For this week’s analysis of decisions, put your coaching headset on as we take a look at the 4th quarter of the IND vs HOU game.
4th down, FG attempt or GO?
With 11:07 remaining in the 4th quarter and leading by 4 points (both teams had all their timeouts), the Colts faced a 1st and 10 from the IND 32-yard line. After a ten-play drive that covered 63 yards, they faced a 4th and 1 from the HOU 5-yard line.
If you were Coach Reich, would you attempt the FG (in hopes of going up by 7 points) or would you go for it (in hopes of extending the drive, scoring a TD, and making it a two-score game)? And, how big of a decision is this?
Coach Reich made the correct decision by going for it, increasing the Colts (pre-snap) win probability by +4.0%. Based on how these teams match up and the game state, the Colts decision to go for it comes with an expectation to go on to win the game 89.7% of the time, while a decision to attempt the FG comes with and expectation to go on to win the game 85.7% of the time.
Our model has the ability to evaluate all possible outcomes associated with FG attempts and going for it – which includes taking into consideration the opponent’s resulting field position in each case. And, all recommendations are based on what gives a team the best chance to go on to win the game!
The Colts went for it and failed to convert on this 4th and 1, but left the Texans backed up deep in their own territory. Additionally, on 3rd and 11 from the HOU 4-yard line, Texans QB Deshaun Watson was sacked in the endzone, for a safety. While the broadcast announcers (and probably most viewers) were highly critical of Coach Reich’s decision (based on the outcome), few people will consider how it indirectly contributed to the Texans safety.
Obviously, Coach Reich wasn’t expecting his defense to come up with a safety if his offense failed to convert, but rest assured he understands that analytics take that (unlikely) possibility into consideration, so he doesn’t have to.
Run or Pass?
After receiving the post-safety kick, the Colts put together a drive that ran just over 3 minutes off the clock and forced the Texans to burn all three of their timeouts, in an effort to preserve time. Ultimately, on 4th and 12 from the IND 49-yard line, a Colts punt resulted in a touchback. The Texans took possession at their own 20-yard line and quickly drove the length of the field. And, with 1:28 remaining in regulation and trailing by 6 points, the Texans faced a 2nd and goal from the IND 2-yard line.
If you were calling plays for the Texans offense would you call a run play or a pass play in this situation, and does it make a difference?
Based on how these teams match up and the game state, on this play the best decision is to call a run play. If the Texans call a run, they are expected to win the game 53.2% of the time and if they call a pass, they are expected to win the game 46.2% of the time. The 7.0% difference between these two options can largely be attributed to the value of time. On this play, if the Texans score the go-ahead TD, the Colts comeback efforts will be pressed for time. If the Texans don’t score on this play (barring a turnover), a run play keeps the clock running and further reduces the Colts chances to mount a comeback, if the Texans are able to score.
Let them Score?
On the flip side, if you were calling plays for the Colts defense would you let the Texans score on this play, in hopes of giving your offense as much time as possible? If the Texans score a TD, the Colts can regain the lead with a FG (or TD).
Based on how these teams match up and the game state, it’s a close call but the best decision is to let the Texans score the TD. Let’s assume the Texans score (running 8 seconds off the clock), convert the PAT, and their kickoff results in a touchback. Taking possession with 1:20 remaining, no timeouts, and trailing by 1 point, the Colts would be expected to win the game 47.8% of the time. Conversely, if instead the Colts continue to play defense, with the Texans facing a 2nd and goal from the IND 2-yard line and 1:28 remaining, despite having the lead the Colts would only be expected to win this game 46.8% of the time. In other words, allowing the Texans to score would actually increase the Colts win probability by +1.0%.
We’ll never know what the Texans or Colts intended to do on this play because the Texans fumbled the snap and the Colts recovered it and were able to run out the clock. However, the point is that analytics that can be customized (i.e. for how the teams match up and the game state) can bring clarity to an otherwise overwhelming number of possibilities and provide actionable information about what gives either team the best chance to go on to win the game.
Notable High School Calls of the Week
Kenton Ridge Cougars (OH) vs. Greenview Rams (OH)
With just under 3 minutes remaining in the first half and leading 3-0, Coach Daniels and the Cougars faced a 4th and 1 at the Ram’s 15 yard -line. By deciding to go for the first down instead of attempting a field goal, Coach Daniels increased the Cougar’s (pre-snap) win probability by +7%. The Cougars would go on to win 16-0.
Apopka Blue Darters (FL) vs. West Orange Warriors (FL)
On the first play of the 2nd quarter and leading 6-0, Apopka faced a 4th & 3 at the West Orange 34-yd line. Coach Rolson made the correct decision by going for it instead of attempting a FG, increasing the Blue Darters’ (pre-snap) win probability by +4%. In this game, Coach Rolson faced several 4th downs and as a result of his decisions, was able to increase his team’s overall (pre-snap) win probability by +15%.
Great calls Coaches!
Have a play of the week you would like to submit or a question about a coaching situation you were in? We would love to hear from you.
Also, take a look at the analysis of our most recent featured High School Game of the Week between Thompson (AL) vs. Auburn (AL) in the Alabama 7A Championship Game.
Once again, analytics show that good calls aren’t always conventional and don’t always result in wins and bad calls don’t always result in loses. The one sure thing is that every decision matters and it’s important to make the ones that give your team the best chance to win the game.
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