NFL GameChangers: Super Bowl 52 (2/4/18)

By Ryan Fowler

In this edition of GameChangers, we will utilize our Live ScoreCaster technology to review the game-changing plays from Super Bowl 52.

EXW% = expected win percentage

The Situation

The Eagles' decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Patriots' 1-yard line before halftime.

The Take

Leading 15-12 with 38 seconds remaining before halftime, Doug Pederson called timeout to review his fourth-down, goal-line options. Naturally, the play's moniker was the “Philly Special,” drawn up during the Eagles' playoff BYE week. It moved Foles off center, direct snap to Corey Clement who flipped to TE Trey Burton, while Foles ran his route into the end zone. It was perfectly executed minutes after the Patriots' failed attempt of a similar play with Danny Amendola to Tom Brady on third-and-5.

With the touchdown and 22-12 lead, Philly's EXW% jumped to 68.7%. Had New England stopped Philly on fourth-and-1, the Eagles' win percentage would have dipped to 53.3% with the Patriots about to receive possession to start the second half. The "Philly Special" improved the Eagles' championship chances 15.4%.

The Situation

Corey Clement's 55-yard reception on third-and-3 to set-up the Foles' touchdown.

The Take

Clement, an un-drafted running back out of Wisconsin, was the Eagles' leading receiver Sunday night. However, of his four receptions, none was bigger than this wheel-route catch, run, stiff-arm-for-the-ages, 55-yard scamper.

With less than 2-minutes to go in the first half, the Patriots were in position to get the ball back and have a chance to tie IF they could stop Philly on this third-and-short. However, as was the case all game long, New England could not get off the field on third down. The Patriots allowed the Eagles to convert 10-of-16 third downs.

Clement's 55-yard catch and run boosted Philly's EXW% to 63.7%. Had New England deflected Foles' pass or shut the Eagles down on third down, Philly's EXW% dips to 49.0% - a game-changing swing of 14.7%.

The Situation

With his team trailing 33-32 late in the game, Zach Ertz picked up 2 yards on fourth-and-1.

The Take

Not only were the Eagles 10-for-16 on third downs, but 2-for-2 on fourth. The first conversion came on the Foles touchdown before halftime and the second, this Ertz catch, practically kept the Eagles season alive.

Facing fourth-and-1 from their own 45-yard line with less than five minutes to go in the game, Philly's EXW% was 37.1%. Ertz's 2-yard catch improved their odds to 52.5%. If New England breaks up the pass, the Patriots take possession in Philly territory with a one-point lead and the Eagles' EXW% craters to 27.5%.

This fourth-down conversion may have broken New England's will as the Eagles cruised into the red zone. The Patriots, who were one of the best red zone defenses this season, not only allowed two RZ touchdowns in Super Bowl 52, but with LeGarrette Blount scoring from 21 yards and Clement scoring from 22 yards out, it could have easily been four scores inside their 20. Matt Patricia's bend-don't-break defense collapsed in the biggest game.

GameChanger: Brandin Cooks Concussion

Because many will point to Cooks' scary exit as the reason the Patriots lost Super Bowl 52, I thought it important to review his impact on New England's expected win percentage.

If the speedy wide receiver was deemed inactive before Super Bowl 52's opening kickoff, his absence would have a miniscule impact on the game's projections. New England's original projection of 27.5 points would fall to 27.3 without Cooks active all four quarters versus Philadelphia.

On the play before the injury, the Eagles led 9-3 and their EXW% was 52%.

Right at the moment Cooks caught the 23-yard pass – but before he was knocked out – the EXW% for both teams was exactly 50/50. This is to also say if Cooks remained in the game, it's a 50/50 split.

Without Cooks, the rest-of-game projection gives the edge to Philly by an average score of 25.2 – 24.6 with the Eagles winning 51.4% of the time. His absence meant a 1.4% hit to the Patriots' chances to win in the moment.