Doug Pederson has made his mark in the NFL by being an aggressive head coach and one who once made the call to throw to a quarterback on fourth-and-goal in the Super Bowl. Pederson's aggressiveness has earned him praise as one of the game's best head coaches, which is why Sunday's call in a tie game with under 30 seconds left in overtime was all the more baffling.
Facing a fourth-and-12 at the Cincinnati 46-yard line, Pederson decided to forego a 64-yard field goal attempt by Jake Elliott to break a 23-23 tie with the Cincinnati Bengals. He decided to pass on an offensive play call with the Philadelphia Eagles staring down an 0-3 start. Instead, the Eagles head coach decided to punt -- and actually took a five yard delay of game penalty to give Cameron Johnston more room to pin Cincinnati deep -- with 19 seconds to play. Pederson, with a reputation for his aggressive nature, settled for the tie.
After explaining his rationale towards punting Sunday, Pederson second-guessed his own decision Monday and reversed course.
"Looking back on it, I would have probably gone the other way and maybe taken a shot down the field and put the ball up in the air," Pederson said on not going for it on fourth-and-12 on Angelo Cataldi and the WIP Morning Show Monday. "Looking back on it, with clearer eyes this morning, a lot of things could have happened – DPI (defensive pass interference), illegal contact, could have been an offensive holding, could have been a sack. There's a lot of things that go into those plays. Looking back on it, that's probably what I would do."
The Eagles actually had a fourth-and-7 before the series of unfortunate events occurred. Matt Pryor had a false start as Elliott lined up for a 59-yard field goal attempt at the Bengals' 41-yard line. That put the Eagles back five more yards which made the kick 64 yards (Elliott once made a 61-yard kick to win a game), but Pederson deferred. He didn't even put the offense out on the field to convert the fourth-and-12, showing no trust in his personnel to get a first down and set Elliott up for the winner on the next play.
"I still trust in the team. I still believe in the guys," Pederson said. "These are things that we will learn from. I will learn from it. I've never been in this situation as a coach to make this decision at the end of the game, like this. These are things we continue to coach, we continue to teach. This is why we get into this business. I've made 92 other decisions offensively in this game, plus a few more, and that's just what it comes down to, making those one or two right decisions and that's on me."
The Eagles offense had just 56 yards in overtime, coming off a six-play, 14-yard drive after starting possession at their own 44-yard line. Carson Wentz struggled throughout the day and wasn't moving the ball enough to give Elliott an easier field goal for the win, so there is some logic behind Pederson's decision to punt and play for the tie.
Even with all the criticism Pederson is facing after his decision to punt, the Eagles were the only team in the NFC East not to lose Sunday. They actually gained half a game in the division race, sitting a half game behind the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Football Team for first place.
"I told them in the locker room after the game that we weren't a very smart football team today. I think 11 penalties. [Some] came at crucial times. We couldn't get off the field on defense. Offensively, we didn't execute well enough," Pederson said after the tie Sunday. "We had some injuries, but that's going to be part of the game. Just not a smart football team right now. That's on me. We'll get that fixed as we get ready for this next week.
"But I like how our team battled, hung in there, came back to tie the game at the end. But just overall not very smart today, not very disciplined when those are some of the things we talk about quite a bit."