Recipe For Success
Analytics Report: Two-TE Personnel Groups Boosted Birds Offense
Despite some turnovers and late defensive collapse, the Eagles overcame their mistakes to beat the Giants on Christmas, 33-25.
They have another game Sunday against a bad team – the 3-12 Arizona Cardinals, who rank at the bottom of the NFL in several defensive categories.
In this data-driven piece, we’ll examine the success rate of the Eagles’ offense, which showcased some new wrinkles against the Giants that might resurface against the Cards.
Success rate is a metric used by teams to determine if a play call worked on the specific down it was called.
Success Rate Explained
Success rate is determined in the following manner:
* On first down, a successful play will account for at least 40% of the line to gain. This is typically 4 yards on 1st-and-10 but can change in a penalty situation in which the offense starts further back than typical.
For example, success on a 1st-and-20 would be an 8-yard gain.
This is sometimes why announcers say an offense is “on schedule” after a four-yard gain or greater on first down.
* On second down, a successful play accounts for at least 50% of the line to gain. The reason for this is a second-down play call theoretically should put the offense in a position to succeed on third down.
* On third and fourth downs, a successful play exists only when the offense picks up a first down – or touchdown in the tight red zone. These downs need to convert, regardless of distance, to be deemed “successful.”
Eagles Success Rate Vs. Giants, By Down
The Eagles ran 74 plays against the Giants and had an overall success rate of 60.8% offensively, a solid output.
When you look at the success rate per down, there’s typically a natural cascade effect – third down is typically less successful than second down, and second down less successful than first – for three reasons.
First, the nature of football is generally that subsequent downs are more difficult to pick up because the playbook is generally more limited than on first down.
Second, there are naturally more first-down attempts than any other downs – think turnovers and touchdowns, there always needs to be a first down.
Finally, the yards needed to be attained on first down for success is easier than for subsequent downs.
The NFL’s No. 1-ranked team on third down, the Buffalo Bills, convert just 49.21% of third downs.
Here’s how the Eagles fared against the Giants:
Per the data, the most interesting part about the Eagles’ offense against the Giants is that the Eagles fell significantly after first down.
They went from a 65.7% success rate to a 54.6% success rate – an 11.1% drop in effectiveness – and then a much smaller dropoff (1.3%) to third down, which was a 53.3% success rate.
The drop-off in effectiveness can’t simply be explained by the Eagles’ propensity to take shot plays on second down, which they did.
They produced four gains of 10 or more yards on second down – including the 36 yard touchdown to Devonta Smith.
However, on second down, there were only four unsuccessful plays due to incompletions, including the pick-six.
This seems to showcase – at least in the Giants game – the Eagles struggled in calling successful plays on second down and put themselves in a difficult position for picking up third downs.
The Eagles, of course, were automatic in their two fourth-down attempts, including a 4th-and–5.
However, there’s not enough of a sample size in this game to make a definitive claim about fourth-down success.
But, having “The Brotherly Shove” at their disposal definitely helps.
Success Rate Vs. Giants, By Personnel Grouping
The Eagles ran four different offensive personnel packages against the Giants but mainly used 11 personnel (one RB, one TE, three WR) and 12 personnel (one RB, two TE, two WR).
Despite featuring slightly more 11 personnel groups, the Eagles found much more success from 12 personnel, hitting a clip of over 75%.
They found less success in the other personnel groupings, though sample sizes for 13 and 21 personnel weren’t large enough to make a determination.
What’s It Mean?
The Eagles have two more games before their playoff push, including another against the Giants.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see them run more personnel variations in the next two contests.
The Eagles must improve second-down play calling to put them in a better position on third down.
Also, the Eagles should consider using 12 personnel more as they had the highest rate of success in that grouping, especially against any defense that likes to disguise and bring pressure the way Giants coordinator Wink Martindale does.
The Eagles finish the season next Sunday against the Giants. It’ll be interesting to see if they feature as much 12 personnel as they used in the first matchup.
– Sam Finkel is a staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com who focuses on analytics.