Eagles not afraid to go for it on fourth down

Eagles coach Doug Pederson said faith in his defense allows him to take an occasional risk on fourth down.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson said faith in his defense allows him to take an occasional risk on fourth down.(ERIC GAY/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Going for it on fourth down is a perfectly fine approach in Madden, but it’s not supposed to be sustainable in the NFL.

But the Eagles have been an outlier all season.

They’re the most aggressive team in the league on fourth down, and it’s a combination of trust and risk-taking that’s made them so successful.

“From my standpoint, you get a little bit of that adrenaline going in those situations,” said Eagles coach Doug Pederson. “You make sure that you’re calling the right play, obviously, to put our team in a good situation on fourth down. And then, my decision, my confidence level, I’m very confident in our guys’ execution to stay on the field. I trust our quarterback to throw it, that he’s going to make the right decision.”


The Eagles went for it on fourth down 26 times in the regular season, the second-most attempts in the NFL, and converted a league-high 17.

In the first three quarters of games, the Eagles went for it 19 times. No other team attempted more than 13. They converted on 13 occasions, five more than any team.

“When you see some of the numbers, and when you see them play out, when you’re willing to take a risk and it works out a couple times, what happens is, once you’ve been exposed to it, when you’re watching other games, you start to feel how conservative everyone else is being,” said Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich. “It’s like once that light has been turned on, it doesn’t mean it’s always going to be successful, we haven’t converted every fourth-down play. Some of them hurt. But having the defense we have and the special teams we have, it gives you more confidence to take a risk.”

Halftime shown

The Eagles’ practice on Thursday didn’t go as smoothly as Pederson would have liked.


An extended halftime was simulated to give players a feel for what they’ll face on Sunday, and Pederson described the session after that point as sloppy. But he said it was expected after such a long layoff since leaving Philadelphia.

“It’s been a couple days since we’ve been on the practice field,” Pederson said. “It’s typical that you’re going to have not quite as crisp a practice. For me, it was just about going around, talking to the leaders.

“We’re so late in the season now that we understand how to practice. Just making sure that we understand the importance of one, that’s why we took a break, to put us in that situation. Now we understand it. It was a very teachable moment for our guys, our coaches, for how to prepare for the second half of the Super Bowl.”

The Eagles won’t practice in pads this week. Pederson said he was satisfied with the work they did in Philadelphia last week.

“This is about just fine-tuning, keeping the guys fresh for Sunday,” he said. “I just decided to back off this week and keep them fresh for Sunday.”

True colors

Despite being the home team, the Patriots will wear their road white jerseys on Sunday.

Three of the Patriots’ five Super Bowl wins have come with them wearing white jerseys.

Pederson brushed off the fashion choice.

“If color dictates the outcome of the game, then we’re in trouble,” he said.