The Eagles’ decision to call a timeout before kicking a field goal midway through the fourth quarter almost cost them against the Falcons. Instead, it ended up being a good call.
After going on a lengthy drive, the Eagles faced with a fourth-and-1 from the Atlanta 3-yard line with 6:05 to go. The Eagles initially kept the offense on the field to go for it, but head coach Doug Pederson called a timeout.
The field-goal unit then went out onto the field to give the Eagles at 15-10 lead. It left them with two timeouts for the final 6:02.
The Falcons’ offense — up to that point — struggled the entire game. Matt Ryan had completed just 16 of his 26 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown. Had the Eagles gone for it and missed, the Falcons would have had to go the majority of the field while also going against the wind.
Instead, the Eagles took nearly eight minutes of clock to get a field goal on a 14-play, 83-yard drive and allow the Falcons to start from their own 24-yard line.
Even ESPN’s win probability model thought Pederson was too conservative, per Seth Walder:
It’s close, but our win probability model thought Doug Pederson was probably too conservative on fourth down there. The decision to attempt a field goal, instead of going for it, lowered the Eagles’ chance to win by 1%. Needed to think they had at least a 52.9% chance of success to justify going for it, and league average is 56.6%.
It didn’t matter for the Eagles, but they certainly got a scare. The Falcons faced a fourth-and-6 after a Mohamed Sanu catch was overturned, but Ryan and Julio Jones kept the drive alive, connecting over the middle of the field to get them inside the Eagles 40-yard line.
The Falcons got the ball all the way down to the 2-yard line and faced a fourth-and-goal with 1:05 left in the game. The Falcons threw an incomplete pass to Jones, giving the Eagles the 15-10 win.
Pederson ended up making the right choice, but for a minute there, it was looking quite bad. The Eagles will move on to the NFC Championship game.