I love coaches who don’t leave games up to coin flips. Doug Pederson and Brandon Staley both chose to try to win in regulation rather than be subject to the vagaries of overtime. Back when Pederson was in Philadelphia, I remember him putting to go-for-the-win ethos this way: You have two choices. You can go for the tie, then risk losing the toss in overtime and never see the ball again. Or you can go for the win—you can pick out your best short-yardage play or plays and choose one, figuring that there’s a better chance of gaining two yards with a play you love than there is trying to win a game in overtime.
On Sunday, Jacksonville got the ball with 2:02 left in the game, starting at its 25-, down to Baltimore 27-20. “I knew at the start of the drive that if we scored, I was going for two,” Pederson told me.
But as the drive went on, Pederson realized his favorite two-point play was a play designed for elusive running back Travis Etienne, and Etienne was out with a foot injury suffered earlier in the game. He didn’t love anything else on his play sheet. But when Trevor Lawrence threw for a TD with 14 seconds left, the offense came off the field all fired up, urging Pederson to go for two.
He probably would have anyway, but the attitude of his team convinced him. “Then I thought about our players,” Pederson said. “Zay Jones was hot right then—he’d made a couple of great catches. We had a play for him—a stutter-move and quick out to the front pylon. So that was the call.”
Jones had a step on the corner, Trevor Lawrence threw it perfectly, and suddenly it was 28-27, the biggest win of Jacksonville’s season. When Pederson hugged Lawrence afterward, the QB said: “Thanks for trusting me there.” That, Pederson said, is a huge part of a quarterback’s growth.
CLUTCHHHHHH#BALvsJAX on CBS pic.twitter.com/Jw3A0liLc6
— Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) November 27, 2022
Now to the late window.
“The irony after what Doug did today,” Staley told me from Arizona Sunday evening, “is that the play we used is a Philadelphia play. We call it ‘The Philly Follow.’ It’s a famous route they had for Zach Ertz. And when we started that last drive, we knew that was going to be the play all along.”
The idea of the play is to isolate the tight end—in this case, Gerald Everett—somewhere in the middle of the field. With Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler drawing attention on front-side routes, the tight end should have space in the middle. At least that was the plan Staley hoped for. He was right. Everett was surprisingly open.
In the Chargers’ case, going for two is totally understandable. They’re so beat up now that it would make no sense to voluntarily risk the Cards winning the toss with Kyler Murray, James Conner, DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green and Marquise Brown to deal with against a depleted D.
Obviously, as a coach, you’ve got to be willing to take the heat when you make a call like this. Both of these coaches have shown they can take a lot of it. Luckily for them, they didn’t have to have the suit of armor this time to handle incoming arrows.
Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column