Week 4 BEST & WORST Decisions (2020) - EdjVarsity

Week 4 BEST & WORST Decisions (2020)

For the Best and Worst Decisions from Week 4 we’re going to focus on special teams and player execution…

BEST Decision (Special Teams) – DET vs NO

Late in the 4th quarter the Lions trailed the Saints by 14 points.  After scoring a TD and cutting the deficit to 8 points, Coach Patricia made an unconventional (and correct) decision to attempt a 2-PAT. 

Based on our Edj Power Indexes (EPIs), heading into this game the Lions were a slight underdog.  And, attempting a 1-PAT in this situation would have been playing for overtime, where the game essentially resets, and they remain an underdog.  The Lions decision shows they were playing to win the game in regulation. 

Below is an overview of the analytics behind attempting a 2-PAT after cutting deficit to 8 points…  Note:  It’s important to keep in mind that regardless of this PAT decision (1-PAT or 2-PAT) and execution result (success or failure), DET still needs to score another TD to win (or tie) the game and NFL teams are expected to convert 2-PAT attempts more than 50% of the time.

Let’s take a closer look at the three most likely options:

In short, attempting the 2-PAT after this first TD is the correct decision because it gives the Lions the most options (i.e. the most chances) to go on to win the game.

Good Call Coach Patricia!

WORST Decision (Penalties from Player Execution) – NYJ vs DEN

Although this game ended with the Broncos winning by 9 points, the game was much closer than the score suggests.  In fact, with 6:23 remaining in the game the Jets converted a FG to take a 28-27 lead.  And, the Broncos kicked a FG with 3:08 remaining to retake a 2-point lead before scoring a late-TD, for the game’s final points with 1:48 remaining. 

In such a close game, it makes sense to look for decisions or events that decreased either team’s win probability.  In the case of the Jets, an area that stands out is penalties.  The NYJ players committed fouls that cost their team -26% in win probability.  That’s over a quarter of a game!

Based on our EPIs and the game states, here’s a summary of the NYJ fouls and their costs:

It’s not hard to imagine a different outcome in this game, if the Jets had not committed these penalties. 

Notable Execution Error (Muffed Punt) – Week 2 CAR @ TB

Although this play occurred in Week 2, since we’re looking at special teams and penalties this week, I wanted to highlight this execution error in the context of win probability. 

With 12:00 remaining in the 4th quarter, the Panthers trailed the Buccaneers by 7 points.  On 4th and 5 from their own 42-yard line the Bucs punted, and the Panthers return man signaled for a fair-catch at the CAR 10-yard line.  He muffed the punt reception and luckily for the Panthers the ball deflected out of bounds.

Let’s take a look at the three possible outcomes on this type of play:

Based on the above numbers the “Risk” is 3% (10%-7%), the “Reward” is 1% (11%-10%) and the required success rate is 75%, calculated as 3% / (3% + 1%).  In other words, this returner has to successfully field this punt reception at least 75% of the time for it to be considered the correct decision.  In the NFL, players successfully field punts 97% of the time so this was the correct decision, despite the execution error.  Note: If we assume the punt is not downed at the 1-yard line, the required success rate is even higher.

The larger point here for teams at the collegiate and high school levels is to use analytics to better understand whether or not fielding a punt (especially fair-catching a punt deep inside your own territory) is the best decision. By using analytics, you can make more informed decisions – We’ve seen several high school games where the required success rate was above 90%.  Sometimes, the best decision is to not attempt to field the punt. 

Notable High School Calls of the Week

Gainesville High School Red Elephants (GA) at Forsyth Central Bulldogs (GA)

Late in the 1st quarter and trailing by 7 points, Gainesville faced a 4th and 6 at the at the Forsyth Central 41-yard line. Gainesville Coach Webb made the correct call by deciding to go for it, increasing his team’s chances to go on to win the game by +5%.

Hoover Buccaneers (AL) vs Hewitt-Trussville Huskies (AL)

In a clash of Alabama titans, in the 3rd quarter with 4:33 remaining the Buccaneers trailed the Huskies by 12 points and faced a 4th and 4 from the Huskies 39-yard line.  By deciding to go for it, Coach Niblett made the correct call, increasing his team’s chances of going on to win the game by +5%. Despite not converting on this play, the Buccaneers went on to mount a comeback and win the game!

Great calls Coaches!

Submit your play of the week here

Bottom Line

Analytics can be used to evaluate decisions in terms of play calling and player execution, in all facets of the game (ie. offense, defense, and special teams).  Every decision matters and it’s important for coaches and players to make the ones that give their team’s the best chance to win the game.  For more information about how coaches are using analytics to make better decisions, visit www.edjvarsity.com.

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