The morning-after consensus on Doug Pederson’s coaching job in the Super Bowl is mostly unprintable. Let’s just say everyone outside of Boston is praising the Philadelphia coach’s rather brassy play-calling — to an anatomical degree.
Among the many wonders of Sunday night’s championship game, a 41-33 Eagles upset of the Patriots, was Pederson’s fourth-and-goal call near the end of the first half. Philadelphia running back Corey Clement took a direct snap and pitched it to tight end Trey Burton, who found quarterback Nick Foles with no one remotely near him in the end zone. The Patriots had not accounted for the quarterback, because why would they?
It was “Philly Special,” and it’s already lore.
“Our coach has got some guts, huh?” Burton told ESPN’s Dan Graziano. “Got some big ones.
“You never know what he’s thinking,” Burton continued. “Here we are. Philly’s never won a Super Bowl. We’re fourth and one on the goal line, and he calls a trick-play pass to the quarterback? Come on, man.”
Offensive coordinator Frank Reich was a little more direct about what, exactly, was “big.”
“He’s got a big set of stones,” Reich told Peter King.
(Rocks. A rock collection.)
The play was a somewhat recent addition to Pederson’s playbook. According to Graziano, the team had practiced it all of six times, and never before the Eagles’ NFC championship game victory over the Vikings. (It wasn’t needed in that 38-7 win.) Burton was nearly the perfect fulcrum: As told by King, he was recruited to the University of Florida as a dual-threat quarterback and also was a pitcher in high school, yet he had never thrown an in-game pass in four NFL seasons. Foles had not caught a pass since his freshman season at Arizona in 2009.
Pederson said he thought the play had no chance of failure, and he was right.
“We had a couple of options at that point, but then my eyes just kind of hit that play,” Pederson said, per King. “I was thinking, ‘We keep talking about that play, and calling it in the second half of the game … but are we going to be in a situation like this, to put us up by two scores? There are certain plays that you spend time doing them, repping them, and you have no doubt they are going to work. Without a shadow of a doubt, you know. I knew.”
The play gave the Eagles a 22-12 lead at halftime, crucial points considering the Patriots would be getting the ball to start the third quarter. (They needed just 2 minutes 45 seconds to go 75 yards for a touchdown). Pederson and the Eagles would go for it on fourth down again in the fourth quarter, this time from their 45-yard line with 5:39 left. That gamble, too, was successful.
“That’s been Doug all year, and that is Doug,” tight end Brent Celek said. “He’s a heck of a play-caller. He’s going to keep you off-balance, and he did that tonight.”
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