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Incompletions (Super Bowl LII Edition): The Future Is Now

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With so many things to write about and not enough time for one person to write about them all, the masthead bands together and offers their thoughts and feelings on Superbowl 52.

Super Bowl LII - Philadelphia Eagles v New England Patriots Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Matt Weston:

The aesthetics from the 2000s were gaudy, sharp, and neon. Everyone was all in on the future. Things became eXtreme. The NBA introduced a basketball they quickly scrapped. The 2001 Super Bowl had a replay that stopped and flipped the field around yet provided nothing of value. None of it worked. But because this man-made construct clicked to 2000, things had to become futuristic. The world was an uglier place.

People wanted a world that wasn’t ready yet. Now in 2018, the seeds of technology will make the future unrecognizable from today. Things are similar from 2008 to 2018; they’re just more refined. 2028 and 2018 won’t look anything alike. After last night’s game, I don’t think football is going to be the same at all.

I’m not even saying this from the vantage point of technology, rule changes, or concussions. I’m saying this purely from the decisions that were made on the field yesterday. All season long, Doug Pederson and the Eagles went for it on fourth down. They attempted to convert in the first half, in the red zone, late in the game, whenever. They scoffed at taking the points and coming away with something. During the regular season, the Eagles converted 17 of 26 fourth downs, the biggest of which led to a win in Los Angeles that was monumental in securing the first seed in the NFC Playoffs. During the postseason, Philadelphia converted all three fourth downs in which they went for it, the biggest of which was the difference in winning their first Super Bowl.

Since the nerds started working the numbers in sports, one of the first things that became apparent was that going for it on fourth down increases win probability. These attempts usually come on shorter downs that are easier to convert, around midfield, so points aren’t given away, or deep in the opponent’s territory so great field position can quickly bring them another scoring opportunity. Throughout this time, no team attacked consistently, aside from the occasional situation where desperation had their backs against the wall.

Usually for a movement like this to happen, it takes a team embracing it and having success doing it to open the eyes of the meek. To show them that, yes, this thing is good and it works, that the reward is worth the risk.

The Eagles are this team. For too long, the dinosaurs of the NFL kept inbreeding and hiring the same coaches, running the same schemes, kicking field goals, punting, and stagnating the growth of the game. The rest of the league was bathed in light Sunday night. They realized the numbers are right, that calculated aggression can be influential in winning football games. With this realization, this sport can be pushed to new heights, with quarterbacks catching passes, multiple options on every play spreading out like roots, and field goals or punts minimized.

The future is now. This isn’t some futuristic ideal we are decades away from actually realizing. The future is now.

Rivers McCown:

I will always remember this game for two things.

1) Doug Pederson planting a flag in the ground against Jeff Fisherism. You don’t have to play conservative, and you don’t have to play conservative even when your star quarterback gets hurt. You build a team that can strike anywhere, and then you let them do it. Going for it on fourth-and-short in Eagles’ territory in the fourth quarter is something I don’t think any other NFL coach besides Bill Belichick would even dream of. The pass play that went to Nick Foles for a touchdown was completely off-the-wall unexpected. The Eagles have a terrific team and I am not taking anything away from their players, but this was a team that would have died on Dr. Brady’s operating table tonight under any other head coach.

2) The offense is officially ahead of the defense. This was the Big 12 Super Bowl. Even if you want to say the Patriots had a garbage defense, so did the Vikings before they were summarily dispatched under an avalanche. Once the copycats around the league get ahold of this stuff, I expect to see many more offensive sets like the Rams and Eagles posted in 2017. Any defense that stays in the dark ages is going to get romped on.

bigfatdrunk:

When you create a scheme to put your QB in a place to succeed, when you scheme around your player’s abilities, and, most importantly, when you play to win instead of losing, this is what happens.

Or, you can be Bill O’Brien.

Capt Ron:

I really had no interest in cheering for either team in this Super Bowl. I typically lean toward AFC teams, but it was the damn Patriots (again)!

The Patriots seemed as unprepared and disjointed as I have ever witnessed from that franchise. I’m baffled about why Malcolm Butler didn’t get on the field for the defense, especially with New England struggling so much in the secondary. I’m confused at how Tom Brady seemed uninterested and lacked focus for his part of a play where the ball was thrown to him for an incompletion.

The Eagles were focused and aggressive. I was impressed with bold play calling and mostly solid execution. I’m happy for the former Houston Texans—Brandon Brooks, Bryan Braman and Donnie Jones—earning their Super Bowl rings.

Now let’s move on to the off-season, where hopefully the Texans will address the offensive line and defensive secondary with major upgrades.

Diehard Chris:

That was a great Super Bowl. Even though I like defense, I was not disappointed.

NFL coaches, despite statistics to the contrary, are too often scared [kitten]less when it comes to going for it not only on fourth down. On fourth and short. Doug Pederson laughs at this, and all we can hope for in Houston is that the NFL’s “copycat league” reputation to hold true. It’s not that Pederson made brilliant in-game down and distance decisions - it’s that he’s doing what coaches SHOULD have been doing for years. As he said in a post-game interview (paraphrasing), “Conservative coaching is a great way to go 9-7.”

WHY MR. PEDERSON, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU MEAN.

Pederson didn’t have to go for it on fourth down to close the first half. He had a LEAD in the Super Bowl. But instead of making a judgment on what had happened in the game to that point, he made a decision about how the second half would play out - because we’ve ALL seen this movie before. It’s Tom Brady. So Pederson not only went for it, he dialed up a ridiculous play that ended with QB Nick Foles catching a touchdown pass.

Pederson didn’t have to go for it on fourth and two near the end of the game around midfield -- let me stop right there. Yes, he did. That is the ONLY rational call. But because NFL coaches are so determined to play it the way it’s always been played, it will be hailed as a stroke of genius.

The Eagles won this game because they put their players in the best position to make plays according to their best abilities and because their head coach knows what so many fans - but FEW other NFL head coaches know - you have got. to. be. aggressive. If the choice is 1) trust in your offense to get TWO YARDS when they had already rolled up over 30 points versus 2) punting the ball to a QB who has done this SO MANY times, and who would eventually pass for over 500 yards in this game, the decision, really, is a complete no-brainer.

I give Doug Pederson all the credit in the world for being, I guess, “brave” enough to do the obvious in those situations. Of course on top of that, down and distance decisions aside, he called a great game and out-coached the without-question greatest coach of all time.

Now I’ll patiently wait for some of that sauce to find its way to NRG Stadium.