Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Credit Belichick For Going For the Win

With two minutes to play do you hand the ball over to Peyton Manning and the Colts or try and run the clock out? Some calculations have been made here (via Hot Air):

With 2:00 left and the Colts with only one timeout, a successful conversion wins the game for all practical purposes. A 4th and 2 conversion would be successful 60% of the time. Historically, in a situation with 2:00 left and needing a TD to either win or tie, teams get the TD 53% of the time from that field position. The total WP for the 4th down conversion attempt would be:

(0.60 * 1) + (0.40 * (1-0.53)) = 0.79 WP

A punt from the 28 typically nets 38 yards, starting the Colts at their own 34. Teams historically get the TD 30% of the time in that situation. So the punt gives the Pats about a 0.70 WP.

This is the right way to approach this decision. Your assessment of the percentages may vary and yield a different conclusion (the numbers above are NFL averages, you have to consider the two teams on the field) but I believe that calculating the odds in this manner is a key component to Belichick's success.

The Patriots failed to convert on 4th down and the Colts moved 30 yards to the goal line in just two plays. They then let the clock run down and didn't even use their time out before scoring a touch down. I think Belichick knew his defense would have a difficult time stopping the Colts no matter where they started so he let Tom Brady and the Patriots' offense try and end the game.

I think he made the right decision. Failing to convert on 4th down did not hand the Colts a TD, they still needed 30 yards for that. The Patriots defense could not stop the Colts so Belichick tried to keep the ball away from them.


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