Each week coaches around the country are faced with real-time critical calls. By evaluating how teams manage their win probability, you can learn how to optimize future decisions and give your team the best chance to win.
Let’s take a look at one of the best and worst decisions in Week 1.
Best Decision – CIN @ SEA
With 2:07 remaining in the 3rd quarter, 3 timeouts, and the leading by 3, the Bengals faced a 4th and 1 at the SEA 36-yard line. With more than a quarter to play, very few people would have been surprised if Coach Taylor had sent his FG unit out for a 53-yard attempt, in an effort to increase the CIN lead to 6 points. However, by deciding to go for it, Coach Taylor made the correct call and increased the Bengals (pre-snap) win probability by +6%. Our Edj Power Indexes (EPIs) had this as an equal matchup, with the Bengals rush offense ranked among the league average teams (#15) and the Seahawks rush defense also ranked among league average teams (#14). Based on our EPIs and the game state, teams that go for it, go on to win the game 59% of the time and teams that attempt a FG, go on to win the game 53% of the time. Despite not executing/converting on this play, Coach Taylor made the correct call because the decision to go for it gave his team the best chance to go on to win the game.
Worst Decision – SF @ TB
With 2:21 remaining in the 4th quarter, 2 timeouts (TB only had 1), and leading by 3, the 49ers faced a 4th and 8 at the TB 29-yard line. By deciding to attempt the FG, Coach Shanahan made an error that cost the 49ers -5% in(pre-snap) win probability. Our EPIs had SF with a slight advantage in this matchup, with the 49ers pass offense ranked below league avg (#21) and the TB pass defense ranked as the worst in the league (#32). Based on our EPIs and the game state, teams that attempt a FG, go on to win the game 71% of the time and teams that go for it, go on to win the game 76% of the time.Keep in mind, with a successful conversion of this 4th and 8 attempt, the 49ers would have been very close to being able to run out the clock. With an-unsuccessful conversion, at the very least, the 49ers would have forced TB to call their final timeout or SF could have run the clock down to the 2-minute warning and eliminated that clock stoppage. The 49ers went on to win by 14, but this game was much closer than the final score suggests. The most important takeaway is that decision making errors that result in good outcomes are still errors, and good decisions that result in bad outcomes are still the correct calls.
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Images via USA Today Sports.