Ridiculous Rushes and Improbable Completions – Week 5

Analytics. Love it or hate it, more and more teams are using it to help influence their decisions during the game. Not all their decisions, otherwise you’d never run the ball ever again, but some of the key turning points in games. Let’s take a look at the three big ones from the Raiders game on Monday night.

(7:30) P.Mahomes pass short left to T.Kelce for 1 yard, TOUCHDOWN.
TWO-POINT CONVERSION ATTEMPT. P.Mahomes pass to J.Smith-Schuster is incomplete. ATTEMPT FAILS.

The Chiefs had taken a 7 point lead 30-23 with 7:30 to go in the game. Andy Reid calls for a 2 point conversion to take a 9 point, 2 score lead.

ChoiceWin ProbabilitySuccess RateFail Win ProbabilitySuccess Win Probability
Go for 291%57%89%93%
Kick the XP91%93%89%91%

The chances of the Chiefs winning the game at this stage were extremely high, regardless of the outcome. Even if the XP was missed or the 2 point conversion attempt failed the chances of winning the game was 89% at that time.

Kicking an XP and taking an 8 point lead moved that chance up to 91% or a gain of 2% better chance of winning. The kick is successful 93% of the time.

Going for 2 and being successful gives the Chiefs a 9 point lead and a 93% chance of winning the game. That’s slightly better than kicking the XP, but, the 2 point conversion is only successful 57% of the time.

Overall, everything evened out. It made no significant difference, from an analytics point of view, if you go for 2 or kick. The overall win probability for either decision was 91%.

At the time, going for 2 felt like the right thing to do. Analytics removes the feeling.

(4:34) (Shotgun) D.Carr pass deep right to D.Adams for 48 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
TWO-POINT CONVERSION ATTEMPT. J.Jacobs rushes up the middle. ATTEMPT FAILS.

The Raiders pull to within a point on an absolute rainbow from Derek Carr to Davante Adams. They go for 2 points and Josh Jacobs is stuffed short of the line.

ChoiceWin ProbabilitySuccess RateFail Win ProbabilitySuccess Win Probability
Go for 234%45%26%44%
Kick the XP35%93%26%36%

A slightly harder decision for Josh McDaniels to make here. Failure on either option left them with a 26% chance of winning, down by a point.

Kicking the XP brings the scores level and gives them a 36% chance of winning. XPs being successful 93% of the time that gave them an overall Win Probability of 35% if they kicked.

Going for 2 is the gamblers choice here. The Raiders are only successful on 2 point conversions 45% of the time, a whole 12% less than the Chiefs are. Their chances of winning if successful jump to 44%. But it’s a less than 50/50 chance of success. This drags the Win Probability when going for 2 right down to 34%. Slightly less than kicking the XP.

At the time, I felt like going for 2 was a bad idea. If you fail then you’re still losing. If you succeed then the Chiefs have 4 minutes to drive into Field Goal range. Neither are particularly good options. The Chiefs had little problem moving the ball in the second half, it felt like chances of them scoring again were high. I’d rather only have to match what they were doing than better what they were doing.

I think I’d have kicked and taken a 30-30 scoreline.

4-3-LV 46 (2:36) T.Townsend punts 39 yards to LV 7, Center-J.Winchester, fair catch by K.Cole.

Chiefs lead by 1 point, on the Raiders 46 yard line. Andy chooses to punt and trust the defence.

ChoiceWin ProbabilitySuccess RateFail Win ProbabilitySuccess Win Probability
Go for it72%55%56%84%
Punt66%NANANA
Field Goal54%054%79%

This is where analytics and feelings really diverge. Punting felt very much like the right thing to do at the time. If you punt you’ve a 66% chance of winning since the Raiders only need a Field Goal but ended up pinned back on their 7.

Kicking a Field Goal was a non starter with a 0% success rate, although, Wright had already hit a 59 yarder. I certainly wouldn’t have been trusting him to kick a 63 yarder to take a 4 point lead.

Going for it would be risky. With a success rate of 55%, you’re slightly more likely to make it than not. If you do, then your win probability takes a massive leap. But if you don’t get it then you leave the Raiders a short field only needing to kick a Field Goal themselves.

Overall the analytics says to go for it. It would have been a brave decision. Maybe a better 3rd down call looking to gain a couple of yards and leaving a shorter 4th down would have been the best bet. Flinging a deep shot to a receiver with a dodgy ankle and questionable hands on 3rd down really didn’t help matters.

But like it or loath it, analytics is helping shape decisions in every game. It just depends on if you trust your head or your heart.

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