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December 04, 2017

Good Doug / bad Doug: Analyzing Pederson's game-situation decisions vs. the Seahawks

In the Philadelphia Eagles' 24-10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday Night Football, Doug Pederson was faced with about a half-dozen interesting decisions, whether they be on fourth down or challenge opportunities. Here we'll take a look back at each of them, and analyze if he made the right calls or not.

1st quarter, 4th and 1, ball on the Philly 47-yard line, Seattle leading 3-0

Way back in Week 3, the Eagles were faced with this same situation against the Giants. 4th and 1, own 47-yard line, 1st quarter. Pederson went for it, and Carson Wentz was able to pick up a first down on a quarterback sneak. That decision ultimately resulted in an 18-play touchdown drive.

Against the Seahawks, Pederson punted, the defense earned a three-and-out, and the Seahawks punted it back to the Eagles, who then had a new drive with great field position. Many called that decision a win because the Eagles D held.

"It was early in the game," Pederson said. "I made the decision to punt the football."

So why go for it against the Giants, but not the Seahawks? Well, the Seahawks' defense is better than the Giants', obviously. Still, I personally disagree with the decision. You are the top scoring team in the NFL. You're now the bully. I believe that going for it in that situation is an opportunity to show your team that your offense is the unit that should be feared, not the Seahawks' defense.

#JimmyVerdict: Bad Doug!

2nd quarter (50-ish seconds remaining), 4th and 2, ball on the Seattle 46, Seattle leading 10-3

After a Corey Clement pitch right failed to pick up a first down on 3rd and 2, the Eagles had about 50 seconds left on the clock with one timeout remaining. The Eagles let the clock run down to 18 seconds and then punted.

"We had discussed going for it in that situation," Pederson said. "I think there was 18 seconds with a couple timeouts, with a chance to go and possibly kick a field goal. I was just a decision I made at that point because we were getting the ball again in the second half. We flipped the field a little bit, nice punt, backed them up."

Anything else to add, Doug?

"I just didn't want to give them a short field with 18, maybe 15 seconds, with timeouts, and then they get three points instead of us," he said.

So why did Wentz and the offense remain on the field for 30-40 seconds before calling timeout and punting?

"I was trying to see if we could get the defense to jump or call a timeout," Pederson explained.

#JimmyVerdict: I'm fine with the idea of trying to get the Seahawks to call the timeout for you, but that only works if you take the offense off the field and trot out the punt team. I'm less fine with the idea of getting the opposing defense to jump when it's a veteran team like Seattle. You're basically just running 30 seconds off the clock.

I'd have just gone for it after the run play on 3rd and 2 failed, assuming I had a play call I liked. Maybe Pederson did not. In that event, then sure, punt. But I would not be swayed by the notion that maybe the Seahawks would score going the other way before the half. Of course, that risk exists. Do you have a better chance of getting points than your opponent if you go for it? If the answer is yes (an in this case I believe it was), then go.

#JimmyVerdict: Bad Doug!

3rd quarter, ball at the Seattle 29, Eagles challenge line to gain on completion to Torrey Smith

Facing a 4th and 1, the Eagles felt they had enough evidence to overturn a bad spot by the officials on a reception by Torrey Smith. And they did.

"Upstairs felt that the challenge was legit," Pederson said. "We felt like we had the line to gain. Sometimes those are tough, but at the same time we felt good with the information we got from upstairs."

The idea that "line to gain" challenges aren't often overturned is so mind-blowingly stupid it hurts my brain. Did he get the first down? Yes? Then give them the first down. How are some challenges more overturn-worthy than others? It makes no sense.

#JimmyVerdict: I'd have challenged that bad spot too.

3rd quarter, 4th and 1, ball on the Seattle 29, Seattle leading 10-3

On the next play after the failed challenge, Pederson opted to run a QB sneak rather than try a 46-yard field goal. This was a no-brainer decision to go for it, in my view, which Pederson did. The Eagles picked up the first down, but the drive ended with Wentz's devastating goal-line fumble.

#JimmyVerdict: Good Doug.

3rd quarter, 4th and 3, ball on the Seattle 25, Seattle leading 17-3

This was the play where the Eagles attempted a swing pass to Kenyon Barner, but Barner tripped trying to get out into the flat, and Wentz's pass sailed over his head incomplete as a result. Had the Eagles connected, it would have gone for a big gain.

"4th and 3 is a great opportunity," said Pederson. "We had them sort of backed against the wall a little bit. A great opportunity. We felt that we were going to get the front and coverage that we expected. We had a man-beater call. The offense just failed to execute on the play."

#JimmyVerdict: Pederson put this one on the execution of his players. Like that approach or not, he isn't wrong.

4th quarter, Russell Wilson runs six yards past the line of scrimmage, pitches to Mike Davis, who then runs for additional 17 yards. Eagles don't challenge possibility of illegal forward pass

The optics of this play were odd because the back never ran in front of Wilson before he received the pitch, however, Wilson clearly pitched the ball forward on this play. He releases the ball at the 47, and the back catches the pitch at the 48:

I can't speak for what the Eagles' booth guys saw on this play, replay-wise, What I can do is walk you through what I saw. On the field, live, in real time, I immediately thought it might be a forward pass. There's a small delay from the action on the field to the TV feed on the monitors in the press box. After the play, I looked at the monitors and could tell pretty definitively that it was indeed a forward pass.

"In real time it looked fine," Pederson said. "It looked legit. We didn't get all the necessary looks. They hustled to the line, but at the same time, it looked good and I trust the guys upstairs making those decisions. I had already challenged one in the half, and lost that, so I didn't want to risk another timeout."

#JimmyVerdict: You can't put much blame on Pederson here. If the booth had the same views that I did after that play happened on the field, they should have been screaming at Pederson to throw the challenge flag. I will note, however, two things:

  1. Why is the fourth RB on the field in the most crucial play of the game?
  2. The previously failed challenge would not factor into my decision to challenge again one iota.

We'll give blame to the booth guys here, again, not knowing exactly what they saw, and some blame to Pederson for personnel on the field and the poor logic (in my view) that the previous challenge failed.

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