This week we’ll take a look at two games with playoffs implications (MIN @ TB and IND @ LV) and focus on the impact of 3rd down decisions and player execution, during the first 3 quarters of the game.
For the purposes this analysis, we’ll classify all 3rd down play outcomes as either a “success” or “fail”. Success is defined as scoring a TD, gaining enough yards to gain a 1st down, or gaining enough yards to reach 4th down “GO” territory (using a 3% “GO” recommendation as the threshold). A fail is defined as any other result. This evaluation of 3rd down attempts also takes into account the impact of penalties. Ultimately, this enables a comparison of win probability gains/losses that can be attributed to 3rd down execution, in the first 3 quarters of these games.
MIN @ TB: 3rd down execution in Q1, Q2, and Q3
MIN faced thirteen 3rd downs. They successfully executed on 5 plays (2 passes, 2 runs, and 1 penalty), increasing their win probability by +8.1%. And, they failed to execute on 8 plays (5 passes, 1 run, and 2 penalties), decreasing their win probability by -19.3%. Their overall team net on these 3rd downs was -11.2%
TB faced eight 3rd downs. They successfully executed on 4 plays (1 pass and 3 runs), increasing their win probability by +28.2%. And, they failed to execute on 4 plays (3 passes and 1 run), decreasing their win probability by -12.9%. Their overall team net on these 3rd downs was +15.3%.
While most people will focus on the missed FG attempts, as the reason for why MIN lost this game, the 26.5% difference in 3rd down win probability (in the first three quarters, alone), suggests this game was decided by more than poor FG execution.
IND @ LV: 3rd down execution in Q1, Q2, and Q3
IND faced twelve 3rd downs. They successfully executed on 8 plays (5 passes and 3 runs), increasing their win probability by +32.5%. And, they failed to execute on 4 plays (2 passes and 2 penalties), decreasing their win probability by -7.4%. Their overall team net on these 3rd downs was +25.1%.
LV faced ten 3rd downs. They successfully executed on 6 plays (4 passes and 2 runs), increasing their win probability by +30.5%. And, they failed to execute on 4 plays (4 passes), decreasing their win probability by -21.7%. Their overall team net on these 3rd downs was +8.8%.
The Colts went on to win big, but heading into the 4th quarter this was a 7-point game and the 16.3% difference in 3rd down win probability is definitely part of the reason why.
These two games are great examples of how to use analytics to better understand decisions and execution in the context of win probability (and, also why the context of how the teams match up and the game state matters). Teams that leverage analytics are at a significant competitive advantage – which is especially critical at this time of the year where playoffs berths (and jobs) are on the line.
Notable High School Calls of the Week
Milton Eagles (GA) vs. Lowndes Vikings (GA)
With 10:36 remaining in the 4th quarter and trailing 10-7, Coach Clack and the Eagles faced a 4th & 3 from the Vikings 35 yard-line. By deciding to go for it instead of attempting a long FG, Coach Clack made the correct decision, increasing his team’s (pre-snap) win probability by +10%. The Eagles would go on to lose 23-13 to Lowndes in this GHSAA quarterfinal matchup between two Georgia HS powerhouses but in this game (and throughout the past several seasons) Coach Clack put his team in the best position to win with great decisions.
Caldwell County Tigers (KY) vs. Murray Tigers (KY)
With 8:58 remaining in the 4th quarter and the game tied 28-28, Caldwell County faced a 4th and 1 on the Murray 18-yard line. Coach Barnes decided to go for it, and it was the correct call. His decision increased Caldwell County’s (pre-snap) win probability by 10%.
Great calls Coaches!
Submit your play of the week here.
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.
For more information about how coaches are using analytics to make better decisions, visit www.edjvarsity.com.