Philadelphia Eagles

Doug Pederson answers for questionable decisions in OT loss to Cowboys

Doug Pederson answers for questionable decisions in OT loss to Cowboys

ARLINGTON, Texas — With 6:34 left in the fourth quarter on Sunday night in North Texas, the Eagles had a seven-point lead and an opportunity to try a 54-yard field to go up two scores.

Instead, they punted the ball and the game away.

The Cowboys made them pay, scoring a touchdown to tie the game before winning the game 29-23 in overtime at AT&T Field (see Instant Replay).

“(I) felt comfortable doing that, making that decision,” said Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, who had to answer for several questionable decisions in the minutes after the loss dropped the Eagles to 4-3. The Cowboys are now 6-1 and in control of the NFC East.

The choice to punt instead of kick a 54-yard field goal loomed large. Especially because kicker Caleb Sturgis has made his last 17 field goals, including a 55-yarder at the end of the first half.

With a 23-16 lead, Sturgis stayed on the bench, while Jones punted the ball and the Eagles lost their opportunity to pull off an upset on the road (see Roob's 10 Observations from the loss).

“The thing is, field position at that time is critical,” Pederson explained. “[Sturgis] did kick the one before half, which was an excellent kick with no time left on the clock. Had we executed on the third-down play, we would have been in a little better position to kick the field goal at that time and we just didn’t execute on the play before.”

The punt was a good one, though, pinning the Cowboys at their own 10-yard line. The Eagles’ defense then gave up a 90-yard drive in 3:22 as the Cowboys tied the game.

Just before the punt with 6:34 left, the Eagles ran a little screen-like pass to Darren Sproles (see standout plays from the Eagles' loss). But instead of picking up yardage to make the kick easier, the play lost six yards and Pederson said it “knocked [them] out of field-goal range at that time.”

While Carson Wentz didn’t handle the snap cleanly, he said he didn’t think the muffed snap — which he recovered — affected the timing of the play (see breakdown of Wentz's performance).

Still, it was a curious decision in hindsight.

“The first one, 3rd-and-8, play designed to get Sproles the ball out in space and the linebacker actually made a play on it,” Pederson said. “Designed actually for that look, for that coverage. Give them credit.”

Before the Eagles’ defense gave up the game-winning drive in overtime, they had a chance to force the Cowboys into a punt, but elected to let the clock run out.

When Connor Barwin sacked Dak Prescott on second down with 25 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Eagles still had timeouts and could have forced a punt to get the ball back. Instead, Pederson decided to let the game go to overtime.

“I just felt too at that time, because our defense was playing extremely well, I had made up my mind at that time to go ahead and get us into overtime,” the head coach said. “Hopefully win the coin toss, take the ball and be in a position to score. And/or put our defense out there who had just come off a great drive and they were fired up, to put them back on the field. So it was just my decision to do that.”

Another questionable move Pederson made — although perhaps not as egregious — was the decision to give rookie Wendell Smallwood his first carry of the game in a crucial moment of the fourth quarter.

While veteran Ryan Mathews has had trouble with late-game fumbles and with Sproles running well, Pederson inserted Smallwood and called a handoff to the rookie with 13 minutes left in the game.

Smallwood promptly put the ball on the turf and gave the Cowboys the ball at the Eagles’ 36-yard line, which led to a quick field goal and cut the Eagles’ lead to 23-16.

Did Pederson think about getting Smallwood involved earlier in the game instead of a crucial moment of the fourth quarter?

“No, it was the way the game was going at the time,” Pederson said. “It was a safe play, safe run. We had a couple of assignment issues up front. But, you know, just have to learn to hang onto the ball in those situations. We know it was going to be tight running and running lanes and just gotta hang on to the ball.”

After the tough division loss on the road, Pederson said his message to his team was: “We’re still a good football team.” He also said it was a learning moment for many of his players. And for himself too.

What did Pederson learn?

“I think just, for me, staying aggressive, No. 1,” he said. “I think that’s been something I’ve prided myself on, but being smart with it at the same time. I think, No. 2, you learn to, I think one of the positives was Darren was hot. Darren was having a great game and you gotta keep feeding him the ball and get him the ball as many times as you can, as many touches as you can and let a guy like Darren use his athleticism to make plays. I think you learn from that. It’s definitely a learning situation all around.”

Eagles Film Review: The play that set up the game-winning field goal

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NFL

Eagles Film Review: The play that set up the game-winning field goal

It's a play the Eagles practice often. And it's a good thing too. Because without it, Jake Elliott doesn't even have a chance to hit a 61-yard field goal and become an instant hero. 

First the Eagles had to get into field goal range. 

So with seven seconds left, the Eagles went to a play they practice every week, a play they even walked through on Saturday. And it worked. Carson Wentz pushed the ball to Alshon Jeffery on the sideline for a 19-yard gain and Jeffery stepped out of bounds with one second left. You know the rest. 

As the Eagles lined up with seven seconds left, they showed a bunch formation to the right side of the field and the Giants called a timeout. After they got back to the line, the Eagles hadn't changed their formation: Jeffery, Torrey Smith and Nelson Agholor lined up again on the right side of the field. 

Before and during the timeout, FOX announcer Joe Buck started talking about how the Eagles were in a "Hail Mary situation" and if they weren't they would need to get the ball to around the 37-yard line and that wouldn't be easy. He was close on that second part; they got to the 43. 

"We only had seven seconds," head coach Doug Pederson said, "so we have calculated in a sideline throw can take anywhere from five to six, and we were right on that mark today."

 

At the point of the snap, the Eagles have that trips bunch set to the right. Smith is on the line of scrimmage, while Agholor is nearest to the line and Jeffery is outside. Agholor's job is to simply slow down his man and try to take him out of the play. Smith is Wentz's first progression on this play, taking a step left and running a simple vertical rout. Jeffery is running a deep out. 

While Agholor (green) isn't a likely threat to get the ball on that short route with just a few seconds left, his route forces Eli Apple to at least stay with him a little bit. Apple is rightfully giving 10 yards as a cushion, but the fact that he has to be worried about Agholor at all will be a big deal. 

Jeffery (blue), the second progression on the play, is still about 12 yards from making his cut, but you can already see the pocket of space along the sideline forming as his man continues to backpedal. 

The pocket is open and Wentz is about to make a perfect throw. Apple has peeled off Agholor, but he's going to be just a second late. Same thing goes for Janoris Jenkins, who is covering Jeffery on the play. He starts to drive to where the ball will be, but he's going to end up colliding with Apple as Jeffery makes the grab. 

Before we get back to the completion, here's a look at the protection on the play. With the Giants' rushing just three, Wentz has plenty of time to deliver the throw. Lane Johnson gets pushed back some, but he holds up against Jason Pierre-Paul. 

OK, back to the pass. Wentz didn't have much of a window to fit the ball in here. Apple is driving back and Jenkins is driving forward to the ball. It looks like either one of them will have a chance to knock down the pass. If that happens, the Eagles would probably have a second or two left but would need to resort to a Hail Mary, and the game probably goes to overtime. 

You have to give some credit to Jeffery on the catch. In the first couple games of the season, he struggled to bring down the football in tight coverage, something he's been known for in his career. But here, he's able to come back to the ball just enough to take it before Apple can. Apple's momentum will carry him into Jenkins and allow Jeffery to simply step out of bounds with one second on the clock. 

"I knew seven seconds was definitely pushing it with the route, which I think was 15 yards," Wentz said, "but in those situations you just have to take some chances." 

The Eagles kicked a field goal on the next play and finished off another improbable and crazy win over the Giants. 

Roob Stats: Plenty of non-kicking statistical tidbits from Eagles' win vs. Giants

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USA Today Images

Roob Stats: Plenty of non-kicking statistical tidbits from Eagles' win vs. Giants

We covered Jake Elliott's miracle field goal a couple days ago -- for all the stats regarding his game-winning kick, click here: But there are plenty of fascinating non-kicking statistical tidbits from the Eagles' win over the Giants that you won't find anywhere else! 

• With 31 pass attempts Sunday, Carson Wentz increased his career total to 723. That's the most pass attempts in NFL history by a quarterback in his first 19 games. The previous record was 719 by Andrew Luck. The record for 20 games? It's 754 by both Luck and Drew Bledsoe. So Wentz needs 32 passes against the Chargers for the most attempts through 20 games. I like his odds!
 
• Zach Ertz had eight catches against the Giants, his 10th career game with eight or more catches. That already equals the most in franchise history. Jeremy Maclin and Brian Westbrook also had 10 games with eight catches in an Eagles uniform, although Westbrook did it in 107 games and Maclin in 73. Ertz got there in 64 games.
 
• Ertz already has the 16th-most games in NFL history with eight catches by a tight end, but he's only two out of the top-10. Here's what that list looks like:
 
41 … Tony Gonzalez
33 … Jason Witten
20 … Antonio Gates
20 … Raymond Berry
19 … Shannon Sharpe
17 … Kellen Winslow Sr.
15 … Jimmy Graham
14 … Todd Christensen
13 … Ozzie Newsmen
12 … Jordan Reed
12 … Ben Coates
11 … Rob Gronkowski
11 … Heath Miller
11 … Greg Olsen
11 … Jeremy Shockey
10 … Dallas Clark
10 … Zach Ertz
 
• Ertz increased his career total to 268 catches after the equivalent of four full seasons -- 64 career games. That's the seventh-most catches ever by a tight end after 64 games, behind only Kellen Winslow Sr. (344), Kellen Winslow Jr. (313), Jimmy Graham (310), Rob Gronkowski (302), Antonio Gates (292), who the Eagles will see Sunday, and Mike Ditka (279).
 
• Through three games, the Eagles have scored just 10 points in the first quarter, 16 in the second quarter and 17 in the third quarter. But they rank second (to the Chiefs) with 34 fourth-quarter points -- only nine fewer than they've scored in the first three quarters combined. Similarly, they've allowed just three points in the first quarter, 17 in the second quarter and 10 in the third quarter, but they've given up an NFL-high 38 in the fourth quarter -- eight more than they've allowed in the first three quarters combined. They are only the 10th team in NFL history to both score and allow 34 or more fourth-quarter points in their first three games.
 
• With LeGarrette Blount (12 for 67) and Wendell Smallwood (12 for 71) both averaging 5.5 yards per carry, Sunday's game was the first in 44 years for the Eagles in which two running backs averaged over 5½ yards per carry with at least 12 carries. Last time it happened was Oct. 7, 1973, when Norm Bulaich (13 for 104) averaged 8.0 yards per carry and Tom Sullivan (26 for 155) averaged 6.0 in a 27-26 loss to the Bills at Rich Stadium.
 
• The Eagles haven't allowed a rusher to gain more than 31 yards in their last three Week 3 games. In 2015, the Jets' leading rusher, Bilal Powell, had 31 yards. Last year, the Steelers' leading rusher in Week 3 was DeAngelo Williams with 21 yards. And on Sunday, the Giants had two players with 22 rushing yards.
 
• The Eagles on Sunday became only the 11th team in NFL history to win a game despite allowing 24 or more fourth-quarter points. Teams allowing 24 or more fourth-quarter points are now 11-88-1. The Eagles are the first to win such a game since 2012, when the 49ers beat the Patriots 41-34, despite being outscored 24-10 in the fourth quarter. The most points the Eagles allowed previously in the fourth quarter of a win was 22. They led the Bears 30-0 going into the fourth quarter in 1994 before allowing three Erik Kramer touchdown passes and hanging on to win 30-22.
 
• Corey Clement’s 15-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter Sunday was the longest by an undrafted Eagles rookie in 62 years. Their last longer TD run by an undrafted rookie was Ted Wegert’s 29-yarder vs. the Steelers on Oct. 30, 1955, at Connie Mack Stadium. Clement's run was also the Eagles' longest fourth-quarter rushing TD since Bryce Brown's 65-yarder against the Bears in 2013 (with the Eagles leading 47-11).
 
• Sunday's game was also the Eagles' first in eight years in which five different players had a double-digit run. On Sunday, Smallwood (20), Blount (20), Clement (15), Wentz (11) and Darren Sproles (11) each had a run of at least 10 yards. Last time five Eagles did that was Sept. 13, 2009, when DeSean Jackson (25), Brian Westbrook (17), Donovan McNabb (15), LeSean McCoy (11) and Leonard Weaver (11) did it against the Panthers in Charlotte, N.C.
 
• That game against the Panthers was also notable because it was the last time before Sunday in which the Eagles won a game without a pass play of 20 yards. Their longest completion in that win over Carolina was McNabb's 18-yard completion to Jason Avant. Their longest completion Sunday was Wentz's 19-yarder to Alshon Jeffery on the game's final play from scrimmage.
 
• The Eagles are now 6-2 when Wentz doesn't thrown an interception. They're 3-8 when he does.
 
• Rasul Douglas -- at 22 years, 28 days old -- is the youngest Eagle to record an interception in 14 years, since Rod Hood picked off Patrick Ramsey of the Redskins at the Linc on Oct. 5, 2003. Hood was 26 days younger than Douglas at the time. The only other Eagles who've had an interception who are younger than Douglas: Joe Scarpati (21 years, 227 days), Bobby Taylor (21-313) and Seth Joyner (21-363).
 
• The Giants failed to record a rushing touchdown for the eighth straight game at the Linc. Their last rushing touchdown in Philadelphia came in 2009, when Ahmad Bradshaw scored from a yard out with the Eagles up 23 points in the third quarter. In all, the Giants have three rushing touchdowns in their last 15 games against the Eagles.
 
• One final note about Darren Sproles. The 5-foot-6 running back, out for the rest of this season, has 19,155 career all-purpose yards, eighth-most in NFL history. That's 3,366 rushing yards, 4,656 receiving yards, 2,792 punt return yards and 8,350 kickoff yards. (That's 19,164 yards -- he also has nine career lost fumble return yards to get to 19,155). The only player not drafted in the first three rounds with more career yards is former Eagle Brian Mitchell (23,330). Of the 48 players in NFL history with 3,000 or more yards both rushing and receiving, his rushing average of 4.9 is the highest.