Pederson is strategic about when to be aggressive, when to play it safe

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Before the Eagles’ playoff run began, PFT noted that Eagles coach Doug Pederson is the NFL’s most aggressive coach on fourth downs. As it turned out, that became a major theme of the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory, as the Eagles went 2-for-2 on fourth downs, including a fourth-and-goal touchdown and a fourth-and-1 first down that set up the Eagles’ game-winning touchdown.

But now that everyone is praising Pederson for his fourth-down aggressiveness, it’s important to point out that Pederson isn’t just aggressive for the sake of being aggressive. He’s strategic about when to be aggressive and when to play it safe.

Former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky took to Twitter to question why Pederson is being praised for his aggressiveness after this year’s Super Bowl, while last year, then-Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was ripped for being overly aggressive while the Falcons blew a lead to the Patriots in the Super Bowl. As former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf replied, they’re completely different circumstances.

It’s important to understand the situations when Pederson likes to go for it on fourth down. The Eagles’ first fourth-down attempt was on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line with 34 seconds left in the first half. That’s a great time to go for it on fourth down because if it fails, the Patriots are left in bad field position without enough time to mount a long drive and score before halftime. The trick play Pederson called worked, but even if it hadn’t worked, the Patriots wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of the stop and score before halftime.

The Eagles’ second fourth-down attempt was fourth-and-1 from their own 45-yard line, trailing 33-32 with 5:39 left in the fourth quarter. At that point in the game, going for it makes sense because if you punt the ball away, the Patriots’ offense might never give it back, or might score a touchdown to take an eight-point lead. On both of the Eagles’ fourth downs, Pederson’s aggressive decisions were sound.

But where Pederson’s decision making differed from last year’s Falcons was that Pederson was also smart about playing it safe when he had a late lead. The Falcons were criticized last year for passing too much and not running enough time off the clock when they had a big lead in the second half. That was a valid criticism. When the Eagles had the ball and the lead late in the game, however, Pederson played it safe: After Tom Brady‘s fumble, the Eagles got the ball at the Patriots’ 31-yard line with 2:09 remaining and a 38-33 lead. Pederson called three straight runs up the middle and then kicked a field goal on fourth down. Pederson could have been aggressive and called some passes in an attempt to pick up a game-sealing first down, but he didn’t want to risk an interception or stopping the clock with an incompletion, so he kept the ball on the ground.

There are times when aggressive play calling pays off, and times when conservative play calling pays off. What makes Pederson a successful coach is that he seems to lead the league at understanding the right time for both.

20 responses to “Pederson is strategic about when to be aggressive, when to play it safe

  1. The falcons got the ball something like three times after that 28-3 lead. If all they did was run nine consecutive running plays they would have burned around six extra minutes off the clock. Think that wild have helped them in a tight game? Yes.

    The issue isn’t “be aggressive”. It’s “play smart situational football”. John Fox, Jim Caldwell, Marty Schottenheimer, all would have kicked that FG at the end of the first half. That’s why they are losers. And Dan Quinn was needlessly aggressive with a four score lead. And that’s why he’s a loser.

  2. Wonder how many coaches will adapt and learn from this.

    Any chance that Andy Reid doesn’t take the field goal if he were in that same situation at the end of the first half?

  3. We need more aggression in the game. Everything is always so “by the book”, everyone is always so afraid to go for something because it might not work then they’ll be criticized to no end, it makes everything timid and predictable. Makes it easy and comfortable to just play every game “by the book” instead of risking criticism. It’s like coaches got together and were like “hey, if we all do the same things in the same situations, then none of us can ever be criticized for being wrong!”

    Imagine what would be said if that “Philly Special” play didn’t work. Imagine the level of criticism Pederson would have drawn, and how many times he’d be called an idiot all off season long. But also imagine, what if we never got to see mind blowing plays like that?

    I’m glad a guy like Pederson isn’t afraid to let it hang out, that he’ll take risks in attempts to gain, that he doesn’t care if fans and media second guess him if something doesn’t work. WE NEED MORE GUYS LIKE THIS IN FOOTBALL. These old heads with their “by the book” approaches ruin the excitement of the game.

    It’s like going from Jeff Fisher to Sean McVay. I really hope the game keeps moving in this direction. Out with the old heads, out with the book. In with the young gusto.

  4. 4 2 Rate This
    codylaws says:
    February 6, 2018 at 5:35 pm
    So now he thinks he’s better than Belichick. Not even close. Wait til you have 5 rings.

    2 5 Rate This

    Interesting seeing as he’s now a terrible HC according to Pats fans since he benched Butler. Make your mind up.

  5. So now he thinks he’s better than Belichick. Not even close. Wait til you have 5 rings.

    Look at this guy…rocket scientist… I don’t recall Belichick’s name even being used in the story.

    Get used to the idea that the Eagles BEAT the Pats. The Pats DID NOT win. They lost. The Pats are NOT the story. Go sit in the corner for the off season. The Pats got BEAT by a better team.

  6. And he didn’t win coach of the year??? Absolute joke. The bigger prize is so much better doug. Awesome year with the best results you can ask for.

  7. So we live in a world where my Eagles finally win a Super Bowl AND Ryan Leaf is the voice of reason?

  8. Analytics are a key here, which both Pats and Birds rely on extensively (as many other teams do). However, a true play caller also needs his gut instinct about the flow of the game and the way his players are executing. That’s what makes Pederson special. And a Super Bowl winning coach.

  9. He’s not only creative and aggressive playcaller but his players clearly love playing for him, because he’s neither a pushover nor an arrogant jerk.

  10. codylaws says:
    February 6, 2018 at 5:35 pm
    So now he thinks he’s better than Belichick. Not even close. Wait til you have 5 rings.

    Or the same amount of victories without cheating. 1. Ands that probably only for a couple more years, bc we’ll probably find out they cheated last year too.

  11. I said b4 the game if Pats win they can remove the asterisks from all 3 spygate wins bc they beat 1 of those teams straight up, but if they lose they lose all claims to those wins.

    Well they lost. So congratulations to the Rams on there 2nd Superbowl win. Congratulations to the Panthers on there 1st Superbowl win. And congratulations to the Eagles on there 2nd Superbowl win.

  12. codylaws says:

    February 6, 2018 at 5:35 pm

    So now he thinks he’s better than Belichick. Not even close. Wait til you have 5 rings.

    It’s amusing how sensitive some Pats fans are.

  13. I love Dougie P but he made a couple strategic errors in the game.
    The first was going for 2 after the first missed PAT. The score was 15 to 3 at the time when he went for it. Doug should’ve taken the XP and made it a 13 point game so you can’t lose on a TD and 2 FG’s. This point would’ve made it a two score game down the stretch.
    The second error was the drive after the turnover. Running on the first two plays was the right call but on 3rd a safe throw to try and get the first would’ve been fine. Foles was playing great and the clock was stopping for the 2 min. warning so an incompletion does save NE any time. A first down seals the game.
    Minor issues and Doug called a great game but going for 2 too early could’ve hurt.

  14. If the Falcons had failed running the ball, all of these “football analyst” would be wondering why the Falcons took the ball out of (League MVP) Matt Ryan’s hands and didn’t throw to one of the best WR in football, Julio Jones.

    Respect to the Eagles for winning.

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