MINNEAPOLIS — Doug Pederson put on a coaching clinic in beating New England 41-33 in the Super Bowl, one that a lot of NFL head coaches should sign up for.
Pederson played 10 seasons in the league as a quarterback, which is at the root of his reputation as an aggressive play-caller. The axiom is that you can either feel pressure or apply it.
The Eagles head coach did the latter time and again Sunday.
In the process, he instilled in Nick Foles the sort of confidence he needed to out-duel Tom Brady.
Two decisions, and the execution of those plays, essentially won the game.
Leading 15-12 with 38 seconds remaining in the first half, the Eagles faced fourth-and-goal at the New England 1. The safe play is to kick the field and go into the locker room with a six-point lead.
Against good teams, like the Patriots, safe is death.
It wasn't the decision to go for it that was brilliant. It was the guts it took to come up with a play that will be part of Super Bowl lore.
The Eagles assign quality control coach Press Taylor to the trick play vault. Pederson also really knows his personnel. Tight end Trey Burton, an exceptional athlete, played quarterback at Florida one year before moving to tight end.
Foles motioned to his right alongside his tackle. Corey Clement took a direct snap, then handed off to Burton, who rolled right and threw a touchdown pass to Foles all alone in the end zone.
The play is called the Philly Special, Pederson said.
"That play we've been working on the last couple of weeks and just needed the right time, the right opportunity and guys executed it brilliantly,'' Pederson said.
"Part of having a great offensive staff is we look at different plays around the league and in the collegiate ranks, and things have that been done over the years that might fit what we do. We found this one fit, so we've been working on it for the last couple of weeks and tonight it was right.''
Eagles quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles was fantastic, while the Patriots made a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes, Rick Stroud says. @NFLSTROUD #SuperBowl #SBLII #Eagles #Patriots @Eagles https://t.co/BnQdMQJrzA— TampaBayTimesSports (@TBTimes_Sports) February 5, 2018
Pederson again ignored the caution signs after the Eagles fell behind for the first time. Trailing 33-32, Foles faced a fourth-and-1 at his 45 with 5:39 remaining in the game.
The Patriots hadn't punted all night, but the high-percentage play is still to punt and play defense. Even if you allow a touchdown , it's still a one-score game.
But Pederson, respecting the greatness of Brady and the Patriots, went for it. Foles was pressured but found Zach Ertz crossing just on the other side of the sticks.
"I knew that we were going to have to score a touchdown in that situation,'' Pederson said. "A field goal wasn't going to be good enough, not against Brady and the Patriots, so we stayed aggressive. Nick made some outstanding throws, guys made some plays for him – Nelson (Agholor), Ertz on the touchdown. Play after play, guys really stepped up tonight and we had to get a touchdown in that situation.''
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter believes in trying to generate explosive plays, so he's closer to Pederson in that aspect. But going for it on fourth down? Not so much. Only the Vikings (7) attempted fewer fourth-down conversions than the Bucs (8).
The Eagles were second in the NFL, converting 65.4 percent of their fourth-down situations (17 of 26).
This is the caddy grabbing a driver on the 16th tee of the final round and winning the Masters. The pit crew member hopping into the driver's seat and taking the checkered flag at the Daytona 500. #SuperBowl #SBLII @Eagles #Eagles @NFLSTROUD @TB_Times https://t.co/XxBItfy0j4— TampaBayTimesSports (@TBTimes_Sports) February 5, 2018
Late in games, so many NFL coaches go with the safe call. It's the path of less scrutiny.
Pederson will never be that guy. Play conservative, he says, and you'll be 9-7 or 8-8 every year. His players know it, so they don't fear pressure situations, they embrace them. The trust is a two-way street.
"I trust the coaches and I trust my instincts," he said. "I trust everything that I'm doing and I want to maintain the aggressiveness with the guys. In games like this against a great opponent, you have to make the tough decisions that way and keep yourself aggressive.''
Contact Rick Stroud at [email protected] Follow @NFLStroud