Philadelphia Eagles News

On Fourth Down, Doug Pederson's Bold Strategy Pays Off

It should come as no surprise that head coach Doug Pederson used fourth down on Sunday as a personal playground to torment the Houston Texans. Four times Pederson went for it on fourth down and four times the offense delivered with first downs – and on two of the plays, much more than that.

"I love when he gives us the go-ahead on fourth down," center Jason Kelce said. "We have confidence that we're going to make it. Today, we did."

Pederson's Eagles converted 20 of 29 fourth downs last season, including the "Philly Special" to help beat New England in Super Bowl LII. This season, the Eagles converted 50 percent of their fourth downs – until Sunday.

  • On fourth-and-2 from the Houston 37-yard line on the Eagles' first possession, Foles took the snap and quickly got the ball out of his hand to running back Darren Sproles in the right flat, a quick and nifty pass that allowed Sproles to make a catch in space and then his magic. Well, Sproles did his magic. He danced down the sideline, made a couple of Texans miss, and reached the end zone for a 37-yard touchdown to give the Eagles a first-possession lead. The Eagles are 5-0 when scoring first in 2018.

"We thought they would be in man coverage and would have a chance," Sproles said. "It worked exactly as we thought it would."

  • Midway through the second quarter, the Eagles faced a fourth-and-3 play at the Houston 8-yard line and instead of lining up for a Jake Elliott field goal, Pederson went for it. Tight end Dallas Goedert released to the right side of the formation and was wide open in the flat. He caught Foles' quick throw and slipped as he planted his foot. Had he not slipped, Goedert would have scored on the play. Instead, he gained 6 yards to the 2-yard line.
  • On the same drive, after a series of penalties against both teams gave the Eagles a first down at the Houston 16-yard line, the Eagles faced a fourth-and-goal scenario at the 1-yard line. Foles dropped back to pass, hung in the pocket, and drilled a touchdown pass to tight end Zach Ertz in the middle of the end zone to cap the drive.
  • In the third quarter, on the Eagles' first possession, Foles ran a quarterback sneak on a fourth-and-1 play at the Philadelphia 43-yard line and gained a yard to keep the drive alive. Foles threw an interception on the next play, however, ending the drive.

Still, the message was sent: The Eagles weren't going to back down from being aggressive in this must-win game.

"It works for us," said Goedert. "You're out there and you want to make a play and we know that our coaching staff has the confidence in us to execute the calls. That gives us a lot of confidence."

Take a look at the best photos from the Eagles' Week 16 matchup against the Houston Texans.

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