Getty Images

Week 1 performances not indicative of extra point expectations

Leave a comment

Changes to how NFL scoring plays work do not come around very often. Every 20 years or so seems to be the trend. The goalposts were moved from the goal line to the back of the end zone for the 1974 season. The possibility of the two-point conversion arrived for the 1994 season. The 2014 preseason saw the introduction of the 33-yard extra point, and it was made to apply to all games this offseason.

The NFL made this change for one big reason: NFL kickers of late have been so good the 20-yard extra point was basically automatic. Kickers in the 2014 regular season missed just eight extra points, and that was actually a down year. The NFL’s change seemed to pay immediate dividends, as kickers missed four of the new 33-yard extra points just this past weekend. (See Table 1.)

Table 1: Missed Extra Points, 2011-2015
Year                Missed XP     XP Pct.
2011                7                      99.4%
2012                6                      99.5%
2013                5                      99.6%
2014                8                      99.3%
2015*               4                      94.7%
*Week 1 only

There are couple reasons to believe this Week 1 performance was a bit anomalous, and NFL kickers will likely do better on extra points going forward. Here is why:

  1. Week 1 is typically a below average week for NFL kickers, once you account for conditions. The start of the season typically features disappointing performances on place kicks. <a href=””>Football Outsiders</a>’ metrics adjust for that it is easier to kick in good weather, in domes, and at altitude. With those adjustments, NFL kickers produced 1.8 points fewer than expected in Week 1 of 2013. In 2014, they produced 1.4 points fewer than expected in Week 1. We will learn more about the 2015 kicking environment as the season goes on, but based on historical trends, NFL kickers produced 1.3 points fewer than expected in the first weekend of 2015, right in line with past trends.

In fact, Football Outsiders numbers suggest kickers typically struggle the first couple weeks of the season. The past two years, Weeks 2 and 3 have featured even more missed kicks than Week 1, accounting for conditions. This likely comes from special teams units, which are filled with backups and players who do not make the team in preseason, taking a couple weeks to gel, plus some teams’ kicker situations taking a couple weeks to settle down.

  1. Kickers were just fine on other short kicks in Week 1. There were 31 field goals from inside 40 yards attempted in Week 1, and the only thing between kickers and perfection on those attempts was the Minnesota Vikings blocking Paul Dawson’s 28-yard attempt in the second Monday night game. That included a perfect 17-for-17 from 30 to 39 yards. Including extra points, kickers were 87 of 91 from that range. With the same pool of kickers attempting kicks from a similar distance, we would expect them to perform just as well on field goals as they do on extra points. Their true skill level on those kicks in Week 1 was therefore around the 95.6% combined rate for field goals and extra points, not the 94.4% rate on extra points only.
  1. Kickers are better from the new extra-point distance even late in the season. On the whole, field goals become more difficult over the course of the year. There are more cold weather games, more windy games, and more cold rain and snow to make kicking more difficult. It is easy to point to individual games, like the Lions-Eagles clash in 2013 played in a snowstorm or some December games in Buffalo, where strong weather conditions made even 20-yard extra points a chancy proposition. But by and large, bad weather has most of its negative effect on long kicks.

By Football Outsiders numbers, which add those crucial adjustments for dome and altitude, kickers are actually even better late in the season in that 30-39 yard range even before accounting for weather conditions. In Weeks 1-5 of 2013, kickers were -1.6 points worse than average. In Weeks 13-17, they were 2.1 points better than average. 2014 produced the same effect, from -1.4 points in Weeks 1-5 to +1.0 in Weeks 13-17. Adding in weather adjustments only makes the disparity even sharper. Extra points after a penalty, like the 48-yarder Browns kicker Travis Coons made this weekend, will be more risky later in the year, but there will only be a handful of those.


Kickers will probably struggle a bit from the new extra point distance for the next couple weeks. But after that, they should improve. We cannot be sure what the real rate on extra points will be. In making the change, the NFL pointed to a 91.6% rate on field goals of 32-33 yards over the past 10 years and a 94.3% rate on extra points during the 2014 preseason experiment. Those figures, especially the first one, are almost certainly too low. First, NFL kicking has improved a great deal the past 10 years. Second, the preseason kicks included a number of attempts by kickers who will never kick in a regular season game. A better estimate is 97.6%, the rate on kicks from 30-35 yards from the middle of the field the past two seasons <a href=”″>per Pro Football Focus</a>. That rate will mean more misses than in the past, but not as many as Week 1 would indicate.

Eagles fly to first Super Bowl win with memorable victory vs Patriots

Leave a comment

As their delirious fans sang their theme song and their owner lifted the Lombardi Trophy, the Philadelphia Eagles’ finally could breathe freely.

Yo, Philly, you really did beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in a thrilling Super Bowl that rewrote the offensive record book.

Nick Foles guided the drive of a lifetime, Zach Ertz made a bobbling touchdown catch that had to survive replay review, and an exhausted defense came up with not one but two stands in the final moments Sunday for a 41-33 victory. For the first time since 1960, the Eagles are NFL champions.

“Fly Eagles Fly,” indeed.

“We’ve played this game since we were little kids, we dreamed about this moment,” game MVP Foles said. “There’s plenty of kids watching this game right now dreaming about this moment and someday will be here.”

In a record-setting shootout between backup QB Foles and five-time champ Brady of the favored Patriots, Foles led a pressure-packed 75-yard drive to the winning touchdown, 11 yards to Ertz with 2:21 to go .

Then Brandon Graham strip-sacked Brady and Derek Barnett recovered, setting up rookie Jake Elliot’s 46-yard field goal for an 8-point lead.

Brady got his team to midfield, but his desperation pass fell to the ground in the end zone.

“For us, it was all about one stop we had to make. We went out here and made that one stop,” Graham said.

The underdog Eagles (16-3), even injured starting quarterback Carson Wentz, came bolting off the sideline in ecstasy while Brady sat on the ground, disconsolate.

It was the first Super Bowl title for Philadelphia (16-3), which went from 7-9 last season.

“If there’s a word (it’s) called everything,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said. “That’s what it means to Eagles fans everywhere. And for Eagles fans everywhere, this is for them.”

Super Bowl MVP Foles orchestrated the victory with the kind of drive NFL MVP Brady, a five-time champion, is known for. The drive covered 14 plays, including a fourth-down conversion.

“I felt calm. I mean, we have such a great group of guys, such a great coaching staff,” Foles said. “We felt confident coming in, and we just went out there and played football.”

The Eagles had to survive a video replay because ball pop into the air as Ertz crossed the goal line.

The touchdown stood — and so did thousands of green-clad Eagles fans who weren’t going to mind the frigid conditions outside US Bank Stadium once they headed out to celebrate. But not before a rousing rendition of “Fly Eagles Fly” reverberated throughout the stands once the trophy was presented to Lurie. Later, fans danced along with the “Gonna Fly Now,” the theme from “Rocky,” the city’s best-known fictional underdog.

The Patriots (15-4) seemed ready to take their sixth championship with Brady and coach Bill Belichick in eight Super Bowls. Brady threw for a game-record 505 yards and three TDs, hitting Rob Gronkowski for 4 yards before Stephen Gostkowski’s extra point gave New England its first lead, 33-32.

Then Foles made them forget Wentz — and least for now — with the gutsiest drive of his life.

“We couldn’t make a play to give the ball back to the offense,” Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore said.

Foles has been something of a journeyman in his six pro seasons, but he has been spectacular in four career playoff games. He finished 28 of 43 for 373 yards and three TDs.

The combined 1,151 yards were the most in any modern NFL game, and Brady’s 505 were the most in any playoff contest. The 40-year-old master finished 28 of 48 and picked apart the Eagles until the final two series.

It was such a wild game that Foles caught a touchdown pass , and Brady was on the opposite end of a Danny Amendola throw that went off his fingertips.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson brought home the championship in his second year in charge. Belichick is 5-3 in Super Bowls and his teams have only a plus-4 overall margin in those games.

So this one was in keeping with that trend: breathtaking and even a bit bizarre.

Brady and the Patriots looked ready for another comeback by opening the second half with a 75-yard touchdown drive. Gronkowski was unstoppable, grabbing four passes for 69 yards, including the 5-yard score.

Philly didn’t flinch, answering with a precise 75-yard march and three more third-down conversions; the Eagles were 10 for 16. The last was on Foles’ perfect pass to Clement over double coverage. The rookie’s reception was upheld by review, and the Eagles were back on top by 10.

Brady shrugged and, getting steadfast protection, connected with Chris Hogan from the 26 for another touchdown.

When all the Eagles could manage was Elliott’s 42-yarder for a 32-26 lead, it seemed inevitable the Patriots would go in front, then become the first repeat Super Bowl winner since they did it in the 2004 and ’05 games.

Foles, Ertz, and — at last — a revitalized defense said otherwise.

The weird image of Brady ambling downfield on a pass pattern came three plays after New England lost receiver Brandin Cooks to a concussion on a vicious but clean hit by Malcolm Jenkins in the second quarter. Amendola’s pass required an over-the-shoulder grab and the ball fell off Brady’s outstretched hands.

Brady got back to passing after a wild interception. Alshon Jeffery nearly made a spectacular catch near the Patriots’ goal line, only to juggle the ball into the air. Duron Harmon picked it off at the 10. Moments later, Brady was connecting with Chris Hogan for 42 yards.

James White broke several tackles with a brilliant 26-yard run and it was 15-12. That gave White seven touchdowns in his past three postseason games, including the overtime winner in last year’s Super Bowl.

But the Eagles still had 2:04 left in the half — and some more magic in their bag.

A short third-down throw to rookie Corey Clement on a circle route turned into a 55-yard explosion down to the Patriots 8. Philly got to the 1 and on fourth down, it was Foles’ turn to morph into a receiver.

He did better than Brady. On fourth down, Clement took a direct snap, pitched to tight end Trey Burton, and the former Florida QB hit an uncovered Foles. The Eagles were up 22-12 at halftime, the most points New England has allowed in the opening half of a Super Bowl under Belichick.

Each team started with 67-yard drives to field goals — New England had never scored a first-quarter point with Brady in a Super Bowl.

Each kicker later faltered, with Elliott missing the extra point, his fifth failed PAT this season, after Jeffery’s 34-yard touchdown. Then Gostkowski hit the left upright with a 26-yard field goal after holder Ryan Allen mishandled the snap. Gostkowski also missed an extra point.

When LeGarrette Blount, who won the title last season with the Patriots, scored on a 21-yard burst, Pederson went for 2, but the pass failed, making it 15-3.

The Eagles and Pederson brushed it off and stayed with their usual aggressive approach. Breathtakingly, it eventually paid off.

Eagles’ rush could be key vs. Patriots’ Brady

AP Photo
Leave a comment

MINNEAPOLIS — Neither New England nor Philadelphia is a tropical paradise, so for the Patriots and Eagles, the Minnesota winter weather has been pretty normal for them. That’s a good thing as both teams head into their Super Bowl LII meeting on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium trying to treat it like just another 60-minute game.

After the media circus they endured Monday in St. Paul, the players for both the Patriots (15-3) and the Eagles (15-3) welcomed the opportunity to get back to some semblance of normal game week preparation and to focus on the football, even if it’s in a new place.

“We’ve got to go out and practice and kind of get away from the madness,” said Philadelphia defensive end Fletcher Cox on Wednesday after the Eagles practiced at the University of Minnesota. “I just treat it as a regular game week. Things I would do at the facility, I’m doing here.”

Road to Super Bowl LII: Stream, start time, highlights and more

One thing the Eagles did successfully at home and on the road all season was pressure the opponent’s quarterback, and when the Patriots have faltered in two Super Bowl losses to the Giants in the past decade, a relentless pass rush has contributed. But the highly touted Eagles defense, which did not allow a point after the Vikings’ opening drive of the NFC title game, is wary about putting too much of their attention on Patriots star Tom Brady.

“It’s Tom plus 10 guys on the field. We can’t just focus on one guy, if we’re going to be real about it,” Cox said. “I think we have to focus on their whole offense, because they’ve got a lot of great players. We have to go out and be ourselves. We’ve got to go out and do the little things right and not beat ourselves in order to be victorious.”

New England tight end Rob Gronkowski, who missed the second half of the AFC title game win over Jacksonville due to a concussion, is slated to play.

“Rob’s a tough guy. Obviously, this isn’t something you can just fight through,” said Brady.

While the Patriots offense has revolved around Brady since their first Super Bowl win in 2002, the defense has been one of constant evolution, and the unit adopted yet another new look late in the regular season when linebacker James Harrison came on board after he was jettisoned by the Steelers.

“When you’re in a system for as long as he’s been, there are a lot of things that are habits that get ingrained, which they should be. Some of those things carry over. Some of them kind of don’t,” Belichick said of Harrison, who has played 178 of his 193 NFL regular-season games for Pittsburgh. “He’s done a great job of trying to separate them and do what we’ve asked him to do.”

While the Eagles will be looking for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title, having lost the big game after the 1980 and 2004 seasons, there may be more pressure on the Patriots, who will be seeking their sixth title and their second in a row, knowing that the coaching staff will look significantly different next season. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia are both widely expected to be head coaches in Indianapolis and Detroit, respectively, next season.

“I realize and I understand and I appreciate the talent in the coaches in our building. I’m grateful for the opportunity to even be coached by them,” said Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola, sounding very much like he was saying goodbye. “Whatever their opportunities are in the future, I’ll be excited for them.”

There’s one more opportunity for them on Sunday. And it sounds plenty exciting.