Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson faced some pressure from reporters on Monday, one day after saying the pressure was off his team despite sustaining a third loss in the last four games.
Pederson was asked why he didn't run the ball more in the fourth quarter when the Eagles had a 17-0 lead over the Carolina Panthers.
He was asked why defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz didn't dial up more blitzes on Cam Newton as the Panthers began to shred his defense. Carolina marched down the field and scored three red-zone touchdowns in the final 10 minutes, 48 seconds to pull off an improbable 21-17 win on Sunday.
"You're getting into game plan stuff, 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," Pederson said. "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. Let's run it here, let's pass it here, let's throw a screen here, let's get the quarterback out of the pocket right here, oh no there's 15 seconds left on the clock. Until you're down there with me, on the sideline making in-game decisions, then I guess you can ask all you want."
That was Pederson's final statement after about 15 minutes of questioning in a news conference that seemed to get testier as it went along.
Pederson didn't get too deep into specifics about the running game, except to say that he called three run plays and six pass plays before they got the ball back with 1:22 remaining. The Eagles were given a golden chance to win following a pass interference call that put them at the Panthers' 22-yard line with 1:11 to play.
Pederson's math is a bit fuzzy, though, because the play chart shows the Eagles throwing nine straight passes after Carolina closed to within 17-6. Pederson said he called for run-option plays, and that some of those throws could have been runs. Pederson seems to be counting them as run plays even though they were passes.
He said that Carolina's two defensive tackles, Dontari Poe (346 pounds) and Kawann Short (315), weigh about 700 pounds combined and they are tough to move in the run game. He added there were some missed double-team blocks on some of the run plays, but Pederson said he still believes in his team's ability to run the ball despite averaging just 2.4 yards per carry on 24 attempts against the Panthers.
"Let me ask you to block 700-pound men sometimes," Pederson said.
The coach then added: "No lack of confidence whatsoever in our run game."
Pederson defended his message about saying the pressure was off his team following the Sunday loss.
The curious quote he made on Sunday was this: "Nobody on the outside world is giving us a chance to do much of anything. Pressure's off, so we can go play, have fun, and just relax."
The Eagles, though, have been favored in all seven games they have played this year.
Pederson tried to clean up that message on Monday.
"I was asked a question about the locker room and how I addressed the football team," he said. "Part of that was saying, 'Listen, no one gives us a rats ... winning or losing. They've kind of written us off. So from that standpoint, yeah, the pressure should be off, we shouldn't have any pressure going into football games, even though, listen, every game, don't misunderstand, there's pressure with every football game. Pressure to win, there's all of that. Sometimes players, coaches, teams put pressure on themselves when they don't have to, to make a play."
Pederson said he still has complete confidence in his team, saying they will get whatever ails them fixed. He added that they are just one or two plays away from being 5-2.
Last year, the Eagles were making those plays on their way to a Super Bowl title.
"When you win games, you're not talking about this stuff because winning cures everything right?" Pederson said. "We're not winning so now everything's exposed. So now we're going to sit here and scrutinize every little thing when we were actually making these plays a year ago. So now we're going to sit here and scrutinize everything and point a finger and play the blame game, and do all of that ... but it's a different team, it's a different year, we're in this situation. We kind of dug ourselves in a little bit of a hole.
"The great thing about where we are is we still control our division. We still have games in our division ahead of us. We have what, nine games left? There's a lot of football and a lot of things can happen. We have a break coming up after an important game coming up this week (against the Jacksonville Jaguars in London on Sunday), we have a break. Hopefully we get some guys healthy the second half of the season and see where we're at."
--Quarterback Carson Wentz had a statistically terrific game on Sunday, completing 30 of 37 throws for 310 yards and two touchdowns.
With the game in the balance, however, Wentz tried to squeeze a tight throw into Alshon Jeffery in the end zone on third-and-2 when running back Wendell Smallwood was wide open in the flat. Wentz then seemed to hold the ball too long on fourth down and got sacked.
"That's a quarterback's nature is to try to make the play," Pederson said. "I know this, I want the ball in Carson's hands at the end of the game. I want him having control over us helping win a football game, and then the guys doing their job. We're going to continue to work through it. We're going to continue to coach, teach, instruct, but at the end of the day I want the ball in his hands to help us win a game."
Since his return in Week 3, Wentz has completed 70.8 percent of his throws with 10 touchdowns and one interception for a passer rating of 108.1. The Eagles are 2-3 in those games, however.
With nine catches for 138 yards on Sunday, tight end Zach Ertz now has 57 receptions for 618 yards this season.