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Doug Pederson: Should have gone for it instead of punting late in OT, must ‘unclutter’ Carson Wentz’s mind

“Looking back on it, I would have probably gone the other way and maybe taken a shot down the field and put the ball up in the air,” the Eagles’ coach said.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson (right) walks off the field after Sunday's game.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson (right) walks off the field after Sunday's game.Read moreHEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer

Doug Pederson spoke Monday of the need to “unclutter” Carson Wentz’s mind, perhaps with tempo and fewer choices, in an attempt to break the funk the Eagles’ fifth-year quarterback can’t seem to shake.

Pederson also said that ankle injuries to tight end Dallas Goedert and cornerback Avonte Maddox will cause them to miss time, presumably meaning they will not play Sunday at San Francisco. He said that left tackle Jason Peters was only battling fatigue when Peters left the game with 55 seconds remaining in overtime, and that wideout DeSean Jackson’s hamstring injury might be mild enough for Jackson to play against the 49ers.

Pederson reiterated what he said on his weekly Monday appearance on the 94WIP Morning Show, in which Pederson acknowledged that after a night to think it over, he made the wrong call, punting from the Eagles' 46 Sunday with 19 seconds left in overtime. The decision to punt, rather than try to get a first down or kick a 64-yard field goal, cemented a 23-23 tie with the visiting Cincinnati Bengals.

“Looking back on it, I would have probably gone the other way and maybe taken a shot down the field and put the ball up in the air,” Pederson said. In his news conference, Pederson added that “it’s a situation where you take the shot,” and pledged to “learn from it and move on.”

The Eagles lined up for a 59-yard field goal to win, but when guard Matt Pryor was flagged for a false start, making the attempt a 64-yarder, Pederson opted to punt. Had they gone for the first down, they were looking at fourth and 12, with no timeouts remaining, so they would have needed a 12-yard completion, then a spike to stop the clock, before bringing on kicker Jake Elliott.

As WIP’s Keith Jones said immediately after the radio interview, Pederson’s admission was refreshingly honest, but also alarming: Fans trust the only Super Bowl-winning coach in franchise history to be able to sort out this type of thing in the moment, not the next morning.

The Eagles are 0-2-1 with games at San Francisco, at Pittsburgh and at home against the Ravens next on their schedule. All three opponents are top contenders.

Pederson dismissed any thought of benching Wentz, who got a $128 million contract last year.

“You don’t go there,” Pederson said to WIP, noting that the Eagles are only a half-game out of first place in the torpid NFC East. “Carson’s our quarterback.”

Asked why Wentz unfurled a third successive below-average performance, Pederson pointed to the losses of Goedert and Jackson in the first half, which he said messed up the game plan.

“You start moving pieces around and it becomes difficult. ... There are some plays he probably wishes he had back," Pederson said.

Among those, Pederson acknowledged, was the fourth-quarter throw down the sideline over Miles Sanders' head that could have gone for a touchdown. Pederson said that play was put in specifically for the Bengals, and is the sort of play you have to make.

In his news conference, Pederson said of the Eagles, “Right now, we’re not a very good football team. We’re not very smart. We’re shooting ourselves in the foot. We’re leaving touchdowns on the field offensively, and we’re just not executing. Those are things we’re really gonna look hard at this week. If we’ve gotta simplify, we’ll simplify. If we’ve gotta go up-tempo, we’ll go up-tempo, things that have been successful in the past.”