Eagles Escape Embarrassment

Let my bias not be unknown, I am an Eagles fan. Watching Nick Foles fumble twice, throw an interception, and Chad Henne connect with rookie Allen Hurns twice for touchdowns -- all in the first half -- was one of the more frustrating ways to start the season. The Eagles were lucky to only be down 17-0 at halftime. On the opening drive of the second half, Philly converted twice and Nick Foles connected with Darren Sproles for eight yards on 3rd-and-9, bringing up a 4th-and-1 at the Jaguars 49-yard line.

Chip Kelly is known for his progressive thinking and he didn't hesitate -- calling for a hurry-up, one of the first times the Eagles really played up-tempo in the game. The Jaguars safeties got crossed and a huge gap opened up as Darren Sproles ran untouched for a 49-yard score. The Eagles would not look back and ultimately went on to win "handily," 34-17. Had the Eagles not converted, though, Kelly would likely have been ridiculed for his call as it could have effectively ended the game (dropping Philly's win probability to 5.4%).

Let's look at the fourth down call, taking into consideration the relative strength of the two teams.

A lot of the time, when performing this kind of analysis, we just look at league-average baselines. But, in this case, there is a huge discrepancy in team strength. The spread on the game was Eagles -10, the largest of any game this week. At numberFire.com, we had the Eagles as the most likely team to win at 84.1%. Since it was a 17-0 game, even though it was early in the 3rd quarter, it is probably best to look at win probability, rather than expected points. Brian's model -- as seen in the graph -- had the Eagles with a 17% chance to win on 4th-and-1. My numbers have it at 9.1%. Here are the calculations and break-even conversion points including team strength: 
4th-and-1 in the middle of the field converts around 66% of the time, way above both break-even percentages. Expected win probability going for it in this case, for a team favored by 10, but down 17-0 is 10.2% versus 8.5% punting. Props to Kelly for the quick decision that will go unnoticed for the most part due to its success. Coaches in similar situations since 2000 have punted over 50% of the time.

Keith Goldner is the Chief Analyst at numberFire.com - The leading fantasy sports analytics platform - and creator of Drive-By Football.  Follow him on twitter @drivebyfootball or check out numberFire on Facebook. Check out numberFire's new iOS App in the app store now.

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1 Responses to “Eagles Escape Embarrassment”

  1. szymkodf says:

    A call that may not have been possible without their being familiar with a no-huddle strategy.

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