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February 21, 2018

Analysis of all 29 of Doug Pederson's 4th down 'go for it' calls in 2017

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022118DougPederson Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

#BBD.

In 2016, the Philadelphia Eagles went for it on fourth down 27 times, more than any other team in the NFL. When they didn't convert, Doug Pederson was absolutely hammered with harsh criticism for his decisions. 

During the 2017 season, including the playoffs, Pederson didn't let that criticism bother him in the slightest as he went for it on fourth down 29 times, once again more than any other team in the NFL. Partly as a result of Pederson's aggressiveness, the Eagles went 13-3 during the regular season, and then won the Super Bowl.

By now, every single Eagles fan on the planet should be on board with Doug Pederson’s aggressiveness on fourth down. Still, for the sake of evaluating his fourth down “go for it” calls, let’s take a look back at all 29 of them during the Eagles’ 2017 season.

1) Eagles vs. Giants, 4th and 1 from the Eagles’ 47: Carson Wentz up the middle for 2 yards

Almost every team in the league would punt on their own side of the field. In my view, going for this was the right call, as the success rate on 4th and 1 is very high, especially with a quarterback as good at sneaks as Wentz. After converting this fourth down, the Eagles would run 12 more plays on this drive, leading to a touchdown.

Points added tally: 7

Points lost tally: 0

2) Eagles vs. Giants, 4th and 8 from the Giants’ 43: Carson Wentz sacked for a loss of 6 yards

In the aftermath of this game (a thrilling win, by the way), Pederson got torn apart both by print media and local radio. How could he go for it on 4th and 8?!? The horror! Personally, I loved the call, and explained why in detail in a post titled ‘Dislodge yourselves from Doug Pederson's butt for that 4th-and-8 call, people’ from back in September.

As it turned out, the Eagles turned the ball over on downs, but the defense kept the Giants from capitalizing with points going the other way on a goal-line stand.

Points added tally: 7

Points lost tally: 0

3) Eagles vs. Giants, 4th and 1 from the Giants’ 45-yard line: Carson Wentz up the middle for 1 yard

Again, the Eagles made the no-brainer decision to go for it here, when most other teams would have punted. And once again, they were rewarded with a touchdown four plays later.

It blew my mind back in September that Doug Pederson scored 14 extra points for being aggressive on fourth down in this game, and people still criticized the crap out of him in the aftermath. His aggressiveness was the reason they won.

Points added tally: 14

Points lost tally: 0

4) Eagles vs. Chargers, 4th and 1 from the Chargers’ 42-yard line: Carson Wentz up the middle for 1 yard

Once again, the Eagles converted on a 4th and 1 with a Wentz sneak. Eight plays later, they kicked a field goal.

Points added tally: 17

Points lost tally: 0

5) Eagles vs. Panthers, 4th and 1 from the Panthers’ 3-yard line: Carson Wentz up the middle for 1 yard

Down 7 in the second quarter, the Eagles ran a QB sneak once again, converted, and scored a touchdown three plays later. Many would’ve taken the points.

Rather than getting 3, the Eagles got 7 and tied it up. We’ll add 4 to the “points added tally.”

Points added tally: 21

Points lost tally: 0

6) Eagles vs. 49ers, 4th and 1 from the 49ers’ 47-yard line: Corey Clement run over left guard for 2 yards

The Eagles had a 23 point lead with 1:53 left in the fourth quarter. Rather than punt, Pederson got the first down, the Eagles knelt a couple times, and the game was over.

Points added tally: 21

Points lost tally: 0

7) Eagles vs. Broncos, 4th and 5 from the Eagles’ 49-yard line: Carson Wentz pass incomplete deep right to Alshon Jeffery

Don’t remember this one? That’s because there were only four seconds left in the first half, and with a 31-9 lead, Pederson opted to just roll Wentz out and throw it out of bounds to waste the remaining time left on the clock instead of risking a blocked punt, punt return, or some other disaster on a Hail Mary.

Points added tally: 21

Points lost tally: 0

8) Eagles vs. Broncos, 4th and 1 from the Broncos’ 3-yard line: Carson Wentz pass short right to Nelson Agholor for 1 yard

With a 31-9 lead, a field goal would have made it a four-score lead, but the offense was humming, so Pederson stayed aggressive. Next play – touchdown. Add four more to the “points added tally.”

Points added tally: 25

Points lost tally: 0

9) Eagles vs. Broncos, 4th and 1 from the Broncos’ 39-yard line: Nick Foles deep right to Nelson Agholor for 35 yards

This was in garbage time with a 44-23 lead and 5:34 left in regulation. Still, the Eagles' aggressiveness paid off, as Clement scored on the next play, putting the game even further out of reach.

Points added tally: 32

Points lost tally: 0

10) Eagles vs. Broncos, 4th and 8 from the Broncos’ 32-yard line: Wendell Smallwood runs for a loss of 3 yards

With a 51-23 lead, Pederson opted not to rub it in by attempting a 50-yard field goal, instead essentially just giving the ball back to the Broncos.

Points added tally: 32

Points lost tally: 0

11) Eagles vs. Cowboys, 4th and 5 from the Cowboys’ 17-yard line: Alshon Jeffery 17 yard touchdown pass from Carson Wentz

With a 23-9 lead, Pederson would have almost certainly attempted a field goal here under normal circumstances, but with Jake Elliott having been knocked out of the game, the Eagles went for it and scored.

Points added tally: 36

Points lost tally: 0

12) Eagles vs. Bears, 4th and 1 from the Bears’ 35-yard line: Jay Ajayi run right end for 2 yards

Instead of attempting a 50-plus yard field goal, Pederson was aggressive with a 0-0 score on the Birds’ second drive of the game. Four plays later, the Eagles scored a touchdown. We’ll be conservative and add only four points here.

Points added tally: 40

Points lost tally: 0

13) Eagles vs. Bears, 4th and 1 from the Bears’ 48-yard line: Carson Wentz up the middle for 1 yard

Again, most teams wouldn’t go for this near midfield. Pederson did, and 10 plays later, touchdown. And not only did they score a touchdown, they bled out the remaining time in the first half.

Points added tally: 47

Points lost tally: 0

14) Eagles vs. Bears, 4th and 1 from the Bears’ 42-yard line: Carson Wentz up the middle for 3 yards

No-brainer. The Eagles would go for it again on this drive on 4th down and not make it, seen below…

Points added tally: 47

Points lost tally: 0

15) Eagles vs. Bears, 4th and 6 from the Bears’ 35-yard line: Carson Wentz pass incomplete short right to Nelson Agholor

While I liked the decision to go for it on 4th and 8 against the Giants, I’d have been more inclined to try the long field goal with Jake Elliott here with a 21-3 lead. Still, after the turnover on downs, the Bears went three and out.

Points added tally: 47

Points lost tally: 0

16) Eagles vs. Seahawks, 4th and 1 from the Seahawks’ 29-yard line: Carson Wentz up the middle for 2 yard-

Nobody had stopped Wentz’s QB sneak all year so far, so why not? This drive would eventually end with Wentz about to run it in for a score, but instead fumbling through the back of the end zone for a touchback.

Points added tally: 47

Points lost tally: 0

17) Eagles vs. Seahawks, 4th and 3 from the Seahawks’ 25-yard line: Carson Wentz incomplete pass short left to Kenjon Barner

With 3:55 left in the third quarter, down 14 points, I’d have gone for this as well. Still, the way it played out, it’s fair to note that the Eagles likely missed out on 3 points here. The Seahawks’ ensuing drive resulted in a punt.

Points added tally: 47

Points lost tally: 3

18) Eagles vs. Seahawks, 4th and 6 from the Seahawks’ 40-yard line: Carson Wentz incomplete short middle to Trey Burton

With a 14-point deficit and only 5:48 left in the game, this was an obvious call. The Seahawks went three-and-out on their ensuing drive.

Points added tally: 47

Points lost tally: 3

19) Eagles vs. Seahawks, 4th and 6 from the Eagles’ 25-yard line: Carson Wentz pass short left to Corey Clement for 23 yards

Again, a no-brainer with a 14 point deficit and only 2:10 left in the game. The next play would result in an interception.

Points added tally: 47

Points lost tally: 3

20) Eagles vs. Rams, 4th and 1 from the Rams’ 31-yard line: Carson Wentz pass short right to Nelson Agholor for 18 yards

The Eagles were already up 14-7 at this point in the game, but instead of trying a long field goal, Pederson got aggressive and extended the drive. Three plays later – touchdown. Huge call.

Points added tally: 51

Points lost tally: 3

21) Eagles vs. Rams, 4th and goal from the Rams’ 2-yard line: Alshon Jeffery TD pass from Carson Wentz

With the Eagles down 4 with 2:20 left in the third quarter, Pederson got ballsy and went for the TD, and was rewarded with a great catch by Jeffery in the end zone. This was, of course, Wentz’s last play of the season.

Points added tally: 55

Points lost tally: 3

22) Eagles vs. Giants, 4th and 1 at the Giants’ 44-yard line: LeGarrette Blount up the middle for no gain

The Eagles were down 20-7 in the middle of the second quarter. Without Wentz, they opted against a QB sneak, instead running it with Blount, and they got stuffed. Still, to me, this was an easy call to go for it. The reward far exceeded the risk. Three plays later, Eli Manning threw an interception.

Points added tally: 55

Points lost tally: 3

23) Eagles vs. Raiders, 4th and 1 from the Raiders’ 21-yard line: Corey Clement up the middle for 2 yards

This was early in the game, with a 0-0 score and the Eagles’ ground game working well. They picked up the first on a day where there wouldn’t be much offense later in the game and scored a touchdown three plays later. This fourth down call ended up being huge in the outcome of the game.

Points added tally: 59

Points lost tally: 3

24) Eagles vs. Raiders, 4th and 3 from the Raiders’ 37-yard line: Nick Foles pass short right to Zach Ertz for 4 yards

This was a no-brainer call, in my view, as the Eagles weren’t going to try a 55-yard field goal in terrible weather conditions. Five plays later, they ended up missing a 33-yard field goal anyway.

Points added tally: 59

Points lost tally: 3

25) Eagles vs. Cowboys, 4th and 7 from the Cowboys’ 39-yard line: Nick Foles pass incomplete to Torrey Smith

This was open, and Smith might have scored on the play. Instead he dropped it, and the Eagles turned it over on downs. Ultimately, this was a meaningless game, so who cares either way? The Cowboys turned it over on downs on their ensuing drive.

Points added tally: 59

Points lost tally: 3

26) Eagles vs. Cowboys, 4th and 2 from the Cowboys’ 44-yard line: Nate Sudfeld pass incomplete short left to Shelton Gibson

Sudfeld to Gibson… Did I mention this was a meaningless game? Anyway, it made sense in the context of the game as well, as the Eagles were down 6-0 with 5:40 left in the game.

Points added tally: 59

Points lost tally: 3

27) Eagles vs. Falcons, 4th and goal from the Falcons’ 1-yard line: LeGarrette Blount 1 yard TD run

This was the Eagles’ only touchdown of the game (it occurred in the first half), and they needed it. Would they have won this game if they settled for 3 here?

Points added tally: 63

Points lost tally: 3

28) Eagles vs. Patriots, 4th and goal from the Patriots’ 1-yard line: Nick Foles 1 yard TD pass from Trey Burton

The broadcast booth was surprised that Pederson went for it in this situation. They shouldn’t have been, seeing as they went for it in these situations all year long. And, well, in this case, they ran a trick play. Ever heard of the “Philly Special?”

Points added tally: 67

Points lost tally: 3

29) Eagles vs. Patriots, 4th and 1 at the Eagles’ 45-yard line: Nick Foles pass short left to Zach Ertz for 2 yards

With 5:39 left in the game, the Eagles trailing by 1, and the Patriots having done whatever they wanted to the Eagles’ defense during the entire second half, this was a pretty easy decision to go for it by Pederson. They converted, scored the go-ahead TD, and well, you know the rest.

Points added tally: 74

Points lost tally: 3

Conclusion

All season long, Doug Pederson gambled and mostly won. It's highly unlikely that every Eagles season will have the same level of success on fourth down that they enjoyed in 2017. 

Still, the next time the Eagles go for it on 4th down in an unconventional situation and they don’t convert, just remember how much fun you had at the Eagles’ Super Bowl parade because Doug Pederson has some balls.


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