By Mary Cunningham
If you’re wondering how and why Eagles coach Doug Pederson developed a “go for broke” attitude that had the Birds getting a lot of first downs on 4th and whatevers last year, here’s a clue:
Just before halftime of last season’s the AFC championship game, the Jaguars had the ball with two timeouts, and the chance to score and extend their lead over the Patriots.
But Jaguars coach Doug Marrone didn’t want to take any chances, so he told Blake Bortles to take a knee and run out the clock.
Pederson writes in his new book, “Fearless,” that he was watching the game in the locker room before the Eagles played in the NFC championship game, and he was shocked that Marrone didn’t play more aggressively.
“I was there thinking, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me right now,’” Pederson writes. “It made me mad because Jacksonville had New England right where they wanted them. I was screaming at the TV in my office. When they knelt right before halftime, inside I was like, ‘I’ll never do that.’ It fueled me. They could have least tried for a field goal. They took it out of their quarterback’s hands, and they didn’t give to their big back Leonard Fournette. I thought, ‘If they lose this game, this is why.’ Sure enough they would go on to lose the game.”
A few hours later, Pederson’s Eagles had the ball at their own 20-yard line with 29 seconds until halftime against the Vikings. Pederson got aggressive, calling three straight pass plays that went for 11, 36 and 13 yards, moving the Eagles into field goal range. The Eagles kicked a field goal as time expired in the first half and went on to win the game and win the Super Bowl two weeks later. Coaching decisions like that can be the difference between winning a championship and losing a close playoff game.