Eagles

Eagles-Giants notes, quotes and tidbits: 4th-and-8, Shepard's TD-no TD

Going for it on 4th-and-1 or 4th-and-2 or even 4th-and-3 is one thing.

But 4th-and-8?

The Eagles led 7-0 with 2:36 left in the first half and were at the Giants' 43. Doug Pederson went for it, but Carson Wentz was sacked for a 6-yard loss. 

Fortunately for Pederson, that decision, along with some other things — e.g. a shaky game by Wentz and a costly fumble by his buddy Zach Ertz — will be overshadowed by Jake Elliott's 61-yard game-winning bomb.

But why did Pederson go for it? 

Analytics. 

"It was something that I discussed with the guy that's helping me upstairs with analytics," Pederson said after his team's 27-24 win (see studs, duds and more). "Where we were on the field, what we were doing offensively at the time. The defense was playing extremely well. [We] had an opportunity to keep ourselves on the field at the time, so I elected to go for it at that point. Obviously, we didn't get it. The defense held."

Barely. 

The Giants appeared to score a touchdown when Sterling Shepard joined Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant by making a catch that's a catch on the playground but not in the NFL (more on that below). Two plays later, the Giants went for it on 4th-and-goal from the 1, but the Eagles stuffed Orleans Darkwa. 

Then they returned to their locker room still up seven. No harm, no foul.

But analytics aside — and there is an involved study on the subject — Pederson did acknowledge that it's a "risky" play. And when it was suggested that his numbers guys might be telling him what he wants to hear because he likes to be aggressive, Pederson said he trusts his staff to give him all the relevant information so he can make the final call. 

"Our guys are right on point with it, all the way down to replays, challenges and things of that nature," Pederson said. "So they give me the information, and it's my job to pull the trigger."

The Eagles made their two other fourth-down conversions, albeit on QB sneaks that gained a yard. Wentz said he's "always down to go with the quarterback sneak" in those situations. As for the 4th-and-8, Wentz admitted the blame doesn't solely reside with Pederson. 

"They just had good coverage, and we were playing aggressive," he said. "Unfortunately, I just held onto the ball too long."

Shepard's TD catch-no-catch
It certainly looked like Shepard had made the 1-yard TD reception. He caught it and took a couple steps in the end zone before falling out of bounds and dropping it when he hit the ground. 

He ran around looking for congratulations as if he had scored, but he didn't complete the process of making the catch.

So no score.

"I’m trying to figure out what a touchdown catch is and what isn’t a touchdown catch right now," Giants coach Ben McAdoo said.

Said Eli Manning, "Everybody knows the rules, have to finish the play, finish the catch."

Seems like we've been hearing that for a while.

Pass interference?
That wasn't the only call that worked in the Eagles' favor. After the Giants took a 21-14 lead in the fourth quarter, cornerback Eli Apple was called for pass interference on a deep ball to Torrey Smith. 

The 36-yard gain set up Corey Clement's 15-yard game-tying touchdown run.

First, there didn't appear to be significant contact on the play, and second, the ball sailed out of bounds and could have been deemed uncatchable. 

"Me and the [official] had an intellectual conversation about how it was catchable and how I was kind of like the receiver on that play because I was in front of him," Apple said. "He thought it was pass interference, but those are the calls they make and you have to continue to play."

This was pass interference
Later in the fourth, Malcolm Jenkins clothes-lined Odell Beckham Jr. on a deep ball down the sideline. Beckham, who had a step on Jalen Mills, didn't think the play was dirty.

"He made a smart play," Beckham said. "I'm running down the field. I'm gonna make a play, so he stops that. It's football. He made a play to stop me from making a play. 

"Nothing dirty to me."