After Andrew Sendejo called tails and the Eagles won the coin toss in Minneapolis, they did what they always do.
The Vikings marched down the field for a touchdown. Then after an Eagles 3-and-out, the Vikings went up 10-0 before Carson Wentz threw his first pass. Sure, the Eagles scored on their first possession of the second half, but by then, they were well behind.
So with slow starts being a chronic problem for the Eagles, head coach Doug Pederson is now contemplating a change in his thinking and possibly taking the ball the next time the Eagles win a coin toss.
“Yeah, that's something I'm going to look at,” Pederson said Monday afternoon. “I think it might behoove us to make a change and then take the ball. Put our offense out there and try to generate points early in the game and not fall behind. I think that's all part of trying to start fast.”
The Eagles have scored 24 first-quarter points this season, but have been shutout in the first quarter in four of their first six games. And dating back to the start of the 2018 season, they have scored just 65 points in first quarters. That makes them the second-worst first-quarter team in the NFL behind the lowly Miami Dolphins.
Getting the ball first might help jump-start the offense. It couldn’t hurt to try, right?
But if the Eagles were to take the ball first, it would go against a philosophy Pederson has held dear during his tenure as head coach.
The Eagles have won the coin toss 32 times in 59 total games (regular season and playoffs) under Pederson. In those 32 games when they won the toss, they have deferred in all but one game: the blowout loss to the Bengals in Cincinnati on Dec. 4, 2016.
So why has this been Pederson’s philosophy?
The analytics support it. Check out what Pederson said about the topic last year:
I think it’s more about the number of touches, possessions the offense can get. When you study it and look at it, if I can gain one more possession in the first half like we did last week — we actually got two, to get one, kick a field goal and then come out in the second half, go down and score — that’s kind of the object. That’s what you’re trying to do. If you can give your offense another touch or two, especially at the end of the half, that’s what we want.
It’s worth noting that in those 32 games in which the Eagles have won the toss, they’ve scored first just 12 times. So they’re constantly getting behind early in games. Perhaps getting the ball first could help.
But it’s not like getting the football first would alleviate all their early-game woes. Believe it or not, the Eagles have, on average, actually scored more first-quarter points under Pederson when they win the toss than when they lose it:
In 32 games when they win the toss: 148 first-quarter points (4.63 per game)
In 27 games when they lose the toss: 112 first-quarter points (4.12 per game)
The Eagles clearly have more issues on offense early in games aside from deferring when they win a coin toss. But at least giving the offense an opportunity to score first and giving their defense a chance to play with a lead is making Pederson rethink his approach.
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