Doug Pederson's day-after press conference Monday wasn't all that much unlike his team's performance in the 21-17 loss to the Panthers.
Pederson had a chance to leave the fanbase with some confidence in him and the team as he walked out of the Eagles' auditorium.
Then he blew it in the fourth quarter.
Early in the first, Pederson came out with a plan. He knew he was going to be asked about his strange comments Sunday night, that his message to his team was "pressure's off."
Pederson said there's always pressure in the NFL; he just doesn't want the Eagles putting more pressure on themselves than needed.
0-0 after one quarter (but Doug put up some yards)
Then Pederson got on the board with a really good answer early in the second. He was asked why he thinks his players are putting extra pressure on themselves.
"I think guys want to perform. They want to play well. They're professionals. … I just want to reiterate to the team that you don't have to do that. Go play, relax, have fun."
Then he pushed it to a two-score advantage. He was asked specifically if Carson Wentz has been guilty of trying to do too much. Pederson said trying to make plays is part of any quarterback's mentality.
"I know this: I want the ball in Carson's hands at the end of the game. I want him in control of helping us to win a football game."
The field goal is up … and it's good.
At this point, Pederson's in good shape. He's not exactly taking advantage of every opportunity, but he's still in a good position to leave fans feeling OK.
He gets asked about defensive breakdowns and whether or not they were schematic or personnel related. He doesn't really answer the question, but eventually gets to a really good point.
"Offense, you could maybe sit here and point the finger at the defense, but the offense had a chance to win a game at the end and didn't. Special teams, we missed a field goal early in the game. Difference in the football game. There's enough (blame) to go around."
It's the fourth quarter and things start going the wrong way. Pederson is again asked about his message to the team and whether or not his goal is to get their mindset back to last year's underdogs.
"Listen, when you win games, we're not talking about this stuff. Because winning cures everything. Well, we're not winning, so everything is exposed and now we're going to sit here and scrutinize every little thing."
Yeah, everyone and everything is going to be scrutinized when the Eagles blow a three-score lead in the fourth quarter. It's foolish to expect anything else.
Pederson was then asked if he has enough confidence in his running backs. He said he does. So why not run more in the second half?
"Let me ask you to block 700-pound men sometimes."
How big were the Panthers?
Still, Pederson has a chance to get a W.
"Listen, I've got so much confidence in this football team, you don't understand."
It's like he got his opponent into a 4th-and-long and then gave it up with the next bit of his answer.
"It's coming down to like two, three plays and we're sitting here at 5-2 instead of 3-4."
That's what losing teams tell themselves to feel better. The Eagles are 3-4 because they deserve to be 3-4.
Give up a 4th-and-10
The Eagles desperately needed a stop from the defense. And instead, Pederson gets defensive.
"You're asking me should I run the ball more? Should we blitz more? I mean, it's crazy."
What's crazy about asking those questions?
"Now, you're getting into game plan stuff and you're getting into scheme and you guys aren't in there watching the tape like we are for 18 hours a day and putting game plans together. It's easy to sit in the press box and say, 'hey, they should run the ball.'
"Come down and stand on the sideline with me and make decisions. You know. I should run it here, I should pass I here. Let's throw a screen here, let's get the quarterback out of the pocket here. Oh no, there's 15 seconds left on the clock. Until you're down there on the sideline with me, making in-game decisions, then I guess you can ask all you want."
Fumble … game over
I get that it's not easy to answer tough questions after a bad loss. I get that it's not fun to be second-guessed. And there's no question that Pederson knows more about football — specifically his team and scheme — than any of the reporters in the crowd. But the benefit of the doubt only goes so far.
When a team blows a game like that in the fourth quarter, it's not crazy to ask what went wrong. It's not crazy to question the head coach or the defensive coordinator. It's not crazy to ask for answers.
It would be crazy not to.
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