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21 Sep 2017

Clutch Field Goals: Are the Chargers Cursed?

by Scott Kacsmar

Whoops, the San Diego Los Angeles Chargers did it again on Sunday. Needing a 44-yard field goal from Younghoe Koo in the closing seconds against Miami, the Chargers missed another clutch kick to fall to 0-2. This was only six days after a similar ending happened in Denver when Koo's 44-yard field goal was blocked, denying an overtime session.

For any other franchise, this would just look like an improbable, snake-bitten start to the season. For the Chargers, this is old hat. Last season, San Diego gave the Browns their only win of 2016 after Josh Lambo's 45-yard field goal was wide right in a 20-17 loss. In Oakland, the Chargers also botched a hold on a field goal with 2:07 left in a 34-31 loss.

The Chargers changed their city, their venue, their head coach, and their kicker, but the results look no different so far. Meanwhile, Koo's miss wasn't the only noteworthy kick in Sunday's loss. That whole predicament started after Cody Parkey made a 54-yard field goal to put Miami ahead in his team debut. It was just a season ago when Parkey also helped Miami win a game by missing three field goals for the Browns, including a game-winning attempt at the end of regulation. Line him up against the Chargers in crunch time, and sure enough Parkey delivered. That means all three clutch field goal attempts involving the Chargers this season have gone in the opponent's favor.

With a shout out to Nate Kaeding, one has to wonder, given all the memorable missed kicks by the Chargers over the years, is this team the unluckiest in the league when it comes to clutch field goals?

When I looked at this data in the past, it was clear that they were. In updating the data for recent seasons, another team has taken over the bottom spot. That team's failures have not been quite as memorable as those of the Chargers, but isn't memorability a huge part of the whole clutch mystique anyway? Screwing up a kick in the deep early-afternoon slate in a game called by FOX's C-team will never get the same recognition as shanking a crucial playoff kick or the final play on Monday Night Football when everyone is watching.

This is why we collect and present the data. You know there is also a team at the other end of the spectrum that has come out smelling like roses more often than any other on clutch field goals. If you have paid much attention to the NFL in the 21st century, then you probably know that team is the New England Patriots. With a shout-out to Adam Vinatieri, perhaps the only thing more memorable than some of New England's clutch makes are the mind-numbing misses by their opponents in big games.

If you were hoping to see a list of the NFL's most successful kickers in the clutch, then you'll have to wait for a future post. Today, we are only interested in net team success on clutch field goals. Whether it was Nate Kaeding or Josh Lambo or Younghoe Koo at kicker, the Chargers usually came out on the wrong side of things. But where does the rest of the league stand? We looked at the data (playoffs included) since 2002, which was the start of the 32-team era.

Clutch Field Goal Totals

For the purposes of this study, a clutch field goal is any attempt in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter or at any point in overtime when a team is tied or down by 1 to 3 points. These are all game-winning or game-tying field goal attempts. The play had to start at the two-minute warning or later, so that botched play by the Chargers in Oakland last year is excluded, since there was 2:07 left at the snap. Extra points were not included, even though we have seen some devastating misses of those in the clutch over the years. Aborted snaps or botched holds were included, because we are interested in the overall success of a field goal's execution rather than just the kicking aspect. So yes, a certain Tony Romo play is listed as going against Dallas and in favor of Seattle. There actually hasn't been another play like that in a clutch situation since Jets punter/holder Steve Weatherford did it in overtime against the Bills in 2009. He threw an interception to boot.

We would also like to quickly acknowledge that it would be beneficial to view this from an expected points added or probability standpoint to adjust for things like distance and weather, but we just did not have the time to make that happen this week. Success in the kicking game has also improved a good deal since 2002, especially when it comes to kicks of 50-plus yards. In 2002, kickers were 44-of-84 (52.4 percent) on 50-plus-yard field goals. Since 2011, kickers have made at least 85 field goals from that distance in every season, converting 62.8 percent of their opportunities. So not only is efficiency up, but the volume of longer kicks is greater than ever before. It would not be fair to compare the expectations of a 52-yard field goal in 2017 to one in 2002.

NFL Clutch Field Goals by Season
Season FG Att. Makes FG% Distance
2002 64 43 67.2% 39.8
2003 66 51 77.3% 39.6
2004 46 36 78.3% 38.4
2005 51 38 74.5% 38.5
2006 48 34 70.8% 41.7
2007 53 41 77.4% 38.3
2008 50 40 80.0% 40.6
2009 38 28 73.7% 37.3
2010 53 39 73.6% 39.5
2011 41 30 73.2% 38.6
2012 70 53 75.7% 42.0
2013 53 45 84.9% 40.0
2014 41 30 73.2% 43.2
2015 68 51 75.0% 39.4
2016 51 37 72.5% 40.3
2017 5 2 40.0% 42.8
NFL 798 598 74.9% 40.0

Out of 798 field goals, 74.9 percent were successful. That is noticeably lower than the league-average percentage since 2002 (82.6 percent), but clutch kicks also tend to be (and are trending) longer. Teams will attempt some out of pure desperation due to the clock. The average make was 37.7 yards, compared to 46.9 yards on a miss. For reference, on all field goals in 2016, the average make was 36.1 yards compared to 46.1 yards on a miss. Still, that may suggest some performance decline in the clutch. As far as postseason field goals go, kickers are 28-of-42 (66.7 percent) since 2002, with an average make of 38.9 yards and an average miss of 40.4 yards. Well, that is not a good look. Also, leave it up to the Chargers and Giants to be the only teams with multiple postseason failures.

Clutch Field Goals For

First, let's look at how teams have done when kicking a clutch field goal since 2002. In the following tables, average distance is ranked from shortest (first) to longest (32nd) field goal attempts, and the table is sorted by descending field goal percentage. We have separated makes from misses.

Clutch Field Goals For, 2002-2017
Rk Team Makes Distance Rk Misses Distance Rk FG%
1 NE 17 38.0 16 2 39.5 1 89.5%
2 DEN 28 37.3 13 4 50.8 28 87.5%
3 IND 20 40.6 29 3 41.0 2 87.0%
4 TB 18 39.9 27 3 42.0 3 85.7%
5 SEA 15 35.0 5 3 45.3 9 83.3%
6 MIN 23 38.0 17 5 52.0 30 82.1%
7 BAL 31 39.7 25 7 47.1 18 81.6%
8 PHI 13 35.1 6 3 50.7 27 81.3%
9 PIT 20 35.2 7 5 43.8 7 80.0%
10 DET 19 38.1 19 5 49.0 22 79.2%
11 CHI 21 35.8 10 6 46.8 17 77.8%
12 CIN 17 38.5 21 5 45.4 11 77.3%
13 MIA 20 38.6 22 6 45.7 13 76.9%
14 NYJ 26 36.7 12 8 49.9 24 76.5%
15 SF 19 33.7 2 6 43.5 6 76.0%
16 DAL 25 40.6 30 8 45.4 10 75.8%
Rk Team Makes Distance Rk Misses Distance Rk FG%
17 NO 21 34.0 3 7 43.4 5 75.0%
18 GB 17 35.4 8 6 48.8 21 73.9%
19 TEN 14 39.6 24 5 49.0 23 73.7%
20 BUF 15 38.0 18 6 45.7 12 71.4%
21 KC 17 35.7 9 7 47.7 19 70.8%
22 ATL 19 42.5 31 8 48.0 20 70.4%
23 OAK 14 36.1 11 6 52.5 32 70.0%
24 JAC 14 39.8 26 6 52.3 31 70.0%
25 ARI 25 37.8 14 11 42.2 4 69.4%
26 WAS 20 37.9 15 9 50.3 26 69.0%
27 CLE 16 34.8 4 8 50.1 25 66.7%
28 LARM 19 39.1 23 10 51.3 29 65.5%
29 NYG 15 32.7 1 8 44.6 8 65.2%
30 LACH 14 38.1 20 8 46.0 16 63.6%
31 HOU 12 40.1 28 7 45.9 15 63.2%
32 CAR 14 43.9 32 9 45.7 14 60.9%

As you should have expected, the best clutch kicking in the NFL belongs to the Patriots, who made 17 of 19 kicks. Adam Vinatieri is likely to go to the Hall of Fame one day for his contributions to the early days of New England's dynasty. This timeframe just misses some of Vinatieri's finest work in the 2001 season, but he only had one miss from 2002 to 2005. That was a blocked 37-yard kick in Houston in 2003, but the Patriots still won in overtime on a second attempt by Vinatieri. New England has only one loss in Tom Brady's career after a clutch field goal was missed, and that was done by Stephen Gostkowski against the 2012 Cardinals in a 20-18 defeat. Otherwise, Gostkowski has been perfect, and he has the only clutch field goal attempt of more than 48 yards by the Patriots since 2002 (54 yards to beat the 2015 Giants). New England's makes were pretty average (38.0 yards) as far as distance goes. Gostkowski just doesn't have the same big-moment kicks (read: playoffs) as Vinatieri had before him.

The Ravens (31) and Broncos (28) had more makes than any team, while the Eagles (13) and Texans (12) had the fewest makes. Carolina actually had the longest average make (43.9 yards), but the worst overall percentage (14 of 23 for 60.9 percent). Carolina kicker Graham Gano famously missed a 50-yard field goal in Denver to kick off the 2016 season in a rematch of Super Bowl 50, a 21-20 loss for the Panthers. The Panthers join the Raiders and Buccaneers as the only teams to attempt two 60-plus-yard field goals in the clutch since 2002. The only success in that group was when Matt Bryant, then for Tampa Bay, hit a 62-yard field goal to beat the 2006 Eagles. Speaking of Bryant, the Falcons have the second-longest makes (42.5 yards), and Bryant is 11-of-12 on clutch field goals for Atlanta.

Arizona (11) and the Rams (10) are the only teams with double-digit misses. Arizona's Phil Dawson just missed a game-winning kick to end regulation in Indianapolis on Sunday, but got his second chance in overtime to win the game. Dawson of course took over for Chandler Catanzaro, who in 2016 missed a game-winning kick in Week 1 against the Patriots, and missed a 24-yard kick that would have beat the Seahawks instead of getting a tie. For the Rams, their general irrelevancy since 2007 makes very few of their misses memorable. Five of the misses belong to Greg "The Leg" Zuerlein since 2012, so for the small subset of Jeff Fisher fans out there, you're welcome for that little nugget. The big miss for the Rams was Jeff Wilkins on a 53-yard field goal in overtime against the 2003 Panthers in the playoffs. Of course, that came after John Kasay missed a 45-yard field goal for Carolina, so both teams missed in overtime. Steve Smith finished off the game in double overtime with a 69-yard touchdown from Jake Delhomme. (We had to make sure Carolina fans got all of the feels in this one.)

Eight teams had an average miss of 50-plus yards, led by Oakland (52.5 yards). New England (39.5 yards) was the only team to have an average miss come under 40.0 yards, but again, that's only two plays. The Colts also have employed Vinatieri since 2006, and have just three misses in this period, but fans will remember all of them very well. Mike Vanderjagt missed in New England to open the 2004 season and shanked a terrible kick from 46 yards away against the Steelers in the 2005 divisional round, and Vinatieri somehow missed a 29-yard kick in San Diego in 2007 on a night where Peyton Manning threw six interceptions. Hey, at least one clutch kick went in the Chargers' favor in this era.

Clutch Field Goals Against

Our next table looks at how a team's opponents did on their clutch field goals. The first section was primarily all about a team's skill at pulling off a clutch field goal. When you're on the other side, this is more about elements out of your control. You're hoping to get lucky. Sure, the coach can stalk a referee to call a sneaky timeout a millisecond before the snap to ice the kicker, but that's just playing a mind game. The opposing kicking unit still ultimately decides things. Outside of blocking the kick, which only happens on roughly 2.0 percent of field goals, there's not much a team can do at that point. The defense had its chance to make the attempt as difficult as possible, but now you must wait to see your fate decided by a skinny guy's leg.

Clutch Field Goals Against, 2002-2017
Rk Team Makes Distance Rk Misses Distance Rk FG%
1 PHI 16 35.6 3 2 50.5 26 88.9%
2 JAC 14 37.2 15 2 55.5 30 87.5%
3 KC 18 36.8 11 3 55.3 29 85.7%
4 CAR 22 37.8 20 4 45.3 8 84.6%
5 NO 24 38.3 22 5 56.2 31 82.8%
6 CIN 19 37.3 17 4 46.8 13 82.6%
7 NYG 23 39.9 28 5 48.0 19 82.1%
8 BAL 22 37.6 18 5 50.8 28 81.5%
9 MIA 22 38.5 23 5 49.0 22 81.5%
10 GB 21 37.1 14 5 37.8 2 80.8%
11 DET 20 36.8 10 5 57.6 32 80.0%
12 CLE 22 36.0 8 6 41.5 4 78.6%
13 ARI 21 34.9 1 6 40.3 3 77.8%
14 BUF 17 40.1 30 5 45.0 7 77.3%
15 OAK 17 38.2 21 5 44.0 5 77.3%
16 LACH 24 36.8 12 8 48.0 18 75.0%
Rk Team Makes Distance Rk Misses Distance Rk FG%
17 SF 20 36.6 9 7 45.9 10 74.1%
18 ATL 22 36.0 7 8 44.6 6 73.3%
19 IND 19 43.4 32 7 50.4 25 73.1%
20 NYJ 19 39.3 26 7 46.9 15 73.1%
21 DEN 16 40.3 31 6 46.7 12 72.7%
22 LARM 15 35.9 6 6 50.5 27 71.4%
23 WAS 19 35.7 5 8 49.1 23 70.4%
24 MIN 23 39.9 29 10 47.3 17 69.7%
25 CHI 16 37.0 13 7 48.1 20 69.6%
26 DAL 18 38.9 25 8 48.6 21 69.2%
27 HOU 13 38.6 24 6 45.8 9 68.4%
28 SEA 19 39.3 27 9 37.1 1 67.9%
29 TB 16 35.1 2 8 47.3 16 66.7%
30 PIT 24 37.7 19 12 50.0 24 66.7%
31 TEN 9 37.2 16 7 46.9 14 56.3%
32 NE 8 35.6 4 9 46.3 11 47.1%

We already mentioned a couple of missed kicks against the Patriots, but this really puts things into perspective. New England is the only team since 2002 where opponents have more clutch misses (nine) than they have clutch makes (eight). It's not like distance was a big factor here, as New England's misses were the 11th shortest in the league (46.3 yards). The Patriots are not one of the nine teams who saw an average miss from 50-plus yards away, led by Detroit's 57.6 yards. Only two of the makes against the Patriots happened in New England, but home-field advantage really does not explain the results either. Of the nine misses, four occurred in New England compared to five by a team playing at home, and most often in nice weather conditions too.

The impact of these misses paid some big dividends in the success of the Patriots, especially in earlier years. New England won an NFL-record 21 consecutive games in 2003 and 2004. The third game in that streak was at Miami. With the score tied at 13, Miami's Olindo Mare had a 35-yard field goal blocked at the two-minute warning by Richard Seymour. Fair enough, the Patriots made a huge play there. But in overtime, Miami decided under head coach Dave Wannstedt to kick another 35-yard field goal on third-and-7 instead of getting even closer with one more run by Ricky Williams. Of course, icing the kicker worked for Bill Belichick, and Mare missed the kick wide right. The Patriots won the game with an 82-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Troy Brown. In the 16th game of the winning streak, the Patriots opened 2004 against chief AFC rival Indianapolis. The Colts trailed 27-24 late, and Mike Vanderjagt was wide right on a 48-yard field goal with 19 seconds left. New England finished 14-2, Indianapolis finished 12-4, and that head-to-head tie-breaker essentially led to another snowy playoff game for the Colts in Foxborough, also won by the Patriots.

It is fitting that we have been highlighting the Patriots and Chargers, because their paths have crossed twice on clutch field goals. In the crazy 2006 AFC divisional game in San Diego, rookie Stephen Gostkowski put the Patriots ahead 24-21 on a 31-yard field goal. Philip Rivers had 65 seconds and no timeouts to answer, and he set up Nate Kaeding for a 54-yard field goal. The kick was short, securing another improbable New England playoff win. In the 2010 regular season, New England returned to San Diego and only led 23-20 late. Rivers set up new kicker Kris Brown for a 50-yard field goal, which would have been 45 yards if not for a false start. Brown hit the right upright with 22 seconds left in another loss. It is also worth noting that Brown's most notorious career moment came in the 2001 AFC Championship Game in the third quarter when his 34-yard field goal was blocked by the Patriots and returned for a huge touchdown on a controversial lateral from Troy Brown to Antwan Harris.

Perhaps the most famous field goal to go New England's way was when Baltimore's Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal wide left at the end of the 2011 AFC Championship Game. That would have forced overtime. Cundiff couldn't extract some revenge with the Browns in 2013 either when he missed a 58-yard field goal that would have beaten the Patriots in a huge upset. We can give Cundiff a pass for that one, but his AFC Championship Game miss is only the second do-or-die field goal ever missed in a championship game in NFL history. The other is the most famous field goal miss in this game's history: Buffalo's Scott Norwood at the end of Super Bowl XXV against the New York Giants in a 20-19 loss. Who was the defensive coordinator for the Giants who had his game plan go into Canton after that kick was missed? Bill Belichick.

When FO recently interviewed Belichick, we were only allowed to ask questions about the 1980s Giants. If we could have asked anything, I would have tried to get his thoughts on if he's ever considered just how crucial field goals have been to his career success. It is more than fair to say that no coach in the history of the NFL has had greater success with field goals going his way than Belichick. If he had the misfortunes of Marty Schottenheimer, then their legacies would be vastly different. Schottenheimer was San Diego's coach when Nate Kaeding missed clutch playoff field goals in 2004 (Jets) and 2006 (Patriots), as well as huge misses (1995 Lin Elliott, anyone?) when he coached the Chiefs in the 1990s, After Blair Walsh missed the shortest do-or-die playoff field goal (27 yards) in the Super Bowl era for the Vikings against Seattle in 2015, we looked at a table of the 10 most crushing misses since 1966. Three of the misses benefitted Belichick, while three of them gave Schottenheimer a playoff loss.

Speaking of Walsh and the Seahawks, Seattle has had three of the 14 clutch field goal failures in the playoffs since 2002 go its way. The Tony Romo hold in 2006 was about the only thing as improbable as Walsh missing from 27 yards out, but Ryan Longwell and the Packers also missed a 47-yard field goal at the end of regulation in the 2003 NFC wild-card game. (Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck might wish that kick had been good to spare him the embarrassment of throwing a pick-six in overtime after he wanted the ball.) Still, thanks to some of those crazy misses, the Seahawks have the shortest average miss (37.1 yards) against them since 2002.

Seattle and New England fans have enjoyed nine clutch misses, but Vikings fans can rejoice with 10 kicks that have gone awry for their opponents since 2002. The only team with more is Pittsburgh with 12. We mentioned the Vanderjagt special in 2005, but that total only includes one missed field goal by the Jets' Doug Brien, who missed two field goals in the final minutes of a 2004 AFC wild-card loss in Pittsburgh. Brien's first miss came with 2:02 left, so it just missed the cut. His second kick should have won the game, but Heinz Field can be an unforgiving kicking setting. However, only four of the 12 misses against Pittsburgh came in Heinz Field. The Bengals missed the playoffs in 2006 after Shayne Graham missed a 39-yard field goal in the fourth quarter in Week 17. Pittsburgh won in overtime. Only two of the 12 misses against the Steelers have happened in the Mike Tomlin era (since 2007), and none since 2009.

Not everything is rosy here for the Steelers. They join the Chargers and Saints as the three teams with the most clutch field goals against with 24 each. Still, this is one area where the Chargers don't look so bad. Opponents made 24-of-32 (75.0 percent) clutch field goals, which ranks 16th in the league, or pretty average. The Chargers even caught a huge break in 2013 when Kansas City's Ryan Succop missed a 41-yard field goal that would have won the Week 17 game and put the Steelers in the playoffs. Instead, the Chargers won in overtime and claimed the final wild-card spot over Pittsburgh.

The Eagles watched 16-of-18 clutch field goals (88.9 percent) go against them, the highest rate of any team. Perhaps the play that stands out most is one of the two misses: Cincinnati's Shayne Graham (him again) from 47 yards out in 2008. That was in overtime with 13 seconds left, causing the Bengals and Eagles to end in a tie, much to the surprise of quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Fans may not be surprised to see that the Colts allowed the longest average make (43.4 yards) in the clutch. The AFC South is mostly responsible for that. The late Rob Bironas hit a 60-yard field goal for the Titans to beat the Colts in 2006. Four years later, the Jaguars knocked off the Colts with a 59-yard field goal by Josh Scobee, who also beat the Colts with a 53-yard field goal in 2003 and a 51-yard field goal in 2008.

Net Clutch Field Goal Success

We'll conclude with combining the two tables together for net clutch field goal success. The table is sorted by descending favorable field goal percentage (FAVFG%). "Kicks For" include the team's makes plus opponent's misses. "Kicks Against" include the team's misses plus opponent's makes.

Net Clutch Field Goal Success, 2002-2017
Rk Team Kicks For Kicks Against TOT FAVFG%
1 NE 26 10 36 72.2%
2 DEN 34 20 54 63.0%
3 TEN 21 14 35 60.0%
4 TB 26 19 45 57.8%
5 CHI 28 22 50 56.0%
6 DAL 33 26 59 55.9%
7 BAL 36 29 65 55.4%
8 IND 27 22 49 55.1%
9 NYJ 33 27 60 55.0%
10 MIN 33 28 61 54.1%
11 PIT 32 29 61 52.5%
12 SEA 24 22 46 52.2%
13 LARM 25 25 50 50.0%
14 SF 26 26 52 50.0%
15 WAS 28 28 56 50.0%
16 ARI 31 32 63 49.2%
Rk Team Kicks For Kicks Against TOT FAVFG%
17 DET 24 25 49 49.0%
18 ATL 27 30 57 47.4%
19 HOU 18 20 38 47.4%
20 MIA 25 28 53 47.2%
21 CIN 21 24 45 46.7%
22 BUF 20 23 43 46.5%
23 NO 26 31 57 45.6%
24 OAK 19 23 42 45.2%
25 GB 22 27 49 44.9%
26 JAC 16 20 36 44.4%
27 KC 20 25 45 44.4%
28 PHI 15 19 34 44.1%
29 CLE 22 30 52 42.3%
30 LACH 22 32 54 40.7%
31 NYG 20 31 51 39.2%
32 CAR 18 31 49 36.7%

The Patriots are more than three standard deviations above the average here at 72.2 percent. Denver, known for its home-field advantage at Mile High, is a reasonable runner-up at 63.0 percent. The Chargers come in at 30th at 40.7 percent, but they are only a few more Younghoe Koo tricks away from the bottom at this rate. Carolina does in fact bring up the rear at 36.7 percent, or almost two standard deviations below average.

Now the sample sizes aren't big (ranges from 34 to 65 field goals), but the impact these plays had on the success and perception for these teams over the last 16 seasons is undoubtedly huge. If you're watching a Chargers game and a clutch field goal comes up, you've been conditioned to expect some misfortune. If Belichick's Patriots are facing one, you just expect things to work out for them.

When the data matches the perception, that's a bingo.

Note: portions of this article, including data in the tables, have been edited since the original posting. There was a late discovery of some missing data from the 2015 season that has now been accounted for. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

Posted by: Scott Kacsmar on 21 Sep 2017

69 comments, Last at 25 Sep 2017, 11:57pm by ramirez


by ramirez :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 2:37pm

This article should have provided a lot more context to the field goals being discussed. A much better explanation for the Patriots' success than clutch field goal performance would be things like turnover differential and passer rating differential, metrics which the Patriots have largely dominated throughout the Brady/Belichick era.

by renangms :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 4:10pm

Tell me more how turnover and passer rating differential affects FG for/against at the end of the game.

by ramirez :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 4:26pm

I should have been more clear. What I'm saying is, clutch FG performance doesn't explain the Patriots' success over the last 16 years in the way that stats like turnover differential do. The chart provided shows that Denver, for example, has benefitted from many more clutch FG makes than New England, so it isn't clear that New England has been the luckiest to begin with.

by renangms :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 4:41pm

The text did not try to imply that this is the main reason for the Patriot's success. But you can't deny that it had some impact on it.

by ramirez :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 5:01pm

Right, I agree that it had some impact. The cases where the Broncos made clutch FGs had "some" impact on their success, too. The crucial question is, how much impact? The problem with what Scott is arguing is that he's using a small sample size for an event that happens infrequently, and he's not providing the right context. Part of the reason why NE won the game over San Diego in the 2006 playoffs was because Gostkowski's go ahead FG was from 31 yards, and Kaeding's last second miss was from 54 yards. Obviously kickers are far more likely to make from 31 yards than 54, and the fact that Gostkowski's kick was shorter is one of the reasons why New England won.

That's one example of the kind of crucial context this article is missing.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 5:06pm

Is it too much to ask for you guys to win graciously?

Do you have to incessantly whine whenever articles don't offer a sacrifice at your altar?

by ramirez :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 5:28pm

I simply pointed out that the premise of this article is flawed, and I explained why. If you're here to actually learn about football, you should appreciate what I said instead of whining about it.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 5:40pm

Please, enlighten us all about how our teams can improve via better FG luck.

by LyleNM :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 5:41pm

The premise of the article is about which teams have fared better or worse than average in the area of clutch FGs. If you're here to actually learn about football, you should have bothered to read and understand that.

by ramirez :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 6:10pm

Again, I perfectly well understand the premise of the article. What I'm saying is that the argument made in this piece is flawed, because it's discussing a small sample size, and isn't providing useful context. I provided the example of the NE-SD game from the 2006 playoffs as an illustration of why that context is important.

The article shows that the Patriots have enjoyed field goal luck since 2002. It fails at making a convincing case that that FG luck explains New England's success to the degree Kacsmar says it does. The reason for that is that the argument is based on a small sample size, which isn't properly put into context.

by Independent George :: Fri, 09/22/2017 - 12:06am

But the whole point is about small sample sizes - because that's where you're going to see the biggest differentials between expected and actual results. And it's indisputably true that (1) the Pats have had above average FG luck, and (2) they happened in the small sample size of high-leverage playoff scenarios.

Incidentally, I actually don't believe that their success on kicking FGs was luck at all; Belichick has consistently had excellent special teams play (which, as a Giants fan, I've been distinctly envious of for the last decade), and I think it's been because of outstanding personnel management and coaching. The only other HC I can think of with that record was Lovey Smith in Chicago (which he did not replicate in his admittedly short tenure in Tampa).

by ramirez :: Fri, 09/22/2017 - 11:17am

Thanks for providing a response that addresses my argument. I certainly agree that New England has had above average FG luck. I just don't think the examples the author provided are very convincing, because his take on them lack context. The chart would be a lot more meaningful if it included a breakdown of the distance of each kick, so we would know how often long kicks have been made, or short kicks missed, etc. It would also be great if we knew the in-game situation for each kick, maybe the win probability or something, though I understand that would take a lot more work.

Let me give another example of why context is important. One of the clutch kicks made by the Patriots was the Super Bowl winner by Vinatieri against Carolina. And Vinatieri absolutely deserves credit for making it. But let's not forget that a lot of things had to happen to give Vinatieri that opportunity, including a huge 4th quarter by Brady and the Patriots' offense. And let's also remember that Vinatieri missed two field goals earlier in the game, which don't factor into this analysis, but had he made them, New England would already have had the lead in the final seconds.

So it's hard for me to chalk that win up to the "luck" factor simply because it involved a late field goal, but that's what this analysis suggests.

by Scott Kacsmar :: Fri, 09/22/2017 - 1:01pm

There are nearly 800 plays here from almost as many games (some games had multiple clutch attempts). Every single play has some sort of story behind it in how the team got to that point, whether it was an offensive comeback, a defensive letdown, or just a great last drive set up by the offense. We're not writing a book here, so to think that we can cover that context for every single play is madness.

You're trying to say I didn't provide context for Nate Kaeding's miss in the 2006 playoffs, but what part of "Philip Rivers had 65 seconds and no timeouts left to answer" did you not read?

The point is we're comparing a pretty similar situation (final 2:00 of 4Q or OT, tied or down 1-3 points) for all teams. How they got to that point is irrelevant when we're interested in knowing what happened when the FG unit came out for a clutch kick, such as the Chargers have at the end of the last two games.

The only thing I regret not looking up for this is if there was a difference in FG% based on score margin. Do kickers mess up more when the kick is do or die as opposed to a tie game?

by ramirez :: Fri, 09/22/2017 - 2:51pm

Ok, you did provide some context to the Kaeding miss. That's great. What I'm saying is, the overall picture presented in your article lacks context. In the case of the NE-SD game, you treat the 31 yard attempt by Gostkowski as though it's the same situation as Kaeding's last second 54 yard attempt. And those situations aren't remotely the same. And the fact that they're not the same goes a long way towards explaining why Gostkowski made his attempt, and Kaeding did not.

That's what your charts are missing. If we knew how long each of the FG attempts were, it would be very helpful in figuring out whether a particular team has been more "lucky" than others. You're providing a superficial analysis that treats all clutch FG attempts as the same situation, and they're NOT the same.

by renangms :: Fri, 09/22/2017 - 6:54pm

"It's not like distance was a big factor here, as New England's misses were the 11th shortest in the league (46.3 yards). The Patriots are not one of the nine teams who saw an average miss from 50-plus yards away, led by Detroit's 57.6 yards. Only two of the makes against the Patriots happened in New England, but home-field advantage really does not explain the results either. Of the nine misses, four occurred in New England compared to five by a team playing at home, and most often in nice weather conditions too."

"...in overtime, Miami decided under head coach Dave Wannstedt to kick another 35-yard field goal on third-and-7...and Mare missed the kick wide right."

"The Colts trailed 27-24 late, and Mike Vanderjagt was wide right on a 48-yard field goal with 19 seconds left."

"Perhaps the most famous field goal to go New England's way was when Baltimore's Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal wide left at the end of the 2011 AFC Championship Game."

How much more context do you want?

by ramirez :: Fri, 09/22/2017 - 7:49pm

Right, as I've already said in post # 30, there are examples of some context in the article, like the ones you mentioned, and the 2006 Pats-Chargers game. That's great that there is some context provided. The point you're missing is that the information in the article, taken as a whole, lacks context. What we need is specific info about the kicks on the list, how long the kick was, weather info, etc. I understand that providing that much info for all the kicks on the list would be difficult, and time consuming. But given that it wasn't provided, many of the the conclusions Kacsmar draws are dubious and unconvincing.

Picking out examples where some contextual information was provided won't change that.

Nat has made a couple of posts in this forum that provide the kind of context and info I'm talking about.

by renangms :: Sat, 09/23/2017 - 12:22am

This is the problem with Patriots fans. You can see bias in this article and think Nat post is good. Nat post is a piece of crap, making up a bunch of excuses to fit his narrative.

by Richie :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 6:59pm

It's one of a handful of tiny contributions that are just mind-boggling when you add up. Advantages at "hidden" things like turnover advantage, field position advantage, etc. is nuts.

It's so much advantage that it's hard for me to believe it's all chance. I suppose it could be, but Belichick must be paying more attention to these things than other coaches.

Though I think opponents missing clutch field goals could be an intimidation factor. Sure, it can mess with your mind to try to kick a game-winner against the Dolphins as a rookie in Week 2. But against the NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS in the playoffs probably can get in a kicker's mind just a little more and lead to a honked field goal.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 09/22/2017 - 10:19am

If it's coaching, attention to detail, and opponent awe, then how do you explain Denver, Tampa Bay, and Tennessee?

There's a lot of Colt McCoy, Vince Young, and Tim Tebow being coached by Jeff Fisher, Greg Schiano, and Josh McDaniels in that timeframe.

I'm more comfortable attributing that to either luck in small sample sizes or a cruel god. Take your pick.

by Richie :: Fri, 09/22/2017 - 8:56pm

My point is that the Patriots are at the top of this list, and others.

And they are near the top of the fumbles chart. And the field position chart, etc.

I'm guessing Denver, Tampa Bay and Tennessee aren't. (I don't have those studies handy.) It's different teams that are near the top with New England (I think Atlanta and Baltimore have been very good with fumble differential.)

But New England is usually (always?) near the top of these sorts of things that APPEAR to be luck, but probably really aren't.

by Mikey Benny :: Fri, 09/22/2017 - 11:03am

You're complaining that an article about field goals is about field goals. Stahp.

by Scott Kacsmar :: Fri, 09/22/2017 - 12:53pm

Yes, I can't wait for my next study of short-yardage on third/fourth down strategy to ask why I didn't consider what happened on every first-and-10 (specifically for one franchise only of course).

by renangms :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 4:00pm

I know the sample would be even smaller, but would love to see the last table considering only playoff games.

by Scott Kacsmar :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 4:18pm

I can show you the 42 playoff field goals if you want to play around with the numbers.

TmID OppID Season Kicker Distance Result
GB DAL 2016 M.Crosby 56 FG good
LACH NE 2006 N.Kaeding 54 FG miss
LARM CAR 2003 J.Wilkins 53 FG miss
DAL GB 2016 D.Bailey 52 FG good
GB DAL 2016 M.Crosby 51 FG good
IND NYJ 2010 A.Vinatieri 50 FG good
CHI SEA 2006 R.Gould 49 FG good
ATL SEA 2012 M.Bryant 49 FG good
GB SEA 2014 M.Crosby 48 FG good
TEN PIT 2002 J.Nedney 48 FG miss
NYG GB 2007 L.Tynes 47 FG good
BAL DEN 2012 J.Tucker 47 FG good
GB SEA 2003 R.Longwell 47 FG miss
TEN BAL 2003 G.Anderson 46 FG good
IND PIT 2005 M.Vanderjagt 46 FG miss
CAR LARM 2003 J.Kasay 45 FG miss
BAL TEN 2008 M.Stover 43 FG good
NYJ PIT 2004 D.Brien 43 FG miss
NE CAR 2003 A.Vinatieri 41 FG good
NYG SF 2002 -- 41 FG aborted
NO MIN 2009 G.Hartley 40 FG good
LACH NYJ 2004 N.Kaeding 40 FG miss
PHI NYG 2006 D.Akers 38 FG good
PHI GB 2003 D.Akers 37 FG good
NYG GB 2007 L.Tynes 36 FG miss
PIT CIN 2015 C.Boswell 35 FG good
ARI GB 2009 N.Rackers 34 FG miss
LARM CAR 2003 J.Wilkins 33 FG good
PIT NYJ 2004 J.Reed 33 FG good
SF GB 2013 P.Dawson 33 FG good
NO PHI 2013 S.Graham 32 FG good
BAL NE 2011 B.Cundiff 32 FG miss
NYJ IND 2010 N.Folk 32 FG good
PHI GB 2003 D.Akers 31 FG good
NE LACH 2006 S.Gostkowski 31 FG good
NYG SF 2011 L.Tynes 31 FG good
NYJ LACH 2004 D.Brien 28 FG good
MIN SEA 2015 B.Walsh 27 FG miss
TEN PIT 2002 J.Nedney 26 FG good
LACH IND 2008 N.Kaeding 26 FG good
JAX PIT 2007 J.Scobee 25 FG good
DAL SEA 2006 -- 20 FG aborted

by Scott Kacsmar :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 4:20pm

Note: Mason Crosby and Dan Bailey put on a low-key all-time great clutch kicking show in January this year.

by renangms :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 4:30pm

Thanks for posting it.

Amazing stuff DAL x GB last year.3 50+Y FGs!

IND x NYJ in 2010 also traded FGs. Could Manning be more unlucky in the PO?

by wiesengrund :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 4:08pm

If Atlanta is 19-of-27 total, and Matt Bryant is 11-of-12 during his time there, that means the 2002-2009 Falcons were 8-of-15, which would rank 32nd. Bryant's 11-of-12 would rank 1st. Atlanta being 22nd somehow feels weirdly composed and very schizophrenic to say the least.

by Scott Kacsmar :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 4:24pm

That's correct. Bryant made his first 11 before missing from 58 yards against the Chargers last year. Hey, another plus for San Diego.

Jay Feely had four of the misses for Atlanta in 2002-03 alone.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 5:04pm

What were the Detroit misses? I don't recall playing Oakland that often.

I suspect Prater has increased DET's late-and-deep FG success rate lately.

by burbman :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 6:28pm

Something wonky with the combined table. Seattle is in the top 5 in both individual tables, yet only 11th overall? I would expect to see them in the top two or three.

by nat :: Fri, 09/22/2017 - 11:31am

Of the nine misses, four occurred in New England compared to five by a team playing at home, and most often in nice weather conditions too.

True but sneaky. Kicking from infield dirt is nice weather conditions, technically. And you can technically include blocked kicks in this, but weather's not really a factor for those unless it's wet.

To put it another true way, all but two of the misses were either blocked, 50+ yard attempts, below freezing temperatures, and/or winds > 18 mph.

The two unblocked kicks of reasonable range in reasonable weather conditions that missed were...

1) an Olindo Mare miss in 2003 in 9 mph winds. The miss came from the infield dirt part left in place from the World Series. It was his second failed kick from the dirt that day.
2) a Chandler Catanzaro 47 yarder indoors in 2016 in Arizona.

So one miss was in what you might call a normal situation for a successful kick.

Meanwhile, the made clutch kicks against the Patriots were all less than 45 yards, and all in winds 13 mph or less, with most in low or no wind. The only freezing temperature kick came in Denver, up in the thin air known for making kicking easier.

In other words, nothing in particular to see here. Kicking is easier at shorter yardage and in better conditions, like we all have known forever. It's just Scott airing his obsessions yet again.

Really. This obsession is unhealthy. It's also weak, agenda-driven analysis.

by ramirez :: Fri, 09/22/2017 - 2:36pm

Excellent post, nat. That's exactly the kind of context I am talking about. While I'm here, do you know if both of the crucial misses by Mare in the 2003 game came off the infield dirt? I know at least one of them did.

by nat :: Fri, 09/22/2017 - 2:46pm

I looked up a game summary. Yes. Both misses came from the dirt. The poor bastard.

by renangms :: Sat, 09/23/2017 - 12:17am

O. Mare kick was a 35 yard FG! "infield dirt". What pathetic excuse.

To say the the B. Cundiff FG in the 2011 AFCCG was in extreme conditions is also pathetic. It was a 32 yards FG. Give me a break.

M. Vanderjagt had made 42 consecutive field goals before missing against the Patriots. The game was in September, the goal post flags are barely moving. There's video in the youtube.

I don't want to make this Manning x Brady discussion, but just to give an example, looking at the Colts numbers from 2002-2010, they lost lost games with FG of 47, 53, 49, 60, 48, 51, 47, 42, 59 yards.

For real, are all Patriots fans cynical and obnoxious like this? Your reactions to articles like this are always the same. Pure denial.

by nat :: Sat, 09/23/2017 - 8:09am

I dunno.

It was outdoors and not in Denver's thin air. Vanderjagt had missed two of his last three such kicks at this length or longer. It was kinda dumb of the Colts to settle for that long an attempt at Foxboro. They needed to be at least ten yards closer to be comfortable. What were they thinking?

Making a bunch of shorter, indoor, or thin air kicks doesn't mean you are certain or even likely to make a longer one outside at sea level.

by Scott Kacsmar :: Sat, 09/23/2017 - 2:31pm

Given your embarrassing rationale behind Cundiff and Mare, you must think Vinatieri's snow kick and 03 Titans kick are the luckiest ever given the conditions.

Vinatieri might agree with you too.

“I thought about that many times. I’m sure it’s a pretty low percentage,” Vinatieri said. “I always flirt with that 10-to-20 times maybe, a 10-percent or 20-percent kick. I know it’s probably not a 50-50 situation like that, with four or five inches of snow on the ground, pretty good blizzard, backs against the wall and it’s a 45-yarder. It’s probably a low percentage kick, but thank God everything worked out well that time and I got it over the line of scrimmage and on line, it took a long time, I think I prayed about ten prayers in the three or four seconds it took to get to the upright. I’m sure glad I made that one when I needed to.”


by nat :: Sat, 09/23/2017 - 4:11pm

What an unprofessional post. You don't even pretend to be an objective analyst and unbiased moderator, do you? Meh. It's a very bad look for FO. Such drivel doesn't really merit a response. But here goes, anyway.

As for Vinatieri, he was acknowledging the high degree of difficulty of that kick. Duh. He's not going to claim it was easy or that he would always succeed in that situation. It wasn't, and he wouldn't. The whole unit had to play at the top of their game to make that kick in those conditions. It's not something they would always succeed at. It's hard. That's what "hard" means.

It took supreme concentration and execution on the snap, hold, and kick. After that, the ball followed the laws of physics, as always. Making a difficult kick is not luck. It's the epitome of skill. Luck would be if a seagull flew into the ball's path or a sudden gust of wind pushed the ball at right angles in its flight.

From the other team's perspective, there is little in the way of skill they could do except try to block the kick. After that, it was out of their hands. The kick itself was "Luck" from their perspective... and playing at a very high level for the kicking team.

There's no contradiction there. The "luck" involved was running up against kicking unit that didn't choke in bad conditions, but instead rose to the challenge.

by renangms :: Sun, 09/24/2017 - 9:05pm

You're a pathetic liar. I just said that he had made 42 consecutive FG before that miss. Including FG of 50, 48 and many others 40+ yards.

by ramirez :: Sun, 09/24/2017 - 10:40pm

It bothers me when people are falsely accused of lying, so I looked up the FG splits. Here's what nat said:

"It was outdoors and not in Denver's thin air. Vanderjagt had missed two of his last three such kicks at this length or longer."

He's talking about Vanderjagt's miss against New England in the 2004 season opener, which was from 48 yards. The last three FG attempts for Vanderjagt before that game that were at least 48 yards, not indoors, and not in Denver, were

-a 50 yard attempt in Miami in 2003 (good)

-a 48 yard attempt in Philadelphia in 2002 (missed)

-a 48 yard attempt in Pittsburgh in 2002 (missed)

So, exactly like nat said, going into the New England game in week 1 of 2004, Vanderjagt had missed 2 of his last 3 attempts in outdoor stadiums, excluding Denver, that were at least 48 yards long. That's why it was unwise of the Colts to expect Vanderjagt to make the 48 yarder in New England.

by renangms :: Sun, 09/24/2017 - 11:33pm

Because it makes sense to ignore 2 years of data and look at his rookie season when he was more inconsistent to make conclusions, right?
It makes sense to ignore outside FG with perfect weather conditions just like the one he missed in NE. Denver adds around 5 yards in FG range. So a 54y FG would be around 49 yard FG on level. But let's ignore that as well.
You're either liars, trolls or not very smart or a combination of the 3.

by ramirez :: Sun, 09/24/2017 - 11:59pm

You said he lied, which he did not do. That was my point. It isn't reasonable to expect a kicker to make a 48 yard FG outdoors, and the fact that Vanderjagt made a bunch of kicks in a row that were indoors or from shorter distances doesn't change that. As I just showed, only one of Vanderjagt's kicks made in 2003 was outdoors, not in Denver, and 48+ yards long.

Blaming the kicker for the loss to the Patriots-Scott even suggested that it explains the playoff loss at the end of the 2004 season, in which Manning was garbage-is just another example of Peyton's fans making excuses for the guy. It's sad.

by nat :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 9:40am

Thank you for verifying my analysis. It's always possible I could have made a mistake, so double-checking is a good thing.

And, yes, I agree it sucks when people are falsely accused of lying. Thanks for taking the time to fight back against that kind of noxious behavior.

by renangms :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:00am

You really are cynical. Patriots fans like you are obnoxious. I was pretty clear why you lied or were misrepresenting the data.

The conditions on NE when he attempted the kick were great. High temperature, low wind, perfect grass. Period. If you say otherwise, you are lying.

A 54-yard FG in Denver is at least as hard as the FG that he missed. Because the conditions were great in the game in NE, the conditions are pretty close to any kick in a dome. If you say otherwise, you are lying.

by ramirez :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:45pm

Nobody lied, and nobody misrepresented the data. No one said that the conditions in the 2004 week 1 New England-Indy were bad weather. No one said that a 54 yarder in Denver is easier than a 48 yarder in New England. Please stop accusing him of lying, when he has done no such thing.

The reason nat removed Denver from the list of outdoor stadiums is because we all know it's an outlier among outdoor stadiums when it comes to kickers making long FGs. 3 of the 4 longest kicks in NFL history came in Denver, because of the altitude. So in trying to determine how Vanderjagt might perform in the New England game, nat looked at games played outdoors, but not in Denver, at 48+ yards, and like we've said already, Vanderjagt had missed 2 of his last 3 attempts in that situation heading into the week 1 2004 game. That's why it was unwise of the Colts to simply expect Vanderjagt to make that kick. And that point remains true, regardless of how he previously performed in Denver, because we know that Denver isn't like other outdoor stadiums when it comes to field goals.

I've encountered this guy renangms before on twitter. He has a habit of failing to see when he is wrong about something, and continuing to belabor a point. In a previous discussion, he kept going on about Joe Montana's three worst playoff games, when that point was irrelevant to the points being made by the other people in the discussion, and he didn't seem to understand why it was irrelevant when it was explained to him.

by renangms :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 2:12pm

"No one said that the conditions in the 2004 week 1 New England-Indy were bad weather."

Yes, he did. Right here. "The two unblocked kicks of reasonable range in reasonable weather conditions that missed were..."
He left the NE-IND FG out of the list. He said a 47-yard FG is a reasonable range. So if you say the game had good or reasonable weather, that means that the NWE-IND FG fits both criteria (weather and range). It's the logical conclusion. You see, you lied in your 2nd sentence. Let's see you come up with another ridiculous excuse.

"No one said that a 54 yarder in Denver is easier than a 48 yarder in New England." later you say it's an outlier. How can't you see the condradiciton in your argument?

If it's not easier, then it's not an outlier and should not be ignored. Again, it's the logical conclusion.

So stating that "Vanderjagt had missed 2 of his last 3 attempts in that situation" is a LIE.

"I've encountered this guy renangms before on twitter." You're pathetic loser.

by ramirez :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 3:14pm

OK, I'll try to walk you through this, though I'm probably just wasting my time.

"He left the NE-IND FG out of the list. He said a 47-yard FG is a reasonable range"

And the Vanderjagt miss was from 48 yards. So if we define "reasonable range" as less than 48 yards, the statement is entirely consistent. So I didn't lie. Unless you literally misunderstand the meaning of the term "lie." I know English isn't your first language, but come on man, this isn't difficult.

My argument about Denver isn't a contradiction. You're misunderstanding what I mean by outlier. I'm talking about the fact that Denver is a statistical outlier among outdoor NFL stadiums, when it comes to making 50+ yard field goals. The question of whether or not it is "easier" to hit from 54 yards in Denver than from 48 in New England is an entirely separate question from whether or not, if we're trying to predict performance by kickers in New England, we would want to include performance in Denver in the data set. (We wouldn't, because we know that kickers as a group hit longer field goals in Denver than in other outdoor stadiums.) The question we're interested is not "which kick is easier?" but "will performance in Denver accurately predict performance in other outdoor stadiums?". Since we know that Denver is a statistical outlier, that means it won't predict performance in other stadiums accurately, and that's why nat excluded it from the data set.

The statement "Vanderjagt had missed 2 of his last 3 attempts in that situation" is not a lie, because the situation being described is specifically kicks in outdoor stadiums, from 48+ yards, and not in Denver. As I've already demonstrated, Vanderjagt had missed 2 of his last 3 kicks in that situation, so the statement you quoted is factual, whether you like it or not.

Let me ask you something. If you deny that Denver is an outlier for long field goals outdoors, why do you think it is that going into the 2004 season, the only 2 field goals Vanderjagt had made beyond 50 yards outdoors in the 2002-2003 seasons both came in Denver? Because that observation is consistent with what we are saying, that it's easier to hit long field goals in Denver than in other outdoor stadiums.

by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 4:05pm

"And the Vanderjagt miss was from 48 yards. So if we define "reasonable range" as less than 48 yards"

Just stop right there.

FG% since 2001 in outdoor stadiums
47 yards - 72.2%
48 yards - 62.7%
49 yards - 68.8%
50 yards - 63.5%
51 yards - 59.9%
52 yards - 54.8%
53 yards - 58.5%
54 yards - 54.1%
55 yards - 50.6%
56 yards - 48.6%
57 yards - 41.4%

You have to get to 56 yards until we see the rate dip below 50%, which is close with my findings on all clutch FGs (https://twitter.com/FO_ScottKacsmar/status/911318048103129090). It has to be a mid-50's kick before you should start expecting a miss.

by nat :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 4:28pm

Sure. If Foxboro is typical for outdoor stadiums and Vanderjagt a typical outdoor kicker, then you might consider it a little less than two-thirds chance. Better than fifty-fifty, but still not a chip shot gimme kick where only luck would explain a miss. The Colts really, really needed to be closer before they kicked that one. What in God's name were they thinking to stop there? Was it cocky overconfidence?

Although that data is for all kickers in all outdoor stadiums. You'll run the same numbers on Foxboro, right? And a similar list from Vanderjagt's outdoor kicks? (I'd suggest using just visiting kickers for the Foxboro one to avoid skewing the data set.)

Let us know what you find.

by renangms :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 4:58pm

No one said it was a chip shot gimme kick. No one.

"What in God's name were they thinking to stop there? Was it cocky overconfidence?"

It was a 4th down with 24 seconds left losing by 3. FG was a no brainer.

Field goal attempts, between 2002 and 2017, vs. the New England Patriots, between 48 and 49 yards: 8/12 = 66.7%.

by nat :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 5:57pm

Vanderjagt's FG attempts, between 2002 and 2004 prior to the kick in question, outdoors 48 and 49 yards: 1/3 = 33.3%

Which is probably more relevant than what other kickers might be able to do at that distance in Foxboro.

He was better at that distance earlier in his career, although never what you'd call great at it. And I am sure we could cherry pick a distance range to make him look better (or maybe worse, although you picked a particularly bad range for him, I'd guess). His reputation was always one of shorter range reliability and indoor kicking than it was a longer kicks outdoors, wasn't it?

His record for outdoors from the 18 or 19 yard line (LOS) was 3/4 = 75.0%. Too bad they weren't that close. Which brings us to...

...settling for a 48 yard attempt:
It was a 4th down with 24 seconds left losing by 3. FG was a no brainer.

Agreed. It was taking a 12 yard sack on the previous play that was the bonehead move that mostly lost them the game, turning a chip shot into a challenge. The 2 yard pass and incomplete pass before that were pretty weak, too, but still left them in easy kicking range. I'd forgotten until you reminded me to check the play-by-play. Well, great QBs make terrible plays every now and then. Sometimes it costs their team a chip shot field goal attempt and thus (in large part) a game.

Sigh. Shit happens.

Anyway, a 12 yard sack definitely does NOT count as kicking luck.

by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 5:59pm

An unblocked defender should be considered something, but I see where this circle jerk is going. Later.

by nat :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 6:47pm


Someone mentioned a bad play by Peyton (or his line, but a bad play either way), so Scott's taking his ball and going home.

We can see what YOUR agenda was. I guess the wistful fantasy about forcing Belichick to admit that it was kicking luck and not team skill, a great QB, and good coaching that helped his team to its success... kinda gave it away.

The rest of us were talking about field goal kicking and how you need to consider the particular kickers and distances and venues and their combinations (and weather if you can, although the data's not there for most games) before you jump to conclusions about teams being "lucky" when "defending" field goals. Just going with percentages is not only wrong, it's wrong in the most basic way that FO's handling of special teams DVOA tries to correct.

It's fundamental FO concepts, really. An FO staffer should know and respect them by second nature, and not ignore them to further a pre-baked agenda.

by renangms :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 4:59pm

47 is reasonable distance, but 48 is not? You see what you do? English is irrelevant here. You lack basic logical reasoning. I don't. You cherry picks limits to favor your narrative. I don't.

"The question of whether or not it is "easier" to hit from 54 yards in Denver than from 48 in New England is an entirely separate question"

This question is NOT a separate question. A 54-yard FG in Denver is similar to a 48-yard FG in sea-level. There are different studies that says the difference is around 5 yards. Google it.

"Since we know that Denver is a statistical outlier, that means it won't predict performance in other stadiums accurately, and that's why nat excluded it from the data set."

Wrong. The correct sentence is, since we know that Denver is a easier to make FG, we must adjust the distance.

That's what smart people do. They adjust for situation. This is what DVOA does. They adjust for era, for opponent, for situation etc.

"the only 2 field goals Vanderjagt had made beyond 50 yards outdoors in the 2002-2003"

You add the word BEYOND, because you want to ignore the 50-yard FG that he made @MIA (outdoor game). Once again, cherry picking the limits.

by ramirez :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 6:04pm

The problem with this guy is that he repeatedly says things that are demonstrably wrong, but lacks the ability to see WHY he is wrong about them. He's repeatedly accused other people of lying, when they have done no such thing.

First of all, the distinction between 47 and 48 yards as a "reasonable distance" wasn't made by me. It was made by nat, so if you have a problem with it, take it up with him. What I'm saying is that if we accept that delineation, then the statements he has made are consistent, and are not "lies". However, Kacsmar has obligingly provided the numbers that show that that particular delineation IS accurate, because any kick outdoors from 47 yards or closer is more than 70% likely to be good, and anything from 48+ is less than 70%. So that's our definition, and what nat has said is perfectly consistent with that.

Now, the problem with your take on the Denver stuff is that you fail to grasp WHY you are wrong. There are two separate questions here. "Is a 54 yarder in Denver harder than a 48 yarder in Foxboro?" is a different question from "will performance kicking in Denver predict performance in Foxboro?". Let me provide an example from another sport to try to help you understand.

In baseball, Coors Field in Denver, because of the altitude, is the best hitter's park in the majors, and hitters consistently put up better numbers in Denver than in any other ballpark. So you could ask a question like "is it harder to hit .400 in 50 games playing in Denver than it is to hit .350 in 50 games in a pitcher's park like San Francisco?" And it probably is harder to hit .400 in Denver.

But that has nothing to do with the separate question, which has to do with predicting performance, that is "does performance by hitters in Denver accurately predict what they will do when playing in San Francisco?" And since we know that hitters, as a group across the league, hit much better in Denver than San Francisco, it would be stupid to use stats compiled in Denver to try to predict how the same player would perform in San Francisco. That's the point about long FGs in Denver. What we are trying to do is predict how likely Vanderjagt was to make the kick in New England. And just like with Coors Field in baseball, because kickers as a group hit longer field goals in Denver than in any other outdoor stadium, performance in Denver is a weak basis upon which to predict how a kicker will do in other outdoor stadiums.

It's the same reason why we don't use indoor FG numbers to predict how a kicker will do in outdoor stadiums. It may be true that it's easier to hit from 48 yards outdoors than from 54 yards indoors, but that doesn't mean we would use performance in a dome to PREDICT how a kicker will do outdoors.

As for your various claims that I cherry-picked data, you're wrong. I never denied that Vanderjagt hit from 50 in Miami. In fact, I was the one who told you that he did. The point is that over a 2 year span, the only kicks Vanderjagt made OVER 50 yards in outdoor stadiums both came in Denver. That supports the hypothesis that kickers are more likely to make long field goals in Denver than in any other outdoor stadium.

Again, I'm not sure you understand what I mean when I talk about statistical outliers. If you study the numbers, you'll see that kickers are far more likely to hit long FGs in Denver, and hitters will put up much better batting stats at Coors Field, to a degree that simply HAS to be included in an analysis that hopes to predict how players will perform in other stadiums.

by renangms :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 6:47pm

You keep saying "kicker are more likely to make long field goals in Denver than in any other outdoor stadium" like I disagreed with it. But I NEVER did. This does not contradict anything that I have said. So stop saying it.

54-yard FG in Denver is "equivalent" to a 48-yard in sea-level. Period. There are empirical analysis that confirms this statement.
So yes, you CAN use a 54-yard FG in Denver to predict a 48-yard FG in sea-level. You can't use a 48-yard in Denver though. It's not my fault that you can't understand this.

You whole argument is based on the premise that because Denver is easier make FG, than EVERY SINGLE data that comes from it is useless. Your premise is STUPID.

Detroit Lions hired M. Prater analyzing how he performed in Denver and adjusted for playing in Detroit.

If you can't understand the concept of adjusting for the situation, what are you doing in a website that talks about DVOA?

by ramirez :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 6:55pm

All right dude, since you believe that performance on 54 yard FG attempts in Denver is a reliable way to predict how kickers will perform at shorter distances in other stadiums, please show me the "empirical analysis that confirms this."

It's put or shut up time. Either show me the numbers, or provide a link where I can find them, or else I'm not wasting any more time on this.

by renangms :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 7:19pm


"Kicks in Denver do indeed have longer range, to the tune of about 5 yards."" - Brian Burke

by ramirez :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 7:59pm

Thank you for providing the link. It shows that kickers in Denver will make 54 yard field goals at the same rate as kickers in other outdoor stadiums will make 49 yard field goals. What I don't understand is why you think that looking at 54 yard attempts in Denver is a more reliable, or even equally reliable, method than simply studying performance in outdoor stadiums. Again, we don't use performance by kickers in a dome to PREDICT how they will perform outside of a dome, but at some point the performance rates will intersect.

That article by Burke shows that on average, kickers can hit kicks from about 5 yards further away in Denver. That point has nothing to do with PREDICTING how kickers will fare, exclusively in outdoor stadiums at sea level. The problem with your take is that it fails to account for different conditions. You're taking a data point that reflects a difference in performance, and trying to use it for predictive purposes.

The statement "kickers gain about 5 yards of range in Denver" is true. The statement "we can use performance in Denver to reliably predict how kickers will perform under different conditions in outdoor stadiums, and to the same level of accuracy as when we use previous performance in non-Denver outdoor stadiums" isn't true. But you don't seem to be able to grasp that crucial distinction.

by renangms :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 8:39pm

The crucial distinction that you try to create is non existent. You adjust for situation. This the CORE of that FO does and it's you that don't see to grasp that.

"It's put or shut up time."

I proved you wrong. Now shut up!

by ramirez :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 9:00pm

But you didn't prove me wrong, and I don't understand why you think that you did. The distinction isn't nonexistent, and if you believe it is, then you don't understand what you're talking about.

Again, let's go back to my baseball example. Let's say we have a player who plays year 1 in San Franisco and hits 30 home runs. Then in year two he gets traded to Denver, and hits 50 home runs playing in the hitter's paradise of Coors Field. Then in year 3, he gets traded back to San Francisco. What would we believe to be a more reliable measure of his future performance-his 30 hr year in San Francicso, or his 50 hr year in Denver? Obviously it would be the stats compiled in San Francisco, and that's because those numbers account for the conditions in the San Francisco ballpark in a way that the Coors Field numbers do not.

The adjustment renangms is making doesn't account for different conditions in different stadiums. The only way you can claim that performance on 54 yard Denver field goals is as reliable a predictor of performance in other stadiums as performance in those actual stadiums, is if you deny that kickers perform differently in Denver. And we know that they do perform differently. I don't know what's hard to grasp about that. I don't think this guy wants to grasp the crucial distinction I'm talking about, and that's his loss, because he'd be a better analyst if he wasn't stubborn as a mule.

by renangms :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 10:36pm

I had enough.

"The adjustment renangms is making doesn't account for different conditions in different stadiums."

Are fucking serious? That's exactly what I did, you idiot.

You know how this site predicts if NE is going to beat GB? Buy looking how NE played against MIA, BUF, NYJ, NO etc. But do they think beating NYJ by 3 points is the same as beating PIT by 3 points? NO. But beating by 14 points is closer. They make adjustments based on the opponent.

Based in your stupid logic, how NE played against NYJ is irrelevant. We should only consider previous games against GB. How can you not see how stupid this is?

Adjusting for distance based on the altitude is the same idea.
If "kickers gain about 5 yards of range in Denver" then "a 54-yard FG in Denver" is a sample that should be used to analyze FG from at least 48 yards. I'm adding more samples that will INCREASE the prediction.

Based on your stupid logic, if a QB played well against DEN (great pass D) but was bad for the rest of the year, then if he face DEN again in the future, we should ignore all the other games and look only to the DEN game because is "more reliable a predictor of performance".

You're fucking dumb.

by ramirez :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:19pm

Oh my god, this guy is a pain. He just cannot understand what I am trying to explain to him-that if you want to make accurate predictions, you have to adjust for differences in stadiums and conditions, which again, is the reason we DON'T use indoor stats to predict performance in outdoor stadiums. And that removing 5 yards from the 54 yard FG Vanderjagt made in Denver one time ISN"T an example of that kind of adjustment for conditions.

The fact that this guy doesn't understand these very basic concepts, and has adopted an angry, aggressive, and insulting tone this entire time, and continues to provide expletive-laden insults that do nothing to help his argument, give a pretty good indication of the intellectual level I'm dealing with here. I genuinely feel sorry for someone like Renan-he will never figure out why he is wrong, or how to improve the quality of his analysis. Because you can't learn if you can't admit you might be wrong.

Also, it's really sad how much the quality of this site has gone downhill in the last few years.

by renangms :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:46pm

"we DON'T use indoor stats to predict performance in outdoor stadiums"

Who's WE? That's just stupid people like you. This website that you are wasting your time uses indoor stats to predict performance in outdoor stadiums. They just adjust to it.

"Offense gets a slight penalty and defense gets a slight bonus for games indoors."

If you had a very large sample of 48-yard FG in NE, then, and only then it would make sense to not consider other data. But that's not the case. It's not even close to the reality. We're arguing for a day for a 3 sample data. And you even want to remove 1 sample. It's pathetic.

I can see you hating in basically every article written by Scott. You're a loser. I bet every reasonable person reading our discussion thinks you're not very smart and stubborn.

by ramirez :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:57pm

I rest my case.

by nat :: Sat, 09/23/2017 - 2:34pm

FYI: here's a link to an LA Times article about the game, and the role of infield dirt in Olindo Mare's kicking woes:

Get over it. It might have been "luck" for tha Patriots to lose the OT coin flip. But both teams knew missing on dirt was a real possibility. Everyone knew it and could call plays accordingly.

Not an excuse. Just an illustration of why context matters. Sometimes FG misses are random variation. Sometimes they are caused in a large part by bad conditions. That's life. And that's why context matters so much in small sample analysis.

by nat :: Fri, 09/22/2017 - 2:47pm

Looking at the Patriots' "clutch field goal luck" a different (and better way):

On offense, you can hardly call having good kickers luck. Vinatieri is famous for his clutchness, and will probably make the HOF on that basis alone. Gostkowski is a pretty good kicker, too. So unless by "luck" we mean "good kicks" there's nothing there to see. We can and should ignore this part of Scott's lament. I'll accept that it was "lucky" to have good kickers who make good kicks. But not the kind of "lucky" we should be talking about here.

On defense, blocking the kick isn't luck: it's skill and effort on the part of your kick defense. But you could be lucky in the sense that opposing kickers did poorly on those plays when their kicks were not blocked. Defenses have little control over that. That's the only "luck" it makes sense to look at.

If we divide kicks into short (11-39 yards), medium (40-49) and long (50+), and look at OT and 4QLate separately, we can get an expected number of unblocked kicks made for a given mix of distances.

Patriots' opponents went 8/15 in unblocked kicks. Expected results, with conditions that are average for the whole league (including indoor fields and Denver, known for being easier on kicking), works out to 11/15 being the expected result for their mix of distances.

First, it must be noted that we're talking about at most 3 kicks in sixteen seasons. So quit your whining! It's a tiny sample, and a trivial difference between "luckiest ever, those overrated, scurvy dogs" and "meh, average".

Second, it must also be noted that 2 misses came in freezing weather, 1 came with 19 mph winds, and one came from the World Series infield dirt, all bad conditions for a kick. If those kicks were indoors on field turf, who knows what would have happened. You'd expect at least one or two to flip to the success category at those distances, maybe all three. 19 mph winds are tough on kickers. Freezing temperatures do a number on the pressure in the footballs, making longer kicks that much harder. And kicking on a dirt surface just stinks.

The upshot here is that (a) there wasn't all that much "luck" going on, (b) some of that "luck" was bad conditions, which the Patriots also had to face in those games, and (c) it's all a trivial effect, anyway.

Really. If you're whining about the Patriots "Clutch field goal luck" then you are just whining about meaningless trivia.

by ramirez :: Fri, 09/22/2017 - 2:59pm

Great info! It says something about this site that you learn more from the people in the comments section than you do from the people paid to write the articles.

by Grendel13G :: Sun, 09/24/2017 - 9:34pm

What. The. Hell. Is. Going. On. In. These. Comments.

by renangms :: Sun, 09/24/2017 - 11:33pm