Doug Pederson put his trust in the Eagles' defense, and they let him down.
During the fourth quarter of the Eagles' 37-19 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, Pederson had a decision to make. Rams special-teams player Nick Scott jumped offside on a Jake Elliott field goal, giving the Eagles the choice between declining the penalty and taking the three points to put them within five points, or accepting the penalty and go for it on fourth-and-3 from the Rams' 10-yard line.
With 12 minutes, 7 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Pederson decided to take the three points and put his defense in a position to make a stop, something the group struggled to do for most of the game up to that point.
“At that time, we had some momentum,” Pederson said. “We took the ball down the field. It’s going to be like a fourth-and-3 I believe, and I wanted to keep it to a one-score game at that particular point. I thought we had some momentum and made the choice to keep the points on the board.”
Pederson’s defense was not up for the challenge, though. The Rams responded with a three-play, 75-yard touchdown drive highlighted by a 40-yard run by Rams running back Darrell Henderson and a 28-yard touchdown catch from Jared Goff to tight end Tyler Higbee.
The Rams' touchdown buried the Eagles, who went down, 31-19, as the game was essentially cemented.
“Just not in our gaps,” Eagles safety Rodney McLeod said about what caused the explosive drive. “It was nothing the Rams did. It was all self-inflicted and us not being where we needed to be. We can’t give up explosive runs or explosive passes. ... We just had to have good eyes and [play] disciplined football. That’s what this game was today, and we were the undisciplined team.”
In an eight-point game, the case for going for it instead of taking the points is that closing the gap from eight points to five still requires another touchdown to come back. If the Eagles converted the fourth down and scored a touchdown on the drive, they had an opportunity to tie the game midway through the fourth quarter with a two-point conversion. Pederson called for a two-point conversion attempt earlier in the game when the Eagles trailed 21-9. Had the team converted there, it’d be a 10-point deficit.
It’s worth noting the Eagles' offense successfully converted a third-and-3 just four plays before the decision to take the points, with Boston Scott gaining four yards on the ground. Also relevant: The Eagles averaged 4.7 yards per attempt on the ground on 26 attempts in the game.
“I really felt like the momentum was on our side,” Pederson said. “The defense was eager and ready to go back out on the field. We just needed to find a way to get a stop at that particular time and get the offense out. ... We’ve gotta do better there. We’ve got to coach it better and play better in those situations to where everybody understands, if you get one stop in those situations and give it back to your offense, you got a chance to take the lead on maybe the next possession.”