Doug Pederson’s penchant for calculated gambles paid off on Sunday when the Philadelphia Eagles chose to go for a touchdown on fourth down.
The Eagles trailed the Atlanta Falcons 17-6 late in third quarter and faced fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line. Rather than kick a field goal that would have made it a one-possession game, Pederson called for a passing play.
Carson Wentz connected with Nelson Agholor for the score to cut Philadelphia’s deficit to 17-12.
Eagles gamble while playing catchup
What did Pederson do from there? Keep his foot on the gas, of course. With the prospect of a two-point conversion cutting Atlanta’s edge to a field goal, Pederson dialed up a two-point play.
Wentz kept the ball on the conversion and dove toward the end zone with the ball outstretched toward the goal line. Officials signaled a successful conversion.
But they reviewed the play that saw Wentz hit the ground around the same time he crossed the goal line. They overturned the call on the field, ruling that Wentz’s knee was down before the ball crossed the goal line.
Why was Wentz’s conversion overruled?
He wasn’t touched before the ball crossed, however, drawing confusion over why he was ruled down.
NFL officiating executive Al Riveron explained the play, noting that Wentz gave himself up on the play, and that by rule, he was down when his knee touched the turf.
Was it the right call?
The ruling is clear, but the rule itself is drawing debate. Wentz clearly wasn’t attempting to down himself, so should he be ruled down without contact in that situation?
Or is it right that the rule cuts both ways? If a players dives, leaving his intent up to the officials’ discretion opens up the call to obvious problems. Reading minds shouldn’t be part of a referee’s job description, even when the intent of a play is as obvious as it is in this situation.
Call could have impacted game’s outcome
The Falcons went on to win the game, 24-20, and a successful two-point conversion here could have had an impact on the outcome.
The Eagles briefly took the lead in the fourth quarter with a Wentz touchdown sneak. They successfully converted a two-point conversion to take a 20-17 lead.
Had the earlier conversion been successful and Philadelphia opted for a traditional extra point on the Wentz touchdown sneak, they would have taken a 21-17 lead.
That would have given them the option to attempt a game-tying field goal in the red zone in the game’s final moments, where, instead, they came up short on a fourth-down play to turn the ball over on downs while trailing by four.
Of course, that’s a lot of ifs, ands and buts in the larger scheme of a football game.
But Eagles fans are surely pondering the ruling after watching their team fall to 1-1.
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