The Eagles had already huddled for a significant amount of time before the potential game-tying two-point conversion. But when the official blew his whistle to start the 20-second play clock, quarterback Carson Wentz pulled the offense together again.
With less time allotted than on a normal play, Wentz’s relay of coach Doug Pederson’s play call seemed to take longer than usual. The Eagles broke and there already were only 11 seconds left. By the time the players lined up, pre-snap motions were run, and the quarterback surveyed the Baltimore defense, one tick remained.
Wentz got the ball snapped in time, but the whole sequence seemed off. He held the ball in running back Boston Scott’s belly, not sure if he would keep, hand off, or throw as he normally would on a run-pass option play.
He ultimately chose the first option, but it didn’t matter. Ravens linebackers Matt Judon and L.J. Fort were in his lap and could have just as easily tackled Scott, too. The execution was poor. Most damaging, tight end Richard Rodgers missed his block.
But the Ravens weren’t fooled and many were left wondering why Pederson chose a rather pedestrian RPO for such a pivotal play. He seemed to agree, after the Eagles fell short against a quality team once again, 30-28, Sunday.
“I can do better as far as getting the play in and giving our guys a better opportunity, play call-wise, too, in that situation,” Pederson said. “Credit them, made the stop. Just a little short.”
Pederson deserves credit for getting his injury-marred team to the brink of a comeback. But he failed them on the two-pointer. The Eagles trailed, 30-14, with just over seven minutes remaining. If they were to rally, they would likely need to score two touchdowns with conversions.
The first try was a good one. Receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside ran a timing route with a double move and Wentz hit him in stride. Pederson and his staff had just under four minutes to come up with another. But for some reason, there was hesitancy in the call.
“We probably did get a little later out of the huddle than we wanted,” Wentz said. "I think it’s a 20-second play clock. It seems like it goes pretty quick on the two-point plays. We got to be more urgent to get to the line and get our calls and get our checks.
“We got a scouted look there that we felt confident in that play. They made a good play, made life tough on us. It’s frustrating coming up short like that.”
That was the game. Burn a timeout if you must. But for the second week in a row, Pederson failed to act on his feet and his team’s effort was all for naught. The Ravens gifted them 132 yards on 12 penalties. The Eagles, though, were just as careless, but in other ways -- dropped passes, fumbles, missed blocks, among other goofs.
There are myriad reasons for the mistakes -- personnel, youth, scheme. The 2020 season can’t be written without also mentioning the Eagles' injuries. By the end of the game, Wentz and center Jason Kelce were the only original starters left on offense.
But injuries are part of the game, and while the Eagles' increasing numbers the last three seasons suggest an institutional failure of leadership, other NFL teams have had their setbacks, as well. And in relation to COVID-19-related absences and facility shutdowns, more to deal with.
Pederson’s strength lies in his genuineness. He is unlikely to lose the locker room, even if the losses continue to mount. But he hasn’t done well in player preparation. His offensive game plans have been uneven.
The Eagles didn’t convert a first down until Jalen Hurts was inserted late in the second quarter. And then for some reason, Pederson abandoned his dual-threat backup quarterback.
“I guess I could have put him in there one or two more times,” Pederson said. “He gave us a spark at times and that was good to see, and we’ll just continue to keep him involved.”
Hurts, it should be noted, was in the backfield on the successful Arcega-Whiteside conversion. Pederson went for two on the Eagles' first touchdown midway through the third quarter. Hurts kept on a zone-read play, but he was stopped dead in his tracks.
The Eagles trailed by 11, and a nine-point deficit vs. a 10-point one still meant they would have to score twice, but Pederson defended the analytics of the decision.
“At that time, it just gives you the best probability to win the game,” Pederson said. “In that situation, you go for two and then you’re down a touchdown and a field goal wins the game; obviously, if things stay status quo.”
The Eagles would get that missing point back with a successful two-pointer -- a short pass to receiver Greg Ward on an out route -- after their next touchdown. But it seemed too early to go for two.
Nevertheless, there were countless decisions that could be second-guessed. The Ravens coulda, woulda, shoulda on as many plays. Good teams win close games. They get enough details right.
“We dropped a big third down, [had a] turnover. We dropped a touchdown. We missed a field goal,” Pederson said. "It’s self-inflicted wounds. It’s things I’ve been talking to our team all week about, right?
“And when you’re playing good football teams like the Ravens are, you can’t make those mistakes.”
Pederson’s Eagles don’t look well-coached right now. Again, personnel, youth, and injuries have all factored into the errors. But when a reliable player like Ward runs a basic jet motion at the snap that obstructs Scott after the handoff -- as he did in the fourth quarter -- it speaks to how the play was practiced.
The head coach will rightfully get criticized for his fateful two-point call, but how the Eagles arrived there is his bigger problem.