A statistical tie
First, I must acknowledge that the game was more or less a tie if you understand statistics. If you really wanted to know which was the best team in the NFL this season, you would look at all the games, like the way they used to do the MLB pennants. Team with the best win-loss percentage at the end of the regular season wins the pennant.
The playoffs like they now have MLB and the NFL are a less accurate way of determining which team is best. They are artificial Hollywood drama that panders to ignoramuses and makes more money than the old way of awarding the pennants.
Brady out-quarterbacked Foles
The big story is the big star Brady was humbled and defeated by the Cinderella Foles. The hell he was. Brady threw for 505 yards; Foles, 373. Brady’s average gain on passing plays was 10.0 yards; Foles, 8.5. Their passer ratings under various circumstances were about a tie.
Brady set a number of records in Super Bowl LII. Two were game records for most passing yards by any QB in any Super Bowl at 505 and most points by a losing team at 33. He also set five QB career Super Bowl records. He tied the record for fewest punts and fewest passes intercepted at zero.
PATs field goal team was humbled, not Brady
Brady was not humbled, the PATs field goal team was. They missed a 26-yard field goal and an extra point. (PATs are now the equivalent of a 32-yard field goal in the NFL since they snap form the 15 instead of the two. But still their success rate under the new rule is 94.1%)
The Eagles’ margin of victory was eight points so the kick misses alone, which cost four points, were not the sole cause of the loss.
Quarterback throwback passes
Each team ran a quarterback throwback pass in the game. Foles kicked Brady’s butt on that.
NFL rules are more restrictive on the QB throwback pass than NCAA and NFSHSA rules. In the NFL, an NFL QB cannot catch a forward pass if he starts the play in the indirect snap or T-Formation positions (his hands under the center).
The vast majority of coaches at all levels put in trick plays but do not give the players enough reps of practicing them. I have said in the past that Belechick knows better. I stand corrected. The Eagles ran a QB throwback pass out of a wildcat formation that started as a shotgun, then Foles walked up to the line as if he were calling an audible or blitz pickup. Suddenly, the ball was snapped to a running back who handed it to a TE who was a high school QB. Foles belatedly released on a corner route with no stem and was wide open for a TD pass which he caught.
When the PATs tried it, Brady took a shotgun snap, flipped it to a teammate who gave it to another teammate. Brady did the same as Foles in terms of pass route. But the pass was a tiny bit high and Brady ran a poor route and jumped too early to catch it. It fell incomplete. My somewhat speculative diagnosis: Belechick did not give the play enough reps in practice. Pederson did.
Eagles clock management was bad. The first time they had the ball when they were behind in the score came at 9:22 on their own 25 in the 4th quarter. They needed to score at least a field goal to retake the lead. The score was NE 33 PHI 32. But they need to retake the lead slowly so they can eliminate all or most of the time remaining on the clock. This is a job for the field-goal pace graph in my book Football Clock Management.
The graph tells you when to snap the ball for each play based on your field position and time remaining in the game. If you only need a field goal, is was the case for the Eagles, the graph is very precise and easy to comply with. I’ll assume the Eagles wanted to get to the ten yard line to make the kick success probability around 97%.
From the Eagles starting point, that meant they needed to go 65 yards in 9:22. That initially required them to snap the ball when the play clock was down to :01. At 7:56, they were at their own 36—54 yards to go. Graph still says max slowdown. At 4:52, they had 43 yards left, still max slowdown. At 2:43, they were 14 yards form the target point; again, max slowdown.
Stop passing, just run the ball
At 2:25, they were at the NE 11, one yard from their target point. They should have been running the ball and instructed their running backs stay inbounds and not to go into the end zone. Rather they needed to get another first down by crossing the four yard line. It was 3rd and 7. NE had one timeout left.
Two-minute warning is a problem because too much time left on the clock earlier
Had they done that, they would have had first and goal at the one, two, or three, yard line with about 2:19 left. If they were smart, NE should have called their last time out exactly when the play ended. That would have been about 2:17.
Take a knee
After that, the Eagles should just move the ball to the hash position that the kicker wants. In an indoor stadium, probably the middle of the yard line. So on the 1st-down play, they take a knee, perhaps sidestepping to get to the middle. They are in no hurry to take the knee, just make sure you get down before you are touched by the enemy.
The second down play starts at about 2:13. Third down pay at about 2:09. On fourth down, they are forced to kick the field goal. That would almost certainly put them in the lead 35-33 with about 2:05 left.
That’s not much better than the actual game situation where the PATs got the ball back with 2:21, but only having a field goal instead of a TD is much worse.
Could they have burned more time during that drive?
But the key question is could the Eagles have burned more time earlier in the drive. In other words, they were supposed to wait until the end of the play clock to snap the ball. Did they?
If you wait until :01 on the play clock to snap the ball, you run about :45 off the clock between the end of the last play and the end of this play: :06 for the play itself and :39 for the play clock between plays.
Repeatedly snapped the ball too early
:39 is exactly how much they ran off on the first play that started at 9:22. Should have been :45. :06 left on the clock unnecessarily. Apparently they snapped the ball at :07 on the play clock instead of :01. Bad mistake.
The next play was an incomplete pass which only burned :08. My clock-management rules say to prefer the run to the pass when the run performance is adequate to get the first down. The Eagles two running backs averaged 6.4 and 6.3 yards per carry in this game. So do not pass in this situation.
Every second left on the clock unnecessarily may be the one NE uses to beat you
They could have and should have run off :39 on that play, not :08. There is :39 - :08 = :31 given to NE by bad clock management. That alone would have moved the sequence that started at 2:25 when they were at the 11-yard line beyond the two-minute warning. If NE uses their last timeout after the two-minute warning, then PHI can run two take-a-knee plays where they take :45 off the clock each time for a total of 1:30. Correct clock management on just those first two plays that started at 9:22 would have meant the PATs get the ball back with 1:30 + :06 = 1:36 less or 2:25 - 1:36 = :49 left on the game clock, rather than 2:25.
So the question becomes were there another :49 the Eagles could have run off during that drive.
With 3rd and 6 a their own 29 and 8:35 left, they passed to Ertz for 7 yards and a first down, 1st and ten. I’ll not criticize that play call. They needed a first and may have felt that was the better play. Did they take :45 off the clock? No, the next play started at 7:56 which means they only took off :39. Ouch! A gift to NE of :26. Must have snapped the ball way early.
The next play, a run, took :45 off. Good job. At 2nd and 8, they passed for seven yards. Should have run with their 6+ yards a carry running backs. But no incompletion so no harm done. Play and waiting after it took :37. Not correct. They snapped :45 - :37 = :08 early. Another unnecessary gift to NE.
I think we have now found the :49 they could have run off the clock.
|play that started at||time wrongly left on clock|
Bingo! If the Eagles had managed the clock correctly on that drive that gave them the winning score margin, the game would have ended with the Eagles taking three knees then kicking a field goal from closer than PAT kick distance. And I did not yet analyze all the plays on that drive.
The Eagles still won so all the yahoos will say “Who cares?” Any football coach who will have another season should care, most especially Pederson. He could have lost the game because of this clock mistake. Any Eagles fan in my reading audience should send this blog post to Pederson and/or the Inquirer so he does not make this mistake again.
Congrats to the Eagles on the win, in spite of their lousy lock management.
My son and I were Zach Ertz’s first football coaches
The iconic photo of the game is Ertz diving into the end zone with the go-ahead TD. My son Dan and I were Zach Ertz’s first football coaches. He was too big to play youth football where they have weight limits. So his first football was freshman year of high school at Monte Vista in Danville, CA in 2005.
Did we teach Ertz and his teammates clock management? Oh, you betcha. Did we teach him not to score a TD in that situation? No. We taught him to do what he’s told by his coach and QB.
Plus, the clock mistake was not on Ertz. It was on the coach and QB not waiting until the end of the play clock earlier on that drive and not throwing the incomplete pass when they had two 6 yards a carry running backs.
We also urged the players on that freshman high school team to read my book on clock management. I am not sure any did. Ertz might have been the most likely to read it.
But as I said, the clock management in the Super Bowl was in the hands of the coach and QB mostly. TEs only get to do clock things like get out of bounds or stay in bounds as the situation demands.