Monday, October 25, 2010

Was Bill Belichick's decision to go for it on 4th down a good one?

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick looks up the field in the second quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts on October 17, 2010. The Patriots defeated the Ravens 23-20 in overtime. UPI/Matthew Healey Photo via Newscom

A familiar situation arose in the Patriots - San Diego game that Patriots fans remember with mixed emotions.  With 2 minutes to go and the Patriots facing a 4th and 1 on the 49 yard line Bill Belicheck decides to go for it.  I immediately remembered last years' playoff game against Indy when Bill went for it in a similar situation.  The result was they didn't get the first down and then Peyton marched down the field and the Colts scored the winning TD.

This time the Patriots also missed the conversion, the Chargers got the ball in good field position.  A crucial penalty on 4th and 2 made it 4th and 7 so they attempted the field goal but missed (which would have tied the game).

Of course the result was different this time round but one can't help but make comparisons to the Colts game.  If the Patriots lost to the Chargers I'm sure that the outcry would be just as loud that it was the wrong call.  Even today many fans are saying that it is a stupid call and that Bill should have called the punt team onto the field.  The main factor to consider here is that San Diego still had THREE timeouts left (Indy only had one timeout left but they also had P Manning).  So even if the Patriots had converted then they probably would need another first down to seal the victory.

A great website is Advanced NFL stats which calculates the probability of success based on historical game data.  A highly recommended site for those that want to analyze games in a rational and scientific manner.  They calculated the probability of San Diego winning if New England punted or if they went for the first down and the probabilities are very similar.  So statistically it was the right decision or borderline.  Then I guess it comes down to whether you think your offense or defense can win you the game.  Of course you would think that with the ball in Brady's hands you have a good chance of winning right?

So the bottom line is that there is statistical evidence that going for it was justified.  I'm sure that if the same situation comes up again Bill will do the same thing. 

Click here for the full article on Advanced NFL Stats, definitely worth a read.

1 comment:

  1. On the Dennis and Callhan shown on WEEI they referenced this article on Advanced NFL Stats!