McMullen: Pederson Helps Push Eagles Past Bears
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - It was Doug Pederson at his best, a Super-Bowl-winning coach persevering in-game when the stakes were at their highest.
DeSean Jackson's long-awaited return from a core-muscle injury lasted one series Sunday and Alshon Jeffery, already laboring this season from a persistent calf injury, was heading to the blue medical tent with an ankle injury after a big 13-yard third-down conversion, a nice oasis in the desert of a three-drop game.
Tasked with a precarious 19-14 lead which had already dissipated down from 19-0, Pederson had just under seven minutes on the clock to deal with between him and his team moving above .500 at the bye week.
That was the good news. The bad news is that the Eagles mentor was going to have to do it with Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside as his receivers.
Instead of pounding the square peg into the round hole and counting on a confidence-challenged Agholor, a player who hasn't caught a ball since September in Hollins, or the rookie who hasn't been able to supplant Hollins in Arcega-Whiteside, Pederson schemed his way to the win.
In what turned into a 16-play, 8:14 drive that left Chicago down eight with only 25 seconds remaining after a 38-yard Jake Elliott field goal, it was the X's and O's that did it for the Eagles, not the Jimmy's and Joe's.
On three consecutive third-down opportunties it was Pederson's play-calling that confounded Chicago's talented defense. First, it was forcing linebacker Danny Trevathan to get through the wash to catch up to Miles Sanders in the seam before a rub route got Zach Ertz loose for another first down. The nail in the coffin was a middle screen to Dallas Goedert that rumbled for 16 yards on a third-and-nine play.
“Doug is a phenomenal play-caller," Ertz said. "Probably the best I have ever been around."
The meticulous nature of the drive was textbook keep away and doing it without threats on the outside was the kind of thing that only the great play callers can do.
“That was a helluva drive for us," Goedert gushed. "The O-line was moving the pile, the running backs were doing great and we converted when we needed to. It was a well-executed drive from bottom to top.”
It was also all on the fly, not game-planning and Pederson was more than up for the test despite being lambasted at times this season for a lack of creativity.
In the end -- whether they know it or not -- critics are only judging a result, not the process so all NFL football boils down to execution and whether or not the players perform during those "good play calls." If they don't everything magically turns to bad.
That's why the goal in the coaching profession itself is to put the players in the best position to succeed.
On Sunday in the fourth quarter against one of the better defenses in the NFL Pederson proved to be at the top of his game by doing exactly that and like all good leaders, he even spread the credit with a hat tip to offensive coordinator Mike Groh and the players who did execute.
"We didn't have to get real creative," Pederson explained. "I just had to find the right play and that's not easy, either. But, Mike Groh did a great job. We had great communication during the game, especially late in the game. He gave me some ideas, gave me some suggestions to get to and obviously they were plays that we went to and worked. ... Guys made plays for us. We needed that at the end."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen