Of all the lessons Doug Pederson has learned as the Eagles head coach, the biggest might have been a year ago, in a game he wasn’t in.
Instead of sitting on a lead or playing safe when he could have taken the lead with a field goal, Pederson remembered a 28-3 Falcons lead over the Patriots that went awry.
Trailing by a point in the fourth quarter, the Eagles stayed aggressive with their play-calling because they knew they had to against Tom Brady and the Patriots. The result was the drive that ended with Zach Ertz‘s leaping touchdown grab and a five-point lead, at a time when a field goal would have put them up 35-33.
Pederson didn’t mention last year’s Super Bowl specifically, but he didn’t have to.
“I knew that we were going to have to score a touchdown in that situation,” Pederson said. “A field goal wasn’t going to be good enough, not against Tom and the Patriots, so we stayed aggressive.
“Nick (Foles) made some outstanding throws, guys made some plays for him — Nelson (Agholor), (Zach) Ertz on the touchdown. Play after play, guys really stepped up tonight, and just had to get a touchdown in that situation.”
Granted, the sack-strip-fumble that followed (which was forced by Brandon Graham and recovered by Derek Barnett) nearly made it a moot point. If Pederson had learned the lesson about not going for two-point conversions too early and then chasing them, the touchdown would have given them a seven-point lead and the field goal after the turnover would have sealed it.
But to his credit, he didn’t make the bigger mistake the Falcons made, which is why he’s celebrating right now.