Eagles take Super Bowl lead behind 4th down conversions

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Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) runs into the end zone for a touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 57 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Nick Sirianni's fourth-down aggressiveness paid off in a big way early for the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl.

Sirianni had his offense go for it twice on fourth down on a single drive late in the first half and another in the third quarter, helping them take lead over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

But they were unable to hold onto it and lost 38-35 on a field goal by Harrison Butker in the closing seconds.

The Eagles have now converted a league-high 27 fourth-down tries in the regular season and playoffs. Sirianni ranked No. 1 in the regular season in the Football Outsiders’ Critical Call Index.

The analytics company has one of the best models for determining when NFL teams should go and when they should kick on fourth downs, using its win probability model that relies on historical play-by-play data adjusted for variables such as the strength and weaknesses of both teams, injuries and other factors.

The first call was particularly bold, coming on fourth-and-5 from the Kansas City 44. No team since at least the 2000 season had attempted a fourth-down try in the first half of a Super Bowl when needing more than a yard.

But Sirianni showed confidence in quarterback Jalen Hurts, who scampered through a big hole for a 28-yard run that was the longest run ever by a quarterback in the Super Bowl.

The next try was less risky on fourth-and-2 from the Chiefs 8 and the Eagles got the Chiefs to jump offside. Hurts ran it in from 4 yards on the next play.

Hurts then converted a fourth-and-1 sneak from the Kansas City 21 in the third quarter before the Eagles finally settled for a 33-yard field goal on fourth-and-6.

Fourth down conversions proved crucial in the Eagles previous trip to the Super Bowl following the 2017 season. Coach Doug Pederson dialed up the famous “Philly Special” call at the end of the first half that led to a trick play TD pass from Trey Burton to quarterback Nick Foles and a fourth-and-1 conversion in Eagles territory that helped spark the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid has typically had a more old-school approach on fourth downs and ranked 28th in Football Outsiders' Critical Call Index. Reid opted for a field goal in the first quarter on fourth-and-3 from the Eagles 24 in a move that backfired when Harrison Butker missed it from 42 yards.


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