Yesterday’s utterly tragic tie with the Bengals was filled with reasons for Eagles fans to be mad, but it’s the way in which the game ended, and how Doug Pederson let it happen, that will be fueling their anger today.
Doug Pederson’s decision
After Carson Wentz somehow dragged the team into overtime, Jake Elliott had a chance to pull off a miracle from 59 yards out. He’d been there before. We all remember the 61-yard walkoff game-winner against the Giants, and he’d already hit a 54-yarder that game. Carlos Dunlap shifted and Matt Pryor leapt a little too quickly, drawing an offside penalty and pushing the Eagles back to a 4th-and-17 from the 64-yard line.
Instead of trusting his long-legged kicker, Pederson decided to punt the ball and avert the risk of the Bengals having a short field to work with.
“The decision there [was] one of two things.” Doug Pederson explained after the game. “You can either attempt it on fourth down and try to go for it — we tried to go for the field goal, the game-winner. That was the thing, we were going to go for the game-winner with the kick. Felt comfortable with [K] Jake [Elliott]. Had the wind. The false start backed us up, so we said let’s just punt the football here. “
“We didn’t want to give them the ball towards midfield or even a chance to go for it on fourth down and long. Incomplete pass, something like that. They get the ball, short field, they could kick a field goal and win the game.”
Why it was the wrong call
That’s all well and good, but there were 19 seconds left and the Bengals were hardly an offensive juggernaut. They’d picked up 24 overtime yards despite a fourth-quarter rally where they scored on three consecutive possessions after a stale first half.
Cincy were 3/13 on third down, couldn’t run the ball, and would still have to pick up around 25 yards of offense to get into a strong position, which means extended time in the pocket for a QB who had been hit 18 times and sacked 8 by a ruthless Eagles defensive line.
The decision made no sense. Doug Pederson has built a reputation as one of the most aggressive coaches in the league, especially on fourth down. But this is only the start of a very deep rabbit hole.
Can Doug Pederson right the ship?
Pederson could’ve attempted a two-point conversion after Carson Wentz threw himself into the endzone for a game-tying touchdown. It’s something he has been more than comfortable than doing in the past. Instead, he opted to send the game to OT and verge on the side of conservation.
Then, there was the running game. The Bengals had conceded 370 rushing yards in 2 games. This was a prime spot for Miles Sanders to wreak havoc. What we actually saw was a spell of nine-straight passing plays, terrible turnovers, and 18 carries on the day for Sanders, who still put up 95 yards.
The screen game lacked creativity and execution. Carson Wentz still looks as broken as he did during the opening two losses. The offense just looks void of any kind of identity. How would you describe it right now?
Is it a run-first offense? Is it one built on play-action? Does it make its paydirt on screens? At this point I don’t think anyone knows, not the fans, not the players, not the coaches. It’s just a mess.
In a year where Pederson was given an offensive coordinator by committee approach, this group has been disastrously underwhelming and the worst part is, it may only be the start.
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire