempts come before the 4th quarter. 10 attempts came when the Eagles had a two score lead or would be tied after a PAT, with an 11th attempt that ran up the score on the Cowboys on Thanksgiving in 2017.
Doug Pederson 2 Point Attempts While Leading or to Lead
Pederson is aggressive at attempting to extend leads as the game unfolds. But early on, he’s like any other coach. The Eagles have opened the scoring with a touchdown 14 times under Pederson, and he’s never gone for it in such a situation, and he’s never gone for 2 in the first quarter.
Pederson isn’t shy about keeping his foot on the gas with fourth down attempts. He should extend that to 2 point conversions on early touchdowns as well.