The penalty distorted everything, Eagles special teams coordinator Dave Fipp said Tuesday.
Sunday’s sequence of events that led to the home team punting with 19 seconds remaining in overtime to preserve a 23-23 tie with the Cincinnati Bengals, instead of trying a 64-yard field goal, or attempting to convert fourth-and-12 from the Bengals' 46, began with the false start from guard Matt Pryor. Jake Elliott was lined up to try a 59-yard game-winner. The Bengals shifted their front, and Pryor moved.
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After enumerating a wide range of considerations that go into such decisions, Fipp told reporters: “But those are really hard decisions. … They happen really fast. … Where [special teams] really blew it was when we had the penalty, because we didn’t go into that play thinking, ‘What are we going to do after the 5-yard penalty?’ Which is probably a learning experience for myself, too.”
Asked to describe the process on the sideline, Fipp said, “Obviously, there’s a lot going on. For me, in that situation … you really want to try to be out in front of most of those things. And at that moment, I was not in front of the 5-yard penalty. I was not anticipating that.”
Fipp wasn’t speaking for Eagles coach Doug Pederson, wasn’t saying Pederson didn’t have enough time in the moment to assess options. But the Eagles had no more timeouts, and the play clock started ticking as soon as the yardage was walked off.
Could Elliott have hit a 64-yarder? As Fipp noted, that has been done only once in the history of the NFL, by Denver’s Matt Prater in 2013, at altitude. But Elliott’s 61-yarder through the opposite goalposts from the ones he faced Sunday beat the Giants in 2017.
Philly on Sunday was not Denver in December 2013. It was warm – 76 degrees when the game started, with 82 percent humidity. Elliott said he hit from 60 in warmups “just barely.”
“I want to kick every kick, obviously,” Elliott said. “I know that’s not extremely realistic. I think in that circumstance in the game, I would have loved to try it. But I understand the timing of it. There’s time on the clock [for the Bengals to do something after a miss]. A lot of risk-reward there.”
This might be a handy spot to mention that the whole discussion about kicking a 64-yarder is moot: Pederson said Monday that he wouldn’t punt if he had it to do over again, but he also said he would try to convert the fourth-and-12, something that has been done more than once in the history of the NFL. He did not say he wished he had tried the 64-yarder.
Even so, Fipp gave a lot of insight into what it’s like to have decided upon a course of action for a crucial moment, then see something totally unexpected happen and need to recalibrate.
“I think any time things like this happen, you end up doing things differently,” Fipp said. “There’s a handful of modifications that we’re going to make. I’m not going to get into them all, but [they will be intended] to help prevent that from happening again, and I think because of it, we’ll be better.”
Fipp took responsibility for Pryor’s miscue and for Corey Clement’s 15-yard penalty for jumping into a knot of players at the end of a Bengals punt return. Clement’s lack of discipline helped set up a Cincinnati field goal.
On Pryor, Fipp indicated that the Eagles knew the Bengals might shift to try to confuse the blockers.
“We have to go when the ball is snapped, on our rhythm and our tempo, and we obviously had a guy jump offsides,” Fipp said. “I take full responsibility for it. My job as a coach with those units is for those units to go out there and execute.”
Clement’s penalty at the end of a 19-yard Cincinnati punt return meant the Bengals had to drive all of 8 yards to kick a 48-yard field goal.
“As far as the Corey Clement play, it was obviously just not a smart play. … If he could do it again, I’m sure he would do something differently. … Our guys were competing ... and we let our emotions get the best of us right there,” Fipp said.
“Winning has to be more important to us than any individual battle that goes on out there on the field, and we have to be able to walk away from that stuff. … That’s what winning football teams do, and that’s what good units do, and right now, obviously, we are not doing that, and we have to get better.”