By Patrick Del Gaone, Sports Talk Philly staff writer
With just over 10 minutes remaining, and the Eagles up by 15, Doug Pederson decided to go for it on 4th and goal at the Bears one-yard line, instead of attempting a field goal that would’ve put them up by three scores. Judging from his comments today, it seems that the aggressive, yet questionable, decision may have been emotionally charged.
Pederson and the Eagles arrived back in Philadelphia early Tuesday morning after dismantling the Chicago Bears, 29-14, at Soldier Field on Monday night. After a few hours of shut-eye, Pederson addressed the media following his sixth consecutive win as coach of the Eagles. Among the most discussed topics at the press conference was the controversial play call which resulted in a Ryan Mathews touchdown.
"It definitely shows confidence in the team," Pederson said. "Especially on the 4th and goal, the guys were fired up that No. 1 we went for it and No. 2 we scored. It gives your team an advantage when you can execute those plays, and if you do it in a timely fashion. It doesn’t necessarily hurt your defense if they have to go back out on the field, because field position is pretty neutral at that time. The trust I have in them, and the execution is something that’s top-notch in those situations too.”
After allowing a touchdown early, Philadelphia’s defense settled down to turn in another fine performance, albeit against a second consecutive less-than-stellar opponent. For much of the game, Jim Schwartz’s defenders kept the key cog in Chicago’s offense — receiver Alshon Jeffery – in check. Jeffery did get rookie Jalen Mills to "take the cheese" on a double-move in the first half, which led to a 49-yard gain.
"The one last night was kind of a broken play,” Pederson said. "He kind of got in behind us, and Cutler, with the big arm that he has, made the play to Jeffery. Those are gonna happen, especially on broken plays. The key there is you’ve got to stick with your guy. A lot of times your eyes end up in the backfield, and you think the guy's going to get sacked and next thing you know he’s not, and plays like that happen. Another one was on a screen play, we were just out-leveraged, we were faking a blitz actually and didn’t get back and got caught inside for the long second-down run there."
Despite scoring 29 points, most of which came in the second half, Pederson’s offense accrued only 280 total yards in Windy City last night. Carson Wentz mustered 190 yards passing and completed 21 of 34 throws, but the rookie quarterback’s numbers were hindered by crucial drops from Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor, both of which could’ve resulted in long touchdowns.
Today, the Eagles first-year head coach complimented the progress Wentz has made since the staff altered some of his lower-body mechanics over the summer, and gave some insight into the comparison between Wentz and Ben Roethlisberger.
"He’s got the length, he’s got the long-arm windup that generates a lot of energy," Pederson said. "Great lower body, he’s got the tools to throw the ball extremely hard. The times that he really sets his feet and steps into his throws he can really drive the ball to anywhere on the field. You saw the one last night on the deep ball to Nelson [Agholor], on the run, those are just the kinds of things that he can do because of his size. When you start putting game plans together, you don’t shy away from any throw because he has the ability to do that.
"Carson has the ability to extend plays with his legs. Ben [Roethlisberger] is big, strong, physical in the pocket, hard to bring down, and continues to have great vision down the field. I think that’s one of Carson’s strength’s is that he continues to have that vision down the field when things begin to break down. So yeah, there’s a lot of similarities there, and the fact that they’re both great throwers out of the pocket is a tribute to both of them."
Roethlisberger will lead the Steelers into Philadelphia on Sunday as the Eagles defense will look to continue their ferocious play against one of the most potent offenses in the NFL.
You can watch the full press conference from Pederson below.