Key Coaching Decision #1 (New England trails 3-9 / 3rd & 5 PHI 35 / 12:05 Q2):
- Facing a 3rd & 5 on the edge of field goal territory, New England runs a trick play featuring a reverse pass from a wide receiver to the quarterback. The pass was not complete and the play did not convert.
- New England finished the regular season ranked number 1 in the NFL for total offense without ever running a play that featured a pass to the quarterback. The decision to call an exotic trick play on an important 3rd down represented a marked departure from the formula that got them to the Super Bowl in the first place. They ran an experimental play in a scenario where a high-percentage play was needed. For this we downgraded their play calling
- On the following play, New England elected to go for it on 4th & 5, which was understandable given the field position. The conversion was not successful and represented a momentum shift in favor of Philadelphia, all set in place by the uncharacteristic offensive play call outlined above.
Key Coaching Decision #2 (Philadelphia leads 15-12 / 4th & Goal NE 1 / 0:38 Q2):
- After a productive drive brought them to a 4th and Goal on 1 yard line, Philadelphia elected to run their own trick play, the “Philly Special”, which featured a throw to the quarterback. The play was successful and resulted in a touchdown, and was the idea of quarterback Nick Foles.
- This was a high stakes play, and we usually downgrade for taking unnecessary risk on 4th down plays. However, we are not downgrading Philadelphia’s play calling for the following reasons 1) they were leading by 3, and an additional field goal would not have made it more than a 1 score game 2) if the conversion was unsuccessful, New England would face more difficult field position at their own 1 yard line than they would have after returning a kick. Given New England’s ability to score right before the half, pinning them deep in their own territory actually represented a well-hedged downside in the event of an unsuccessful conversion attempt.
Key Coaching Decision #3 (New England trails 41-33 / Kickoff return NE 6 / 1:05 Q4):
- Facing an 8-point deficit with 1:05 to go in the game, New England attempted a reverse kick return. The return not only lost yardage, it burned approximately 5 seconds of crucial time off the clock. This play could have provided a spark if successful, but Philadelphia kicked the ball short in order to keep the clock running, which made the play difficult to execute with the coverage quickly converging on the returner. For not giving the return team the ability to check out of this play call in the event of a short kick, we downgraded New England’s play calling
- Philadelphia missed their first extra point, and on their following touchdown elected to go for 2 in order to make up the deficit. They were unsuccessful in their attempt. We call this “chasing points” and usually advise against it. For much of the 4th quarter, Philadelphia trailed 33-32. When they scored a touchdown to go up 38-32, they were forced to go for 2 in order to try to level the lead to 7, which they were not able to do. The sequence of scores in this game was an excellent example of the perils of “chasing points” too early.