TAMPA, Fla. – It was the Eagles' first possession of the second half. They were trailing by 13 points and staring down the barrel of a fourth-and-4 at the Tampa Bay 49-yard line.

The NFL head-coaching handbook says fourth-and-4 at midfield, trailing by 13 points with nearly a full half to play against a team that managed to put up 20 points and gain 287 yards against you in the first half, is a no-brainer.

You send out the punter.

But Doug Pederson has made it pretty clear what he thinks of the NFL head-coaching handbook.

He didn't need a timeout to think it over Sunday after the Eagles failed to convert on third-and-eight. Punt? No way, baby. Full-speed ahead.

"I was going for it anyway, regardless of the percentages,'' he said. "We were plus 50 [in Bucs territory]. I felt we had a little bit of momentum on that drive. I felt confident that we were going to get the first down.''

They didn't. Nick Foles' short completion to tight end Zach Ertz came up about a foot short of the first down.

The Bucs took advantage of the short field, driving 54 yards on seven plays for a touchdown – Ryan Fitzpatrick's fourth TD pass of the game — to put the Bucs ahead, 27-7, in a game they would win, 27-21.

You can make a decent case that Pederson's decision to go for it on that fourth-down play cost the Eagles a chance to improve their record to 2-0.

But the Eagles coach makes no apologies for the decision. This is who he is.

Zach Ertz and Nick Foles didn’t connect on Doug Pederson’s gutsy fourth-and-4 call, but Pederson isn’t bothered by trying.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Zach Ertz and Nick Foles didn’t connect on Doug Pederson’s gutsy fourth-and-4 call, but Pederson isn’t bothered by trying.

This is who he was in February, when he gave the green light to run the Philly Special on fourth-and-goal against the Patriots, and when he boldly went for it on fourth-and-one at his own 45 later in that game, because he felt giving the ball back to red-hot Tom Brady would have been suicide.

"We're playing to win,'' linebacker Nigel Bradham said. "Anytime you got a coach who's playing to win and feels he can rely on us to bow it for him and stand our ground, you like that.

"Obviously we didn't get the job done today. But there've been plenty of times when we have. It was just one of those days. Those guys made plays today. That's all it was. But Doug made the right call, and we love him for it.''

The same Eagles defense that so effectively shut down four-time Pro Bowler Matt Ryan last week allowed Fitzpatrick, who is subbing for suspended Jameis Winston, to rack up his second straight four-touchdown, 400-yard passing performance.

The Eagles went for it on fourth down five times Sunday, converting three of them. Foles picked up first downs on a pair of fourth-and-ones with quarterback sneaks.

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He also threw his best pass of the game on a fourth-and-goal late in the fourth quarter, dropping a 2-yard touchdown pass over Bucs cornerbacks Carlton Davis and M.J. Stewart and into the hands of wide receiver Nelson Agholor in the corner of the end zone to make it a six-point game.

Last year, the Eagles went for it on fourth down 26 times, converting 17 of them. That was the second most fourth-down attempts in the league. Only the Packers had more (28).

The Eagles' 65.4 percent success rate on fourth down was the third-best in the league, behind only New Orleans and Jacksonville.

"We love playing for an aggressive coach,'' Ertz said.

Ertz thought he was going to pick up the first down on the fourth-and-four play. But Bucs linebacker Lavonte David was on him quickly and prevented the tight end from moving the sticks.

"I gave it everything I had,'' Ertz said. "I knew it was fourth down. I knew I had to get about 4 yards. I knew Lavonte was going to be right there on the catch. I tried to carry the guy. I even lowered my shoulder.

"I've got to be better. I'll learn from it. Maybe run the route differently. That's one of the staple routes I have in this offense. In that situation, maybe I could've run it differently. But I gave it everything I had once I had the ball in my hands to try and get the first down.''

He definitely will get plenty of other opportunities, because Pederson is going to continue to be aggressive.

"At the end of the day, we've converted a lot of those,'' Foles said. "We want to go for it in those situations. We want to be aggressive. That's just one we weren't able to get.

"I have all the confidence in the world in Zach. That's why I went to him with the ball. Obviously, [not converting that fourth-down play] was a big blow. But I don't second-guess anything we did. You give me that play again, and I'm going there [to Ertz] again.

"We're going to continue to be aggressive, and I'm going to continue to trust my teammates," Foles said. "I'm going to always trust my coaches. It just didn't work out that time."