Somewhere, Herm Edwards is not happy — at the least, he’s not happy with Doug Pederson.
What is the enduring thing Herm taught us, Doug?
You play. To win. The game.
Say it with us: “You play. To win. The game!”
You don’t play for a tie.
You certainly don’t play for a tie when you’ve started the season 0-2 and in theory are desperate for to get in the win column.
But that’s exactly what Pederson did in the closing minutes of the Philadelphia Eagles’ game with the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
With just under 20 seconds to play in overtime, Pederson opted to punt the ball away rather than have kicker Jake Elliott attempt a game-winning 64-yard field goal.
Yes, it would have been a career best for Elliott, and it would have tied for the longest in NFL history had he made it. But if he makes it? Glory. Pandemonium. Exaltation in Philly.
If he missed? Let your defense stop Cincinnati.
Essentially ceding a draw though? Meh.
It was just the most glaring error in an overtime that wasn’t the Eagles’ finest stretch.
Elliott’s field goal attempt would have been from 59 yards, but a fast start flag pushed it to 64. Fifty-nine-yard field goals aren’t gimmes by any stretch, but when you’re looking at a game-winner, every yard matters.
“It’s inexplicable how they can’t line up for a field goal with the game on the line. Inexplicable,” legendary Eagles radio voice Merrill Reese said on the broadcast.
Pederson told media that he opted to punt after the penalty to keep the ball away from the Bengals and possibly giving them a short field with only a field goal needed to win.
On the possession prior, the Eagles had two foolish penalties: immediately after a 30-yard pass from Carson Wentz to Zach Ertz that put them at the Cincinnati 43, Lane Johnson was called for a false start, putting them in first-and-15; a couple of plays later a 10-yard Wentz scramble on second-and-9 was wiped out by a holding call on guard Nate Herbig.
Instead of a fresh set of downs at the Bengals’ 32 and in position to at least give Elliott a tough-but-makable kick, the Eagles had second-and-19 from their own 49. Unable to convert, they punted.
Pederson and the Eagles won the Super Bowl three years ago and went to the postseason in each of the two full seasons since so it would be stunning if he’s on the hot seat. But something is amiss in Philly: now 0-2-1, the Eagles have been outscored 59-87, their 19.7 points per game near the bottom of the league. More confounding for the offense, it’s converting 46.8 percent of its third downs, in the top 10 of the league. So they’re moving the ball, just not into the end zone.
Wentz, who had just seven interceptions per season in 2017-2019 (in 13, 11, and 16 starts), now has six picks through three games. His completion mark, at 59.8 percent, is noticeably lower than in the last two years, and his 63.9 passer rating is nearly 30 points lower than last season.
Pederson was showing signs of frustration even before Sunday’s tie to the also-winless Bengals — asked by a reporter last Wednesday why Wentz was missing seemingly easy throws, Pederson snapped, asking the reporter if they’d played in the NFL and that there are no “layup throws” in the league.
His reaction wasn’t new, but Wentz isn’t playing to the level we’ve seen from him before, and as a head coach who got his current job based on his work as the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive coordinator, it’s Pederson’s job in large part to fix what’s ailing Wentz. It’s the reporter’s job to try to get an answer as to why he’s ailing.
Fortunately for Philadelphia, the NFC East is hot garbage so far, making it too early to say they’re out of it.
But even in a crappy division, you play. To win. The games.
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