NFL Expected Points: Super Bowl LII (2/5/18)
As a weekly ritual, let's break down this week in NFL Expected Points. For a refresher on how Expected Points works, check out our first publication which explains what we take into account.
Eagles 37.5 - Patriots 45.7 (61.6%)
The Super Bowl was gifted to the Eagles from the Patriots, according to Expected Points. With a 61.6% chance to win, the Patriots underperformed their point total while the Eagles exceeded it. However, randomness should not completely take the blame in this one.
Most may be surprised if told Doug Pederson out-coached Bill Belichick in the Super Bowl, but that's precisely what happened. Pederson's decisions allowed his team to exceed his team's expected point total; whereas, the Patriots' staff may have helped produce a less-than-expected point total.
For example, in both of New England's first two drives, they took the ball down to the Eagles' eight yard line. They decided to kick field goals on 4th and 4 along with 4th and 1. A poor snap and hold caused one of those field goals to miss. Regardless, kicking the field goal in both scenarios was the lesser expected value play.
The drive following the miss field goal, the Patriots offense drove back into Philadelphia territory where they faced just a 3rd and 5 just outside of Gostkowski's range. In a reverse pass back to Tom Brady, the ball clanked off Brady's hands. Now, potentially feeling obligated from passing up their previous fourth down tries, the Patriots went for it and failed on a Brady bomb attempt to Rob Gronkowski, who was in double coverage.
The following drive resulted into another field goal as New England drove back deep into Eagles' territory. They quickly made up ground in the second half, but the missed opportunities combined with poor play calling and/or decision making in the first half cannot be forgotten.
Doug Pederson and the Eagles, on the other hand, made all the right decisions and fortunately had every decision work out for them. The first massive decision made by Pederson, was a fourth down from the goal line where he called a similar reverse pass to Nick Foles from Trey Burton. Foles, unlike Brady, was able to haul in the much better-located pass to give the Eagles a ten point lead heading into halftime.
With three touchdowns in the first half, the Eagles were able to finish off drives in part by simply attempting to reach the line to gain more often and pulling it off. The next, and possibly Super Bowl winning, decision from Pederson came with five minutes left in the game with Philadelphia now trailing 33-32. Just inside his own end, Pederson decided to go for another short fourth down where Foles found his safety blanket, Zach Ertz, for the first down. The drive resulted in a touchdown to squarely put the pressure on New England to score a touchdown to win the game.
Brady would end up being strip sacked and the game was nearly sealed at that point. The Patriots deserved to win the game by an Expected Points standpoint due to the insane amount of long drives they put together. However, the Eagles took advantage of the decisions placed in front of them. Pederson flipped the script on Belichick and Josh McDaniels.
The Eagles outperformed their expected value by not only going for advantageous fourth downs but finishing off drives with touchdowns, while the Patriots settled for field goal attempts after long drives, which decreased their expected value over the course of the game. Doug Pederson will be thanking his analytical department and may have to somewhat credit the Falcons who turned complacent against the Patriots just a year ago in a similar position.