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 Post subject: Should the Falcons Have Punted?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 5:51 pm 
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Should the Falcons Have Punted?

Down 17 to 14 with 2:52 left to play, the Falcons faced a 4th and 6 from their own 43-yard line. With two timeouts and the two-minute warning in their pocket, they chose to punt, hoping to make a stop and get the ball back with enough time to tie or win in a final drive. Did head coach Mike Smith make the right call?

A punt in this situation typically nets 37 yards, which would give the Saints a first down at their own 20. This would give the Falcons a 0.15 Win Probability (WP).

Fourth-and-6 attempts outside the red zone are successful about 44% of the time. A success gives the Falcons a first down at (at least) their 49-yard line, worth 0.37 WP. A failure giving the Saints the ball at Atlanta's 43 would mean a 0.12 WP for the Falcons. All would not be lost. A stop or even allowing a FG still gives the Falcons time for a TD drive, which when all four downs are available are successful more often than many realize.

In total, the fourth down conversion attempt would be worth:

0.44 * 0.37 + (1 - 0.44) * 0.12 = 0.23 WP

The conversion attempt would have been the percentage play, by a margin of 0.23 to 0.15. In fact, in terms of WP, it's more than half-again better than punting. One way to think of it is that the Falcons' decision to punt lopped between a third and a half off of their chance of winning.

I think game-specific considerations would tend to favor going for the conversion and keeping the ball out of the Drew Brees' hands. Normally offenses ahead in that situation are very reluctant to do anything but run straight ahead, making them predictable and easy to stop. But the Saints trust Brees to make completions. In any case, neither team was playing far from league-average Monday night, with a total of 31 points on the board.

Ultimately, the Falcons allowed two first downs and never got the ball back, falling 17-14.

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 Post subject: Re: Should the Falcons Have Punted?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 9:38 pm 
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I think the decision to punt at this point in the game was a huge mistake! I really can't see any merit in Smitty's choice here. If we had gone for it and not converted, at least we would have gone down fighting, and just maybe we would have made it and gone on to score. By punting, our fate was sealed.

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 Post subject: Re: Should the Falcons Have Punted?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 9:43 pm 
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Yeah, this was an obvious bad call. with 5 minutes, it's different. Then, it matters what field position you give them.

But with 3:00 left, it's just about time. You don't care if they kick a field goal, because if they're able to get the yardage necessary to kick a field goal, then they would be able to get the yardage necessary to run out the clock.

There's no upside to punting. The only advantage you get at all is field position if you hold them to a 3 and out.

So, is getting the ball with 30 yards better field position IF YOU HOLD THEM worth the risk of not holding them to a 3 and out? I don't think it's even close.


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 Post subject: Re: Should the Falcons Have Punted?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 10:24 pm 
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Mike's asshole may have tightened up on this one a little. I'm trying to recall which game it was in the past where he did the same thing...take it out of Matt's hands and put it on the defense. He has been pretty ballsy going on 4th down all year. It almost worked and the Saints did not play it close to the vest by running into the line three times...and almost paid for it had the fumble not been overturned. Our last three downs were not too encouraging but that has happened before and all of a sudden Matt Ryan turns into Matty Ice and we are off to the races. Easy to say now but I think it was a bad call. You beat the Saints by keeping their O off the field.

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 Post subject: Re: Should the Falcons Have Punted?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 11:44 pm 
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Well you guys would be signing a different tune if the fumbled that was challenged and won; was in fact our ball.

I wanted Smith to go for it, but his logic was fine. We could give up one first down and still get the ball back.....

We gave up two so game's over. We just finished finding ways to win for 8 weeks and didn't pull it off Monday night,
so to bad..... Now we've lost 3.......big deal!!

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 Post subject: Re: Should the Falcons Have Punted?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 12:14 am 
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I also thought it was a bad call with just 3 minutes left with only 2 timeouts. I thought he was going to go for it :(

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 Post subject: Re: Should the Falcons Have Punted?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 12:43 am 
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Cyril wrote:
Well you guys would be signing a different tune if the fumbled that was challenged and won; was in fact our ball.

I wanted Smith to go for it, but his logic was fine. We could give up one first down and still get the ball back.....

We gave up two so game's over. We just finished finding ways to win for 8 weeks and didn't pull it off Monday night,
so to bad..... Now we've lost 3.......big deal!!

Cyril I agree it's not a huge loss, but I disagree(d) with the call to punt. Ryan didn't help us by throwing into triple coverage to try to hit Douglass down the middle on 3rd and 6, but 4th and 6 is still pretty doable. Probably 50% chance when Ryan is on and still maybe 40% yesterday.

And what's the worst case if we hadn't converted? Saints get the ball closer to our end, but they still need those same 2 first downs to win the game. And if we failed to convert 4th down and then held them to 3 and out, we would have still gotten the ball back on our own 20 with 2 minutes left. So going for it would have given us 2 ways to win the game instead of just 1.


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 Post subject: Re: Should the Falcons Have Punted?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 4:06 am 
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I thought the call to punt was a bad one in the situation. Granted Matt Ryan wasn't all that great during the game but I'd rather have Ryan on 4th & 6 than our defense that clearly ran out of gas at the end of the game and showed little resistance to the Saints at that point.

Considering how many times Smitty has rolled the dice on 4th down this season it seemed like a weak play call coming from "The Gambler."

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 Post subject: Re: Should the Falcons Have Punted?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 10:12 am 
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backnblack wrote:
Mike's asshole may have tightened up on this one a little. I'm trying to recall which game it was in the past where he did the same thing...take it out of Matt's hands and put it on the defense. He has been pretty ballsy going on 4th down all year. It almost worked and the Saints did not play it close to the vest by running into the line three times...and almost paid for it had the fumble not been overturned. Our last three downs were not too encouraging but that has happened before and all of a sudden Matt Ryan turns into Matty Ice and we are off to the races. Easy to say now but I think it was a bad call. You beat the Saints by keeping their O off the field.

playing the Saints 2008. almost the exact same scenario, 3 minutes left down by less then a TD, Smitty punts and we never get the ball back

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 Post subject: Re: Should the Falcons Have Punted?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 10:23 am 
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I need to see the stat where NFL success rate for a 4th & 6 is 44%???? That seems way too high.


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 Post subject: Re: Should the Falcons Have Punted?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 12:29 pm 
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To take the other side, our offense was not "right" that night and the defense was keeping them pretty well bottled up. I like the birds chances with 45 or so seconds from our 45 to get 3 rather than the 20 to get 3 or 7 (if the Molemen get a figgie).

It is not a bad call, it is just a call that did not work.`

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 Post subject: Re: Should the Falcons Have Punted?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 1:02 pm 
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Wease wrote:
To take the other side, our offense was not "right" that night and the defense was keeping them pretty well bottled up. I like the birds chances with 45 or so seconds from our 45 to get 3 rather than the 20 to get 3 or 7 (if the Molemen get a figgie).

It is not a bad call, it is just a call that did not work.`


Agree. 4th & 6 is an obvious passing situation. New Orleans would have known that. They would have sent everyone or dropped 8 in coverage. Either way the percentage of making it was very low.

I doubt even Big-Balled Belichek would have went for it in that situation.


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 Post subject: Re: Should the Falcons Have Punted?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 2:06 pm 
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I disagree, the percentage of making it certainly wasn't high. But the odds of you getting a stop on defense, then getting the ball back with good field position and getting into field goal range aren't any higher.

Smitty made a mistake. Was it the worst call in the history of mankind? No. Is it the conventional, conservative wisdom that most coaches show in those situations? Yes. But he essentially took the ball out of his QB's hands, who has led SEVERAL come from behind wins this season, and put it in Drew Brees hands to win it. Had Chase Daniel been the QB, it would be a different story. But he did the same thing in Week 1, he got scared and instead of settling for overtime, this time he decided to punt.

The odds of getting a stop at the point are very low, since the Falcons hadn't forced a 3 & out in 33 minutes in that game.

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 Post subject: Re: Should the Falcons Have Punted?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 2:15 pm 
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That's how it looks to me too, Pudge. From the 43 either we stop the Saints and get pinned deep with a punt, they make it a six point game via FG or they run out the clock or score a TD, either of which seals it. It's a tough call to make no matter how you slice it and 20/20 hindsight is crystal clear. As noted, it almost worked had the fumble not been over turned. Payton plays a bit less conservatively than Smith but, then, he has Brees and we have Ryan and their supporting casts so it isn't apples to apples. Our big play potential is too small to give us a chance to swing a haymaker as some teams do. Whether it is arm strength, general timidity or what I don't know but the downfield shots need to be more often. The one to Jenkins on the PI play paid dividends---or, at least should have.

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 Post subject: Re: Should the Falcons Have Punted?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 2:32 pm 
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Whether it is arm strength, general timidity or what I don't know but the downfield shots need to be more often.


Nothing wrong with Ryan's arm....he is being coached not to take shots down the field. Smitty doesn't want penalties or turnovers. Our passing game is an extension of the running game. Our playbook consists of timing patterns and throwing to a spot.


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 Post subject: Re: Should the Falcons Have Punted?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 2:33 pm 
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It's not hindsight, I made the comment at the time that he should have gone for it: http://twitter.com/falcfans/status/19612274150871041

WIth less than 3 minutes on the clock, to me it's a no brainer that you go for it. Had there been 45 seconds or another minute left on the clock, it would be more ambiguous as to whether to go or punt would have been the right decision. But in that situation, with just 3 minutes, you're basically playing for the best possible scenario of having a little more than a minute to go and having to go 50 yards to get into field goal range.

To me, you're in a situation where you can go for it now, and get 35 yards, or HOPE to get a stop and then have to go 50 yards to do the same thing with likely 2 less minutes of clock.

Obviously the downside is that you don't get the 4th down conversion, and the Saints go in for 6 and end the game. But IMO, your "fear" of losing the game at that point is pretty ridiculous since you're already down 3 points.

Had the score been tied, it's a different scenario. But when you're down 3 points with 3 minutes to go, you're put in a situation where you MUST do something to try and win the game. But instead, Smitty opted to give the ball back to the Saints, and said "Hey, you guys try to seal the win."

The issue of the "fumble" is irrelevant because it was never a fumble. The whole "if the fumble had not been overturned..." logic is completely irrelevant to this debate or whether going for it or punting was the right call.

Hopefully someone will tell Smitty, "Hey man, you probably should have went for it on second thought." And he says, "Yeah, you're probably right." And this is a learning experience.

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 Post subject: Re: Should the Falcons Have Punted?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 3:24 pm 
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In addition to what Pudge said, this was a game where we had nothing to lose. Losing the game costs us absolutely nothing. That's the perfect position to take a risk. Also, for the Saints to have put an additional 3 points on the board, they would have had to drive at least 15 yards. The defense would have had to get a 3 and out in either case.


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 Post subject: Re: Should the Falcons Have Punted?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 3:51 pm 
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RobertAP wrote:
In addition to what Pudge said, this was a game where we had nothing to lose. Losing the game costs us absolutely nothing. That's the perfect position to take a risk. Also, for the Saints to have put an additional 3 points on the board, they would have had to drive at least 15 yards. The defense would have had to get a 3 and out in either case.

True. Ths non-fumble indeed is an issue. The issue is that there is always th echance that the opther team turns it over...like we did at the two yard line or the Rams did at the four. Your defense causing a TO with even better field pos may be unlikely but it is not irrelevent in your decision making process and the fact that there was a play where there was even an arguable fumble...even if the argument is miniscule...makes it part of the discussion.

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 Post subject: Re: Should the Falcons Have Punted?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 3:55 pm 
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this was a game where we had nothing to lose. Losing the game costs us absolutely nothing.


Was hoping you were going to be sobered off by today. Guess not. :angel:


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 Post subject: Re: Should the Falcons Have Punted?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 4:20 pm 
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backnblack wrote:
RobertAP wrote:
In addition to what Pudge said, this was a game where we had nothing to lose. Losing the game costs us absolutely nothing. That's the perfect position to take a risk. Also, for the Saints to have put an additional 3 points on the board, they would have had to drive at least 15 yards. The defense would have had to get a 3 and out in either case.

True. Ths non-fumble indeed is an issue. The issue is that there is always th echance that the opther team turns it over...like we did at the two yard line or the Rams did at the four. Your defense causing a TO with even better field pos may be unlikely but it is not irrelevent in your decision making process and the fact that there was a play where there was even an arguable fumble...even if the argument is miniscule...makes it part of the discussion.

Yeah, there is a chance that you get a turnover. But not a very big chance. If you're counting on your team to make a strip in that situation, then that means something has gone wrong.

Think about it, there are 256 games in an NFL season, and how many times is there a turnover when a team is trying to run out the clock? If that happened a half dozen times over the course of the season, we would be be going nuts. So you're right, it's part of the discussion, but a 1 or 2% chance should not really factor into your decision making.

The chances the Saints fumble or turn it over in that situation are tiny, and should not sway Smitty in any way about whether he decides to punt.

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 Post subject: Re: Should the Falcons Have Punted?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 4:35 pm 
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The issue of the "fumble" is irrelevant because it was never a fumble. The whole "if the fumble had not been overturned..." logic is completely irrelevant to this debate or whether going for it or punting was the right call.
*****************************************************************************
Its not irrelevant to me since we had forced fumbles for our defense before and this was a fumble on the
playing field...... What do you mean it never was a fumble, that's what it was called during the play!! The whole
point of punting was having time to get the ball back anyway we could!!

I'm not crazy about even getting into these debates because I have accepted that punting was
NOT a " no brainer " even if I wish we would have gone for it..... I probably take most exception that
Coach Smith was afraid of losing? We were only winning about 6-9 minutes of the whole game.....

Our third down conversions were also terrible Monday night as compared to other weeks but the Saints
had a lot to do with this......so other stats aren't as important to me as the ones we'd had up till that point in the fourth quarter.

I'm responding to the issue that going for it on forth down was a "no brainer"...... I disagree, but then I wanted
"afterwards" for Ryan to have called a Qb sneak when Turner fumbled....

If it was a "no brainer" everybody on all networks would be calling that decision into question...... However I do wish
he's have gone for it, but even today I doubt we'd had gotten it.... We can kick this around till next week and its
good conversation, but its certainly not that call that lost us the game, many many other reasons....

Ps. We had nothing to lose? That's BS. If we win, we can emotionally know where we stand, and now we better be
up as hell for Carolina...... Losing changes a lot of our options for Sunday!!

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 Post subject: Re: Should the Falcons Have Punted?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 4:39 pm 
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I wanted Ryan to sneak before Turner's fumble, however, there was apparently something wrong with MM and Smith's headsets and they didn't hear me? The rusty hoof nail that turned the course of the world....

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 Post subject: Re: Should the Falcons Have Punted?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 5:10 pm 
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AngryJohnny51 wrote:
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this was a game where we had nothing to lose. Losing the game costs us absolutely nothing.


Was hoping you were going to be sobered off by today. Guess not. :angel:

Am I wrong in this assessment? Was there any reason at all to be conservative for this game?


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 Post subject: Re: Should the Falcons Have Punted?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 10:40 pm 
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Yes your so wrong to say this game didn't make any difference its almost to stupid a statement to respond too.

You keep asking so I'll keep explaining!! If we win Monday we're the number 1 seed in the playoffs and have a bye.

Now that we didn't win our only option is to win Sunday.... We can't sit someone who may be hurt, can't give veterans
like Abe a breather, we lose so many options its ridicules.....

YES your not only wrong with your assessments; you've shown a TOTAL LACK of football understanding? You keep
embarrassing yourself with your childish screams after a loss that the game was fixed or the coaches should be fired.

Robert Wrote: this was a game where we had nothing to lose. Losing the game costs us absolutely nothing.
Robert Wrote: Am I wrong in this assessment?

Your asking if your assessment is wrong, OK Here's the Truth; its wrong, its ignorant, and stupid..... something a 5 year old would say!! Maybe the dumbest statement I've read in 10 years, so I figure you just want the attention.

Dang I thought you were better than this, but obviously this year has needed to be about you getting attention.

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 Post subject: Re: Should the Falcons Have Punted?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 12:19 am 
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Cyril wrote:
Its not irrelevant to me since we had forced fumbles for our defense before and this was a fumble on the playing field...... What do you mean it never was a fumble, that's what it was called during the play!!

Yeah, but when was the last time the Falcons defense forced a fumble? The opening play of the Carolina game? So what is that we had played almost 12 quarters, between that point. Like I said, thinking we could force the fumble or any turnover in that situation is just a hope. Coaches should not operate on hopes.

As I said, if you're put in a situation where you need to hope for a turnover, you've done something wrong. How many times does the average NFL team turn the ball over per game? 2 times? So on any given play during an NFL game, you have roughly a 3% chance of forcing a turnover? Those odds don't go up in the final minutes of a ball game when the other team takes extra steps to prevent a turnover.

Cyril wrote:
If it was a "no brainer" everybody on all networks would be calling that decision into question...... However I do wish he's have gone for it, but even today I doubt we'd had gotten it.... We can kick this around till next week and its good conversation, but its certainly not that call that lost us the game, many many other reasons....

I've seen quite a few talking heads criticize the move, but for the most part most have them have spent more time jerking off the Saints to really care about "the decision." Had it been the Patriots and Colts, it would be examined to death, but since it's the Falcons, no one really cares because they weren't supposed to win the game anyway (that's according to them, not me). :roll:

Cyril wrote:
Ps. We had nothing to lose? That's BS. If we win, we can emotionally know where we stand, and now we better be up as hell for Carolina...... Losing changes a lot of our options for Sunday!!

Huh? We didn't have anything to lose at that point in the game because we were already down 3 points. Playing conservatively when you don't have a lead is completely retarded. Conservative playing = playing not to lose, and what's the point of playing not to lose when you're already losing?

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