Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

16 Jan 2017

Clutch Encounters: Divisional Round

by Scott Kacsmar

Now that's more like the competitive NFL playoffs we are used to seeing, even if there have only been two drives in eight playoff games where the team with possession was down by fewer than eight points in the fourth quarter. The eight-point lead was in vogue in this divisional-round weekend, with three of the games featuring a team defending such a lead. All three teams won, though we saw one team allow the game to be tied, another give up the touchdown (but not the two-point conversion), and the other stop a rally dead in its tracks after one snap. Even if you missed the entire weekend of action, you probably could have guessed which games had which outcome.

Where you may have been fooled, though, is in the fact that Seattle-Atlanta was not one of the three close games. For the third time in the last eight games, Seattle lost after trailing by multiple scores for the entire second half. This is a huge departure from the team that had a lead or was within one score in the fourth quarter for 98 straight games, far and away the NFL record.

As for the Falcons, is it hard to believe that this franchise is going to its fourth NFC Championship Game since 1998? In that same time, the Cowboys have not been there once, and our game of the week starts in Dallas with a loss that will sting for a while, even if this team's future looks to be very bright.

Game of the Week

Green Bay Packers 34 at Dallas Cowboys 31

Type: GWD
Head Coach: Mike McCarthy (16-45-1 at 4QC and 25-47-1 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers (10-34 at 4QC and 17-36 overall 4QC/GWD record)

Overtime, you thought? Over Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers' dead bodies. The duo has an 0-7 overtime record together, including three playoff defeats. Overall, McCarthy is 1-8-1 in overtime in his career, but this time he was going to get the win on the final play of the game, even if he had to first blow an 18-point lead and then lean heavily on kicker Mason Crosby to get there.

When the Packers took a 21-3 lead halfway through the second quarter, this was looking like a ninth-straight NFL playoff game headed for a final margin of 13-plus points. Fortunately, the Dallas offense responded in a big way with 28 points on its final six drives, as only an interception on a screen by Dak Prescott stopped the Cowboys from scoring the rest of the way. The defense also stepped up, limiting the damage of Prescott's pick with an interception of Rodgers by Jeff Heath. Though Dallas still trailed 28-13 to start the fourth quarter, we were in store for an instant classic finish.

Where Prescott excelled this season was in the range of passes thrown 5 to 15 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. That range really takes advantage of the strengths of Cole Beasley (short), Jason Witten (medium) and Dez Bryant (long). In the first three quarters, Dallas was leaning too heavily on screens and bombs. The Cowboys were not a good screen team all year, but the bombs weren't falling for Prescott either. He narrowly avoided picks on a number of his deep attempts. But once the Cowboys started getting Bryant heavily involved, the passing game complemented a productive game from Ezekiel Elliott (22 carries for 125 yards), and the offense looked like the unit we have come to expect.

Green Bay's defense also helped with soft coverage, like sitting in a zone into which Witten expertly squatted down for a 15-yard gain on third-and-14. Witten scored on the next play (his first ever playoff touchdown, which is hard to believe), and the Cowboys were down 28-20. If you look closely, left guard Ronald Leary definitely false started on the touchdown, but the officials missed that one.

Dallas started getting home with some blitzes of Rodgers, and Barry Church finished a third-down sack to get the offense the ball back with 9:14 left. Finally, this postseason had some drama in the final 10 minutes of a game. Prescott stuck to that medium range of passes, and Bryant was targeted five times on the 11-play drive. Ladarius Gunter was no matchup for Bryant, who beat him on a third-and-2 for a 7-yard touchdown. The quarterback draw is usually a great call with a player like Prescott, and that was the two-point conversion to tie the game with 4:08 left.

It wouldn't be the playoffs without a little officiating controversy. At the two-minute warning, Rodgers threw deep for Ty Montgomery, but the pass was overthrown and Heath came down with his second interception. However, Anthony Brown was penalized 10 yards for pass interference. He did grab Montgomery, but it also clearly happened while Rodgers still had the ball, so it should have been a 5-yard holding penalty instead. Either way, that's an automatic first down, but if they were applying the rules for pass interference as they did, then why shouldn't that pass have been deemed uncatchable for the offense? We just saw a call of uncatchable in Seattle last week on a closer play than this one. Pass interference was not the right call here.

When you get a first down at the opponent's 35, and they have all three timeouts left, you sure as hell should settle for a long field goal, right? Especially when your quarterback is Rodgers, right? That's what Green Bay did in a situation where another big pass or two could have set up Crosby for a chip-shot kick, as well as potentially draining all of the clock on Dallas. But two conservative runs buried Green Bay into a third-and-13, then Rodgers threw incomplete, saving Dallas a timeout and giving Crosby a tough 56-yard attempt. There was even justification for punting in this spot, since giving Dallas the ball at its own 46 after a miss would have been terrible with 1:33 left.

Crosby has developed a regular-season choker reputation, but he has been very solid in the playoffs, and we must give him significant credit for coming through again for the Packers. Crosby is 26-of-28 on field goals in the playoffs, and the two biggest makes of his career would happen in the game's last 100 seconds.

Still, Dallas had plenty of time to answer, and Dan Bailey is one of the best kickers in the NFL. After two completions for 35 yards out to the Green Bay 40, Prescott made the cardinal sin of spiking the ball on first down even though the Cowboys had a timeout left. We complain about this often, especially with the way the Steelers do this with Roethlisberger, but a spike is usually not worth wasting a down unless you absolutely have to stop the clock to set up a field goal. With a timeout and 50 seconds left, there was just no reason to spike the ball when you should have been able to call a play in the no-huddle there. A short throw and a pass batted down at the line left Dallas with no decision but to kick the field goal, and Bailey was good from 52 yards away with 35 seconds left.

Again, those 35 seconds may have been 20 seconds had the Cowboys not spiked the ball, and who knows what that first-down play could have produced if it had not been wasted. Now Rodgers had not only 35 seconds, but also two timeouts, which we know he can turn into a scoring drive.

Rodgers did an excellent job of not fumbling on a sack by Heath that could have been disastrous. Some teams may have packed it in for overtime after that scare, but Green Bay used a timeout with 18 seconds left. After getting to a third-and-20, Rodgers looked like he wanted another Hail Mary shot, which only needed to get into field-goal range this time as there were enough seconds left to use the final timeout for Crosby to come out for the win. However, Rodgers eschewed the big bomb for a smarter play to the sidelines that will probably go down as his big playoff highlight now, as well as the career highlight for tight end Jared Cook. We always pump up Cook more than we probably should (he was featured in this season's final ESPN Insider fantasy article, by the way) for his physical tools, but his production has never really been there. Well, on Sunday with Jordy Nelson out, Cook stepped up in top form with six grabs for 104 yards and a touchdown, none bigger than this 36-yard masterpiece.

The timeout that Dallas could have used in a constructive manner on its previous drive ended up going to a futile "icing the kicker" effort. Crosby nailed the practice kick, and he just cut in the real attempt too from 51 yards away at the gun to give Green Bay the 34-31 win. In the final 100 seconds, we saw kickers connect from 56, 52, and 51 yards (twice counting the warm-up kick). Eat your hearts out, Mike Vanderjagt and Billy Cundiff.

The game-winning one-minute drill led by Rodgers is just the third in the postseason since at least 1981. The last was Matt Ryan leading Atlanta to a 30-28 win over Seattle in the 2012 NFC divisional on a drive that started with 25 seconds left. The only other instance was Mark Sanchez leading the Jets to a 17-16 win in Indianapolis in the 2010 AFC wild card on a drive that started with 45 seconds left. So this was actually the first time in over three decades that a tie was broken on a drive that started in the final minute of regulation.

Green Bay will now head to Atlanta in an NFC Championship Game where defense will certainly be optional. Meanwhile, Dallas ends another season as a disappointing No. 1 seed, but Prescott and Elliott should have many more big games to come, and they played very well in their playoff debut. There is no shame in losing a game this way.

Clutch Encounters of the Losing Kind

Steelers at Chiefs: 3's and 2's

When Le'Veon Bell said he was changing the game like Steph Curry has in the NBA, did he mean the Steelers would start only going for three every drive? Six field goals by Chris Boswell, an NFL playoff record, were all the offense could muster in Kansas City, and yet that was fittingly enough to still beat an Alex Smith-led offense that only looked good on its first and final drives. Kansas City played some of the ultimate bend-but-don't-break defense as Pittsburgh gained at least 28 yards and moved inside the Kansas City 40 on eight of its first nine drives, but still only scored 18 points.

What the Chiefs failed to do was get considerable pressure on Ben Roethlisberger, who had a fairly clean night, but lived up to his recent "Road Ben" reputation for not throwing touchdowns away from Heinz Field. The Chiefs also could not get the game-changing turnovers they got more than anyone else in the regular season, save for a tipped red-zone pick by Eric Berry. Marcus Peters broke up a touchdown to Antonio Brown, but otherwise, Kansas City's stars had a quiet night. Well, stud pass-rusher Justin Houston was beat for a 52-yard gain when he was left covering Brown deep, but more on that later.

The same was true for an offense that went pass-happy behind Smith. Tyreek Hill only had seven touches for 45 yards on offense, and was contained on kickoffs, averaging 18.0 yards on four returns. All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce statistically goes down with a solid night: he had five catches for 77 yards, including four of the Chiefs' five longest gains, but he had a terrible drop late in the third quarter and took a ridiculous 15-yard penalty for knocking over Ross Cockrell after the whistle. The Chiefs were able to overcome a third-and-20 situation caused by Kelce after Smith actually threw a 20-yard pass -- neutral ALEX when we least expected it -- to Jeremy Maclin, but the veteran wideout only had one other catch on the night.

Jesse James may have been the best tight end on the field on Sunday night, and his fifth catch gave him 83 yards and set up Boswell's record-setting sixth field goal in a playoff game. Down 18-10 with 9:49 left, Smith put together one of the all-time playoff drives that few will remember outside of the part that failed. The Chiefs had to overcome a second-and-25, a third-and-9, and two fourth-down conversions to complete the 75-yard march. After Spencer Ware's 1-yard touchdown run, the Chiefs looked to have an easy game-tying two-point conversion pass, but the celebration was premature as left tackle Eric Fisher was rightfully penalized for holding on his block of James Harrison. The call was pretty much textbook, but there is no doubt that we see such contact allowed at times by officials. The part that really hurts if you're a Chiefs fan is the needlessness of this hold, because Harrison was never going to get to Smith on the play.

With the ball now spotted at the 12, Kansas City still had to go for two, but Smith's pass for Maclin was defensed in the end zone. Since that drive consumed 7:06 and a timeout, the Chiefs were only down to one timeout and 2:43 on the clock. I think Andy Reid needed to go onside kick here just to give his team an extra chance, no matter how unlikely, at getting the ball back. Field position was really irrelevant here, since one first down could have won the game for Pittsburgh. The Chiefs kicked deep, and the Steelers started at their own 5.

Now Bell was great on the night with 30 carries for 170 yards, but it was unlikely that he was going to just carry the offense to victory with obvious run calls in this spot. The last thing the Steelers could do was run three times, punt and put the defense in danger of allowing a field goal for a 19-18 loss. The Steelers needed to be aggressive, and while Roethlisberger was not great on the night, he was given two opportunities to pass the team into victory. His short completion on second down set up a huge third-and-3 at the two-minute warning.

With Brown and James accounting for more than 85 percent of Pittsburgh's receiving on the night, it was hard to believe that the Chiefs would let Brown get a free release in zone coverage to run across the field so that Roethlisberger could find him for a dagger 7-yard gain to end the game. When Houston is not one of the players rushing Roethlisberger on a third-and-season play, and he is instead in pass coverage with Brown again, something is very rotten with that defensive strategy.

Kansas City had one of its best seasons since the merger, but for all the good wins the team had, the fact is the Chiefs lost three of their last five home games, and did not allow 20 points in any of those losses. Only three other playoff teams in NFL history lost three home games in which they did not allow 20 points -- the 1980 Browns, 2001 Jets, and 2010 Jets. In the last six seasons, road teams were 3-23 in the playoffs when scoring fewer than 20 points, but the Steelers have an 18-16 road playoff win for the second year in a row after getting one in Cincinnati last season.

Texans at Patriots: Requiem for a Tall Quarterback

If the 16-point underdog Texans were to pull off the NFL's biggest upset since the merger, then they were going to have to avoid some of the usual pitfalls that plague teams in New England. A quick start would have been good, but Houston fell behind 14-3 in the first quarter after Dion Lewis scored on a 98-yard kick return touchdown against the league's 32nd-ranked special teams unit. The Patriots are 103-1 at home since 2001 when leading by at least eight points at any time in the game. Shortening the game also would have been a preferred underdog strategy. However, this game featured 29 offensive drives and Houston was just 3-of-16 on third down, with zero fourth-down attempts from coach Bill O'Brien. Finally, the Texans were going to need takeaways, and despite getting three that set the offense up inside the New England 35 each time, Houston only turned one of those opportunities into a touchdown. Settling for field goals is a surefire way to lose in New England.

For you see, despite a sloppy performance from the Patriots, the Texans were constantly dragged down by the anchor known as quarterback Brock Osweiler, the $72 Million Man. When Osweiler was benched for Tom Savage in Week 16, the thought was that Savage would remain the quarterback after he recovered from a concussion this past week. However, #PLAYOFFWINZ tend to do crazy things to the minds of decision-makers, and since Osweiler was not abhorrently dreadful against Oakland in the wild-card round, he remained the starter in New England while Savage was the backup again.

Would the game have been any different with Savage at quarterback? That is hard to say, but it would have been difficult for him to do worse than 181 yards on 43 dropbacks with three interceptions. When Osweiler misfired, he usually missed in embarrassing fashion against a New England defense that has taken advantage of one of the softest quarterback schedules any contender has ever seen (more on that later this week).

Despite the final score, the Patriots really struggled to put Houston away. Even at 24-13, this game did not feel quite over, even though history suggested it was. For all of his bad plays on the night, Osweiler did deliver one beautiful pass, only to see rookie Will Fuller live down to his reputation and drop a perfect 45-yard touchdown bomb in the end zone on a third-and-8 with 2:10 left in the third quarter. Tom Brady answered with one of his worst plays of the night, as he threw his second interception, matching his two-pick total from his 12-game regular season. Every team in NFL history for which we have stats for has thrown at least four interceptions in a season (including playoffs). While the 2016 season had the lowest interception rate ever (2.3 percent), the Patriots did not in fact break the game by figuring out how to not throw picks. This was also a testament to how well Houston's defense attacked Brady and frustrated this offense. Brady was sacked twice and hit eight more times.

Houston was back in business at the New England 34 after Brady's second pick, but soon faced a big third-and-4 as the game moved to the fourth quarter. Fourth-quarter comebacks almost never materialize in New England. Since 2001, the Patriots are 51-2 at home when defending a one-score lead in the fourth quarter.

Houston's next two plays from scrimmage sum up the hopelessness behind this rally attempt. On third-and-4, Houston sent three receivers deep for the end zone, while only one receiver was close to the sticks. Osweiler has many weaknesses, but the deep throws have especially plagued him going back to his time in Denver last season. A deep shot for tight end Ryan Griffin was especially hard to justify, and after a terrible throw, the Texans settled for another 46-yard field goal from Nick Novak with 14:51 left.

After the defense forced a punt, we had a legitimate fourth-quarter comeback opportunity, even if it involved Osweiler needing to lead an 89-yard touchdown drive with a two-point conversion just to tie the game. This is what the 2016 postseason is giving us in terms of drama. Of course, the drama ended immediately as Osweiler's first pass was badly overthrown to a wide-open DeAndre Hopkins, and Logan Ryan returned the pick to the Houston 6. Osweiler had a huge window to throw to, but he was late and very high with the throw, which was tipped into a pick.

Two plays later, Lewis was in the end zone for his third score of the night and the Patriots never felt threatened again. The only remaining drama was the point spread, and Osweiler made Vegas happy with his final interception in scoring territory to secure the 34-16 win for the Patriots -- about the ugliest 18-point playoff win a team could ever have.

Season Summary

Fourth-quarter comeback wins: 72
Game-winning drives: 85
Games with 4QC/GWD opportunity: 155/264 (58.7 percent)
10+ point comeback wins (any point in the game): 37 (and one tie)

Historic data on fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives can be found at Pro Football Reference. Screen caps come from NFL Game Pass.

Posted by: Scott Kacsmar on 16 Jan 2017

23 comments, Last at 17 Jan 2017, 5:45pm by Led

Comments

1
by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 4:44pm

"Even at 24-13, this game did not feel quite over, even though history suggested it was"

This is a surprising statement to me - the game felt over as soon as the Patriots figured out their protection schemes - which was right before they scored to make it 24-13. It was clear that HOU wasn't going to be able to drive the length of the field (and all their points came off short fields due to turnovers), and once it became clear that every Patriots drive was no longer going to be a 3-and-out or a turnover, the Patriots would win the game on field position alone, and the game was over.

2
by RickD :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 4:59pm

I agree - it felt over to me. At no point in the second half did I think the Texans had it in them to drive the length of the field to score a TD. They only got in the end zone after the Lewis fumble on the kickoff return.

Now if the Texans weren't being dragged down by a historically bad playoff offense, sure, the lead wasn't all that big. But somehow the Pats managed to play the only remaining playoff team with a terrible offense.

3
by ammek :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 5:04pm

Crosby has developed a regular-season choker reputation

I don't understand why writers on this site use words like "choker", especially without attribution. No kicker plays for 10 years if he can't handle pressure. Crosby has been above average on field goals during this decade, despite having one really rough year in 2012. The opinions of radio jocks and BTL commenters have no value; I see no need to refer to them.

Do the Packers have a reputation for blowing large fourth-quarter leads? They probably ought to, even when they somehow manage to hang on for a win. I know Scott has touched on this wrt to Dick LeBeau, but Green Bay's defense really cannot play zone at all, and with a banged-up secondary it is uglier than ever.

4
by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 5:09pm

Crosby has missed six game-tying or game-winning FGs in his career, though only one has come since 2013, and they were all usually 50+ yards away (and none happened in the playoffs). He was often one of the main scapegoats cited for Rodgers' poor 4QC/GWD records, though like I said, not many blemishes in recent years.

10
by ChrisLong :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 6:12pm

Can we get a percentage made in game-winning or game-tying opportunities? And comparison to other kickers in similar situations, or even to Crosby himself from similar distances not in GW or GT situations? Choking implies the player is worse than usual when the game is on the line. Yes he missed 6 times, but without other information it's hard to take that as anything but confirmation bias.

12
by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 6:20pm

My bad, it's five games, not six. I counted one where the Packers were down 5 at the time, so not really a clutch kick. In our file for 1989-2014, Crosby was 6-of-10 (60%) on clutch FGs, and that % ranked 52nd out of 59 kickers with at least 10 attempts. Throw in a miss against Detroit last year, a make here, and a make against Chicago, and he's still about 50th. Average distance of his attempts is slightly above average, but we're still taking middle of the pack stuff.

13
by big10freak :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 6:43pm

Crosby has been pretty good if not excellent from 2013 onward. He was arguably the best player on the field for GB in the NFC Championship game against Seattle including the tying field goal from 48 yards.

The only end of game kick I can find over the last four years that Crosby has missed was at home against Detroit last season. It was from 52 yards with the field all beat to crap and the ball got placed in what the holder described as a divot so Crosby chunked it.

Seems like reaching if folks are going to pull up old history to support a claim that nobody I can recall writing or stating over the last 3-4 years.

5
by t.d. :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 5:10pm

That was a devastating loss for the Cowboys, and it's hard not to feel the two peculiar penalty calls (15 yards for illegal substitution to kill the first drive, and the 'should have been holding, if not uncatchable' on the interception) weren't huge. Still, Aaron Rodgers is magic (think he's just moved ahead of Brady and Manning in my book, all time). That's two playoff losses in a row to the Packers on dubious (but not unjustifiable) calls, and it's hard to take the 'the future's really bright' arguments seriously in the wake of the loss (things looked bright in 2007, too). I thought Romo gav them a better chance this year, but, in retrospect, I'm glad they stuck with Dak- he's the future. Hope they do right by Romo and find a way to get him to Denver

8
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 5:31pm

Now, c'mon, I'm not one to defend the Packers, but it really is at odds with the facts to imply, if that is what you are doing, that the Cowboys got the worst of the bad calls yesterday. The Packers receivers were mugged a lot, without ever drawing a flag of any kind. Until somebody goes through the film play-by-play and tallies the missed calls, I'm very dubious about any assertion that one team got it worse than the other. The guys in stripes sucked in that game, but to say that one team suffered worse for it is just too much.

9
by t.d. :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 6:08pm

I didn't think they were awful calls, I thought they were unusual. Again, on top of the last playoff game ending on the 'Dez Bryant' rule, it just feels a little raw (doesn't seem like it's ever a good thing to have a rule become synonymous with you unless you're Brady, in which case it's OK, twice). In all honesty, having enjoyed the '90s Cowboys dynasty, which was greatly enabled by very loose interpretations of offensive pass interference regarding Michael Irvin, I'm not exactly complaining, but it still gnaws a little. Like I said, when Aaron Rodgers is as good as he was yesterday, I honestly don't think there's anything anybody can do; it's just tough losing a 50-50 game (and, as my team is stuck with the hard-to-embrace Garrett as coach, every good chance seems like it could be the last, for a while)

11
by ChrisLong :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 6:15pm

Personally, I was kind of hoping that the refs would change it to holding, as then McCarthy wouldn't have gone conservative and the game could've ended on that drive.

17
by Led :: Tue, 01/17/2017 - 12:40pm

Anybody know what, under the rules, qualifies as being "in the huddle"? On that 15 yard illegal substitution call, it appeared to me that the offending WR was always a couple of steps away from what I would call the "huddle" in plain english. But the rules don't necessarily follow plain english. I know the QB can prevent a "huddle" from forming by remaining a few steps away, so I would've thought other players could also avoid joining the "huddle" by remaining a few steps away. But again, the rule could be different. A quick google search on this came up empty.

20
by RickD :: Tue, 01/17/2017 - 3:28pm

The Cowboys had a lot of stupid mistakes early in the game - not only that illegal substitution, but the 12 men on the field penalty, and a 2nd 12 men on the field penalty that was barely averted by time out.

They were not ready to play at the start. I don't think enough has been said about how bad it was for them to fall 18 points behind. I know Rodgers' late-game heroics make for the better story, but the slow start was even more important in terms of why the Cowboys lost.

21
by Travis :: Tue, 01/17/2017 - 4:13pm

Anybody know what, under the rules, qualifies as being "in the huddle"?

GIF of the play for reference.

For what it's worth, the rule in question bars "approach[ing] the huddle and communicat[ing] with a teammate", not the more specific "being in the huddle."

"Huddle" defined (Rule 3-16): A Huddle is the action of two or more players in the field of play or in the end zone who, instead of assuming their normal position for the snap, free kick, or Fair Catch kick form a group for receiving instructions for the next play or for any other reason.

Not an NFL rule, so not official, but worth mentioning (NCAA Approved Ruling 3-5-3): Team A has 11 players in its huddle when A27 approaches the huddle (within 10 yards) as it breaks. RULING: Dead-ball foul.

23
by Led :: Tue, 01/17/2017 - 5:45pm

Thanks! That clears it up. He definitely approached the huddle and communicated with teammates.

6
by DezBailey :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 5:21pm

Scott - In regards to the Steelers/Chiefs...was that the first time the Steelers won a game in which Brown, Bell and Roethlisberger all played and none of the three scored a TD?

7
by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 5:26pm

Yes, that was the case. I was going to say the 12-6 Rams win from 2015 qualified, but Bell did actually score in that game, one that Roethlisberger left injured.

It's the first time the Steelers won a game without an offensive TD period since a 23-7 win over the Bengals in 2010 (pick-six by Woodley and Polamalu)

14
by DGL :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 6:43pm

> Field position was really irrelevant here, since one first down could have won the game for Pittsburgh.

I'm not sure that the former follows from the latter. One first down wins the game for Pittsburgh, so it doesn't matter where that first down happens. You have to compare what happens if KC holds the Steelers without a first down.

If the Chiefs onside kick and fail (about 90% likely), and then hold the Steelers, PIT is punting from around the KC 40 with about 1:15 left (assuming three plays with the clock stopping after first down (KC timeout) and second down (two-minute warning)). From the 40 they can punt high and directionally and have a very good chance of the ball being downed or OOB at around the 10 yard line, leaving the Chiefs needing to go 55 yards in about 1:05 with no timeouts to have a chance at a game-winning FG.

If the Chiefs kick deep and hold, the Steelers are punting from inside their own 20 so Hill comes into play - the same high and directional kick is needed to avoid a big return, but that gives up field position and makes it very likely that the Chiefs are getting the ball around midfield with the same 1:05 left - needing only about 15 yards.

It's not clear to me that the 10% chance of getting immediate possession outweighs the significantly easier task of moving 15 yards in 1:05 instead of 55.

If the Steelers go out with their normal kickoff return unit, then I think you go onside because of the higher chance of success - but once the hands team is on the field, I think kicking deep is the right decision.

> The part that really hurts if you're a Chiefs fan is the needlessness of this hold, because Harrison was never going to get to Smith on the play.

Doesn't look that way to me from the GIF. Even getting brought to the ground, Harrison was almost at Smith's ankles when Smith releases the ball. I think if he gets past Fisher, he gets to Smith easily.

16
by Duke :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 7:53pm

Not to mention other members of the staff; in Audibles, Bryan Knowles said he thought Harrison would have sacked Smith if Fisher didn't hold him, as well.

IDK if he would have but it's definitely possible. Needless, that wasn't.

15
by Damon :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 6:49pm

That Steelers-Chiefs game last night reminded me of the Colts-Ravens 2006 playoff game where the winning team generated 5+ scoring drives to the losing teams 3 or fewer scoring drives, yet were still in a position in the 4th quarter to defend a one posession lead, the 06 Colts had to do it twice against the Ravens too.

18
by ChrisS :: Tue, 01/17/2017 - 1:58pm

I was really hoping KC would convert the 2 pointer so Pitt could kick a seventh FG because Field Goals rock.

19
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 01/17/2017 - 2:02pm

Said no-one except Rich Karlis :-D

22
by DGL :: Tue, 01/17/2017 - 5:23pm

And Stefan Fatsis