It was in Week 3 of the 2017 season when a rookie kicker named Jake Elliott wrote his name in the record books with the longest field goal in Eagles history, a 61-yarder, to beat the New York Giants on the final play of regulation. That kick sparked a nine-game win streak that eventually resulted in the franchise's first Super Bowl Championship.
On Sunday, the Eagles called on Elliott to deliver in another critical Week 3 game. This time, with 19 seconds remaining in overtime, the Eagles sent Elliott out to attempt a 59-yarder. Elliott already made three field goals on the day, including a 54-yarder. As Elliott got set, Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap shifted inside. That movement made guard Matt Pryor jump and commit a false start penalty, the 11th and most costly of the day for the Eagles.
On fourth-and-12 (which became fourth-and-17 after a delay of game penalty), Head Coach Doug Pederson decided against the 64-yard attempt and punted the ball. Following the game, several of the questions were regarding the decision to punt instead of either go for the first down or allow Elliott the even longer field goal attempt.
"The decision there (was) one of two things. You can either attempt it on fourth down and try to go for it – we tried to go for the field goal, the game winner," Pederson said of the thought process before the penalty. "That was the thing, we were going to go for the game-winner with the kick. Felt comfortable with Jake. Had the wind. The false start backed us up, so we said let's just punt the football here.
"We didn't want to give them the ball towards midfield or even a chance to go for it on fourth down and long. Incomplete pass, something like that. They get the ball, short field, they could kick a field goal and win the game.
"Just made that decision. Hopefully something positive might have come out of the punt."
Known as one of the league's most aggressive head coaches, Pederson said he was simply looking to do "what's right for the football team." Pederson added that the Eagles were "right at the kick line" for Elliott with the 59-yard attempt.
The Eagles were so close to making it a closer attempt for Elliott with the plays on second and third down. On second-and-9, following a 1-yard run by Miles Sanders, tight end Richard Rodgers missed a pick that would have freed quarterback Carson Wentz's intended target Zach Ertz for a big gain down the right sideline after a short pass. Wentz realized that the pick wasn't made cleanly and kept the ball for a 2-yard gain.
On third-and-7, Wentz lined up in the shotgun with wide receivers John Hightower and Greg Ward, and Rodgers lined up to the field side. Bengals cornerback Darius Phillips stepped up directly across from Ward just before the snap. Wentz went to Ward on a quick slant, but Phillips put himself in position to break up the pass.
The punt secured the team's first tie since the 2008 season, which also came against the Bengals in Cincinnati. All of the Eagles players who were interviewed following the game were asked whether or not they supported Pederson's call, and they all sided with the coach.
"He had to do what he had to do. (There are) tough decisions that have to be made. We trust coach and that is what it is. We trust that he is going to put us in a position. If we miss that field goal, then they go down and kick a field goal, off one play, they get into field goal range and we lose the game, then you are getting him on that. I trust coach. I am not worried about nothing else," defensive end Brandon Graham said. "Coach definitely makes the right decisions on whatever he feels for this team. I got his back."