‘Awkward Way to End Game’ Says Eagles Star on Bengals Tie

Zach Ertz

Getty Zach Ertz made seven catches for 70 yards as the Eagles tied the Bengals 23-23.

The Eagles didn’t play well on Sunday, but they had a legitimate chance to win. Until their coach played for the tie.

Doug Pederson’s baffling decision to punt the ball back to Cincinnati with 19 seconds left in overtime ensured a tie game: 23-23. The Eagles fell to 0-2-1 on this young season and sports talk radio lines lit up from Mayfair to Montgomeryville. Why punt the ball away there? Why play for the tie instead of the win?

“We didn’t want to give them the ball towards midfield or even a chance to go for it on fourth down and long,” Pederson told reporters. “Incomplete pass, something like that. They get the ball, short field, they could kick a field goal and win the game. Just made that decision. Hopefully, something positive might have come out of the punt.”

It didn’t. The Bengals ran one more offensive play and both teams went into the locker room. Game over. The Eagles could have attempted a 64-yard field goal or gone for it on 4th-and-12 at midfield.

“I understood the decision,” quarterback Carson Wentz said. “Tying is no fun. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a tie, so it’s just kind of an awkward way to end the game.”

Jake Elliott has a career-long kick of 61 yards in the record books, plus he had already nailed a 54-yarder earlier in the contest. Pederson — the same “fearless” leader who ran a trick play on fourth-and-goal in the Super Bowl, arguably the “gutsiest” call in NFL history — was scared. He was playing not to lose.

“Obviously in those situations, you hopefully do what’s right for the football team,” Pederson said. “That’s probably a decision I’ll look back on tomorrow and say we could have done something else. It is what it is. We’ll learn from it. I’ll learn from it. We’ll get better.”

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False Start Backed Them Up

The Eagles were planning to kick a game-winning field goal before a false start penalty backed them up five yards to the 46-yard line. The initial boot would have been from 59 yards out, far from a chip shot but one Pederson felt comfortable in letting Elliott attempt.

“You can either attempt it on fourth down and try to go for it — we tried to go for the field goal, the game-winner,” Pederson said. “That was the thing, we were going to go for the game-winner with the kick. Felt comfortable with Jake. Had the wind. The false start backed us up, so we said let’s just punt the football here.”

Matt Pryor — the fill-in right guard — was the culprit and he was seen crying on the sideline at the end of the game. Elliott didn’t speak to reporters after the game but he had been out on the field lining up the potential game-winning kick before the penalty. The whole situation could have been avoided had the Eagles gone for a two-point conversion at the end of regulation.

Pederson, one of the most aggressive coaches in the league, considered going for it but ultimately decided to play it safe. Conservative.

“I did consider it. But I also felt like the way our offense was playing down the stretch, battled to get ourselves back in position,” Pederson said. “Carson in overtime felt comfortable there to just kick the extra point, and then put it back in our offense’s hands at that time. Just elected to kick the extra point.”

Wentz Struggles Again in 23-23 Tie Game

Wentz did orchestrate the game-tying score late in the fourth quarter, taking 2:44 off the clock on a grueling 11-play, 75-yard drive. His seven-yard rush tied it at 23-23 and elicited head slaps and high fives up and down the Eagles’ sideline.

It was the lone highlight in an up-and-down afternoon in South Philly. Wentz finished 29-of-47 for 225 yards and one touchdown, along with two costly interceptions. He has now thrown six interceptions in his last 11 quarters.

“We’re still meshing and gelling as a team and building the chemistry,” Wentz told reporters. “[There were] a lot of moving pieces today, not as an excuse, but guys will continue to get this experience and learn from it. We’ll all be better, including myself.”

The moving pieces referenced were the injuries. The Eagles lost receiver DeSean Jackson (hamstring) and tight end Dallas Goedert (ankle) early in Sunday’s game. They were already down rookie receiver Jalen Reagor and second-year man J.J. Arcega-Whiteside continues to remain invisible.

The team called up Deontay Burnett from the practice squad and he made three catches for 19 yards. Greg Ward led all Eagles pass-catchers with eight receptions for 72 yards and a score. Zach Ertz hauled in seven balls for 70 yards, too.

“Some guys are making good plays. I have to be better — and I know that and I will be,” Wentz said. “I’ll learn from it. That’s really all I can say.”

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