BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Doug Pederson enjoys the rush.
“From my standpoint, you get a little bit of that adrenaline going in those situations,” the Eagles coach said on Thursday of his proclivity for aggressive play-calling, particularly when it comes to keeping his offense on the field on fourth down. “I’m very confident in our guys that we can execute and stay on the field.”
That confidence has been rewarded many times. The Eagles went for it on fourth down 26 times this season, second-most in the league, and had an NFL-best 17 conversions. Rarely does the quarterback have to look to the sideline and wait for a decision on fourth-and-shorts. Seldom does the punter trot onto the field when the sticks are within sight.
“He has confidence in our entire offense to execute and our O-line to get that penetration to get the first down in those situations,” quarterback Nick Foles said this week of Pederson’s play-calling personality. “For us to have a head coach that’s that aggressive, I love playing for a coach like that.”
It’s not just fourth downs. Consider the flea-flicker Pederson called for in the second half of the NFC Championship Game against the Vikings. It went for a 41-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith.
There’s nothing willy-nilly about those decisions, either.
“There’s a lot of conversation, a lot of dialogue behind the scenes,” Pederson said. “It gives me confidence in some of the decisions that I make. Ultimately, they’re my calls and my decisions. I take full responsibility there. But it’s a team effort, and I approach each game the same. I’m going to try and stay as aggressive as possible, be smart, put our players in successful positions and try to maintain that. I hope this game doesn’t change that.”
No one believes it will.
“You can’t get swallowed up by the moment because of the bigness of the game,” Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “I feel confident that’s not going to happen to Doug because in the NFC Championship Game, he called the best game he’s ever called in the biggest game he’s ever called. This game will be bigger and I expect more of the same.”
Even Pederson’s choice of a motivational speaker to address the team on Saturday — Hall of Famer Brett Favre — speaks to his assertive nature.
“I think he’s a reflection of Doug’s aggressive philosophy and personality,” Reich said. “Here’s a guy who knows what it takes. As a team, we’ve been aggressive the whole year with the way Coach calls plays and the way we approach situational football. Brett, the all-time great gunslinger that he is, I think he’s the perfect guy.”
Eagles coach Doug Pederson isn’t shy about keeping his offense on the field on fourth down. The 2017 regular-season leaders:
Three teams tied with 10
NO 80.0 (12/15)
J’ville 76.9 (10/13)
Phila. 65.4 (17/26)
Balt. 62.5 (10/16)
NE 61.5 (8/13)