Week 16 BEST & WORST Decisions (2020) - EdjVarsity

Week 16 BEST & WORST Decisions (2020)

This week we’ll take a look at the MIA @ LV game. A match up with playoff implications for both teams.

A wild final 3 minutes

With 3:08 remaining in the 4th quarter the Dolphins scored a TD on a 59-yard catch and run by (RB) M. Gaskin, to take the lead by 1-point (after the successful PAT). The touchdown increased the Dolphins win probability by +19.3% (from 30.8% to 50.1%). 

After the ensuing kickoff and touchback, the Raiders took possession (trailing by 1-point) at the LV 25-yard line with 2:55 remaining and 3 timeouts (MIA had 2 timeouts). On 2nd down, the Raiders attempted a deep pass and the Dolphins were called for Defensive Pass Interference. Enforcement of the penalty flipped the field and spotted the ball at the MIA 22-yard line. This penalty was as valuable as the previous Dolphins TD, increasing the Raiders win probability by +19.5% (from 50.0% to 69.5%).

Take the TD or Attempt the FG

Five plays later, the Raiders faced a 1st & Goal from the MIA 8-yard line and a Dolphins defense that appeared willing to let the Raiders score a quick TD, in hopes of preserving as much time as possible for their own offense to mount a comeback drive. As a result, the Raiders faced two very interesting choices – take the TD (to take a 5-point lead and face a 2PAT with the opportunity to go up 7 and leave about one-minute on the clock) OR commit to a FG attempt (a successful conversion would provide LV with a 2-point lead and leave about 20 seconds on the clock). In both cases MIA would have no timeouts.  On 1st and 2nd down the Raiders appeared to intentionally avoid scoring a TD. 

Let’s take a closer look at the win probabilities associated with each 3rd down option, customized for how these two teams match up and the different game states.  

Raiders score a TD and attempt a 2PAT (to go up by 7 points)

With 1:00 minute remaining and trailing by 5 points, the Dolphins are expected to win this game 10.3% of the time – which conversely means the Raiders win probability is 89.7%.

Raiders successfully convert FG

With 20 seconds remaining and trailing by 2 points, the Dolphins are expected to win this game 6.6% of the time – which conversely means the Raiders win probability is 93.4%.

Obviously, at this point in the game the decay of the clock is a huge factor. And, Coach Gruden’s decision will be questioned (mainly because the Raiders lost). However, based on how these teams match up and the game state Coach Gruden made the correct decision in committing to running time off the clock and attempting the FG, which was the better option by a margin of +3.7%. 

4th quarter QB change

Earlier in the 4th quarter, the Dolphins and Coach Flores faced an equally challenging decision of their own.

Through the first 3 quarters of action, the Dolphins scored only 13 points (on field goals in the 1st and 2nd quarters and a TD on their first drive of the 3rd quarter). At the beginning of the 4th quarter the Dolphins trailed the Raiders by 3 points. And, on their first drive of the final quarter the Dolphins offense went 3 and out, for the third consecutive time in this game. In an effort to provide his offense with a much-needed spark, Coach Flores replaced (QB) T. Tagovailoa with (QB) R. Fitzpatrick with 9:47 remaining. 

In hindsight, most people will overlook this decision because the Dolphins win the game. But, let’s take a closer look at the numbers to evaluate this decision. For this analysis, we’ll compare these QB’s in terms of their overall win probability gains/losses on 1st, 2nd, 3rd downs. In other words, we’ll use win probability to evaluate play execution (i.e. measure effectiveness).

From the chart above, the difference on 1st downs immediately stands out. With Tagovailoa in, on seventeen 1st down attempts the Dolphins overall win probability decreased slightly (-2.6%). The most effective plays were two run plays that each increased MIA’s win probability by +2%. With Fitzpatrick in, on nine 1st down attempts the Dolphins saw huge win probability increases (+100.4%). Fitzpatrick had four pass plays that produced double-digit win probability increases (12.2%, 19.3%, 43.0%, and 32.4%). Note: Fitzpatrick’s totals exceed 100% because they do not occur on consecutive plays and, as a result, gains can be offset but subsequent offensive and defensive plays.

On 2nd downs, overall win probability decreased for the Dolphins with both quarterbacks. On 3rd downs, with Tagovailoa the Dolphins win probability decreased (-22.8%) and with Fitzpatrick their win probability increased (+5.6%), for a net difference of +28.4% in favor of Fitzpatrick. 

Long story short, not many coaches would have had the courage to make the QB change, but Coach Flores did and the Dolphins’ win probability gains on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd downs prove that he made the correct decision. 

Notable High School Calls of the Week

Euless Trinity Trojans (TX) vs. Allen Eagles (TX)

With just under a minute left in regulation and leading 49-45, Coach Jensen and the Trojans faced a 4th and 4 at the Eagles 24 yard-line. Coach Jensen made the correct decision and went for it, instead of attempting a 41-yard FG. The decision increased the Trojan’s (pre-snap) win probability by +2%. And, after successfully converting, the Trojans were able to kneel and run out the clock to win a tough 3rd round playoff matchup.

Rockwall Yellow Jackets (TX) vs. DeSoto Eagles (TX)

Trailing 27-30 with 6:24 remaining in the 4th quarter, Rockwall faced a 4th and 1 from the DeSoto 46-yard line. Coach Trey Brooks made the correct decision by going for it instead of punting, increasing the Yellow Jackets (pre-snap) win probability by +10%, in this Texas 6A Division I playoff matchup.

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. 

Bottom Line

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. 

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.