Jim Schwartz's (Accidental) Fourth Down Call
UPDATE: OK, this is what I get for trying to be timely. I got this up quickly only to find out that Jim Schwartz said in the postgame news conference that they were only trying to draw the Titans offside and Dominic Raiola was not supposed to snap the ball. So, none of this matters if we're trying to figure out what Schwartz was thinking. But heck, I know you were all wondering about this anyway, so I'll leave this up for discussion.
Let me admit, first of all, that I don't have a spreadsheet with numbers that are quite as exact as what Brian Burke will likely figure out, but I think I've got things pretty close here.
The first question is, what are the Lions' chances of winning if they tie the game and kick off to the Titans? Given the strength of offense across the league, and the Titans' offense in this game, I would have to say it isn't 50 percent. Maybe 40 percent? Let's say 45 percent to be conservative.
So if the Lions convert the fourth down, they've got the ball first-and-goal at the 6. From that position, your chances of a touchdown should be about 60 percent and a field goal about 30 percent. In that 30 percent of plays, they win 45 percent of the time, just like if they had kicked the field goal from the 7. So if they convert the fourth down, they win the game 73.5 percent of the time.
They're going to convert the fourth down 68 percent of the time, so if they go for it, .68 x .735 works out almost exactly to a 50 percent chance of winning (49.98 percent, but we're already rounding some of these numbers a little, so let's say 50 percent).
The field goal is good 96 percent of the time, and like we said, we're going to estimate the Lions have a 45 percent chance of winning if they tie, so 43.2 percent chance of winning if they kick the field goal.
That would suggest that going for it was the right move, and that's taking the conservative position that if the Titans -- playing well on offense -- got the ball back, they would only win against the Lions -- who were playing crappy on defense -- 45 percent of the time. The Lions are out there with a secondary that consists of Chris Houston plus some castoffs from other teams and special teams guys like John Wendling who are stretched on defense. The more you think the Lions defense was sucking, the more that going for the first down was the right call.