Doug Pederson is just in his second year as the Philadelphia Eagles’ coach, but he’s about to coach what could be a career-defining moment for him this Sunday.
He’s going to become the seventh coach to face Bill Belichick in the Super Bowl.
One of them, Tom Coughlin, beat Belichick twice as the New York Giants’ coach, but the other five not only lost, they made coaching gaffes that helped contribute to their team’s losses.
Now it’s Pederson’s chance to see if he can beat the New England Patriots with Nick Foles as his quarterback.
If he is to pull it off, Pederson has to avoid the types of mistakes made by the coaches who’ve lost to Belichick in the Super Bowl.
The mistakes by the Atlanta Falcons and the Seattle Seahawks in two of the last three Super Bowls are well-chronicled.
The Falcons last year blew a 28-3 lead because offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and head coach Dan Quinn didn’t know how to manage a game with a big lead.
Even with four minutes left and an eight-point lead and possession in field-goal range, they didn’t run the ball three times and kick a field goal to take time off the clock and get an 11-point lead.
Instead, after a first down run, they called passes. A holding penalty and a sack pushed them out of field-goal range, and they punted.
Playing against an exhausted Falcons defense that had been on the field too much, Tom Brady then drove for the tying score and won it in overtime.
And you know the story of the Seahawks three years ago. They were a yard away from a second consecutive Super Bowl win on second down with a timeout.
The logical thing to do was to run Marshawn Lynch on second down. If he was stopped short, they could have called timeout and thrown a fade in back of the end zone or a rollout pass that would be a touchdown or incomplete. If that failed, they still would have had a run-pass option on fourth down.
They should have had three chances to win the Super Bowl by gaining a yard.
Instead, coach Pete Carroll decided to pass on second down, and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who was recently fired, called for a risky pass in the middle of the field that was intercepted by Malcolm Butler.
The Seahawks haven’t been back to the Super Bowl since and now are in a rebuilding mode.
The details of how the opposing coaches misfired in Belichick’s first three Super Bowl victories are also interesting.
The Pats were heavily underdogs against the then-St. Louis Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf “after the 2001 season.
So Belichick decided to try to take away the pass and see if St. Louis coach Mike Martz would try to run more.
Martz was too stubborn to do that and played into Belichick’s hands. He ran Marshall Faulk just 17 times in the game, including a mere five times in the second half. The Pats, meanwhile, picked off Kurt Warner twice and led 14-3 at halftime and boosted it to 17-3 in second half.
The Rams rallied to tie 17-17 in the last two minutes, but Brady drove the Patriots for the winning field goal.
Faulk still feels to this day that the Pats cheated their way to the win because of Spygate. But if Martz had run him more, they might have won anyway.
Two years later, the Patriots faced Carolina in the Super Bowl, and Panthers coach John Fox cost his team a chance at overtime by going for two points too soon.
This is complicated, so pay attention.
The Panthers cut the deficit to 21-16 early in the fourth period, and Fox went for two and didn’t get it. That cost him a point.
When the Panthers scored again to take a 22-21 lead, Fox again went for two and didn’t get it and cost himself another point by not kicking the extra point.
The Patriots then scored to take a 27-22 lead. Belichick then went for two, which he said he wouldn’t have done if the Panthers’ two tries hadn’t misfired.
The Panthers then scored to make it 29-28 and Fox went for the extra point to tie the game 29-29. Brady then drove them for the game-winning field goal. But if Fox hadn’t cost himself three points, the field goal would have forced overtime and the Panthers would have had a chance to win.
Here’s what would have happened if Fox had kicked the two extra points. He would have trailed 26-22 and then when he scored again he would have led 29-26. When the Pats scored to make it 32-29, Belichick would have kicked the extra point to make it 33-29 for a four-point lead. The Panthers’ touchdown would have made it 36-33, and the Patriots’ field goal would have sent the game into overtime.
Fox isn’t the only coach to go for two too early, but he cost his team a chance to win the Super Bowl.
A year later, the Patriots were leading the Eagles 24-14 with 5:39 left. The Eagles didn’t go into hurry-up mode and mounted a 13-play drive that took almost four minutes off the clock to cut the deficit to 24-21. But they in effect ran out their own clock. By the time they got the ball back, they didn’t have time to mount a drive, and a desperation Donovan McNabb pass was intercepted.
So that is the story of the five Belichick Super Bowl losses.
Can Pederson avoid those kinds of mistakes? We’ll see.
He’s playing a tough hand with Foles at quarterback. Foles may be overmatched against Brady no matter what Pederson does.
But Pederson can’t afford any major mistakes if the Eagles are to have a chance.
Pederson said he can’t get caught up in the Patriots’ mystique.
“If I make it all about them, I’m in trouble,’’ he said. “Honestly, we’re in trouble.’’
Pederson next Sunday will get a chance to show he’s up to the challenge and coach the game of his life.