Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

28 Dec 2005

Atlanta Shoulda Gone For It

Our good friend Bill Krasker has done the math and says the Falcons shouldn't have punted with 1:08 left in overtime. Lucky for Bill, he didn't suggest this to Jim Mora Jr. during the Falcons' post-game radio show.

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 28 Dec 2005

17 comments, Last at 29 Dec 2005, 4:38pm by Bill Krasker


by Theo (not verified) :: Wed, 12/28/2005 - 9:17pm

"With 1:08 left in the extra session"
Please, dear God, I fear the day math geegs armed with calculators do the half time show.

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 12/28/2005 - 10:47pm

I'll take math guys with calculators over Jimmy Kimmel any day.

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 12/28/2005 - 11:08pm

Anyways, the Falcons should have done the math before the game and known that if the games goes into OT and Dallas and Washington have already won, a tie virtually ends thier playoff chances.

by Jay B. (not verified) :: Wed, 12/28/2005 - 11:41pm

What's a "geeg?"

by Vash (not verified) :: Wed, 12/28/2005 - 11:49pm

2: Kimmel was funny with the Cowher segment. That was about it, though.

by Sid (not verified) :: Thu, 12/29/2005 - 12:26am

This is obvious to seemingly everyone except Jim Mora Jr. himself and Gregg Easterbook.

by Brock (not verified) :: Thu, 12/29/2005 - 12:19pm

The Falcons should have known every possible playoff scenario even the ones that were slim before the game started.

by Dman (not verified) :: Thu, 12/29/2005 - 12:48pm

The punt made sense to me. Going for it that deep in your own territory is just begging to give away points (and therefore the game). The problem wasn't the punt it was the horrible punt coverage.

by dryheat (not verified) :: Thu, 12/29/2005 - 12:54pm

I just read that Joe Horn intends to take up with Tagliabue the reason why Mora wasn't fined 30 large for pulling out a cell phone during a game. That ought to be a very lengthy conversation.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 12/29/2005 - 12:58pm

In this situation, a Tie IS a loss. They should have gone for it.

by Gavin (not verified) :: Thu, 12/29/2005 - 1:00pm

Re: #8
The point is that a tie is just as damaging as a loss. Atlanta had to WIN to stay alive. Punting with less than a minute to go in OT eliminates the possibility of a win.

by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 12/29/2005 - 1:24pm

How many timeouts did Atlanta have at the time? And how damaging was a tie to Tampa? Even if you concede that a tie is essentially as bad as a loss for Atlanta, these are relevant factors in the decision. If a tie is very damaging to Tampa's prospects, then it would be reasonable to expect Tampa to try to win (i.e. pass rather than run, and go for a 1st down even if they face a 4th down). And if you hold a timeout or two and trust your defense, then the chance of winning if you punt is not almost zero, as Krasker maintains, but significantly better. Clean punt coverage, a 4-and-out defensive stop, and judicious use of timeouts if Tampa runs or gets sacked gives you much better field position (figure you get the ball around the Tampa 40 or so, if everything goes as planned) and costs you about 20 seconds. Maybe not great odds of this, but the relevant question would be: is the probability of converting a 4th and 2, and then driving 50 yards in 20 seconds greater than the probability of a cleanly covered punt and then forcing 4 incomplete passes/stuffed runs/sacks? I'm not convinced one way or the other.

Of course, if Tampa was fine with a tie, I'll agree that punting was obviously the wrong decision, because once they got the ball, Tampa could play for a tie.

by Paul (not verified) :: Thu, 12/29/2005 - 3:12pm

I think Tampa would've been fine with a tie, which probably also allowed them to play looser at the end. Mora really blew it. To say that organization should've know the possibilities before the game is inaccurate - the head coach should've known the possbilities. Do you think that a coach such as Belichick would've gone into that game without this advance knowledge?

by karl (not verified) :: Thu, 12/29/2005 - 3:41pm

A punt + 3 offensive plays leaves app. 30 seconds on the clock when TB makes its 4th down decision - at which point , in a battle for not only a WC but the division (with knowledge of the Car loss), it can be reasonably assumed they would decide for a tie as opposed to the possible loss. Furthermore, Considering that ATL had the ball on their own 24 at the time, they are highly unlikely to win after a punt.

InRe Post1: I suppose you prefer the Madden and Theismann ilk: "You see, that's what Tom Brady does so well..."(while commentating on a non-Patriots game, mind you), or maybe even the Stu Scott poetry hour/Chris Berman mumble minute.

Finally: I wonder how Marathe feels about Kirk Reynolds.

by Sid (not verified) :: Thu, 12/29/2005 - 3:44pm

Maybe not great odds of this, but the relevant question would be: is the probability of converting a 4th and 2, and then driving 50 yards in 20 seconds greater than the probability of a cleanly covered punt and then forcing 4 incomplete passes/stuffed runs/sacks?

They didn't need to drive 50 yards in 20 seconds. They had a minute and 10 seconds left, and they had the ball at their own 24. If they converted the 4th down (very possible), they would have practically guaranteed at least a tie, with the possibility of a win.
By punting, they eliminated their chances of winning. Tampa Bay had it 1st and 10 with 54 seconds left. There is no way Atlanta would have been able to get the ball back with enough time left unless they generated a turnover immediately.

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 12/29/2005 - 4:23pm

Here are Atlanta's 3 plays before the punt:
1-10-ATL 16 (1:52) (Shotgun) 7-M.Vick pass incomplete to 83-A.Crumpler.
2-10-ATL 16 (1:48) (Shotgun) 7-M.Vick up the middle to ATL 24 for 8 yards (20-R.Barber).
3-2-ATL 24 (1:14) (Shotgun) 7-M.Vick pass incomplete to 12-M.Jenkins (20-R.Barber).

Each team had used 1 timeout, and I think you get two in OT, so they both had one remaining. Considering that Atlanta was averaging over 4 yards per rush, perhaps the
better question is why throw on 3rd down?

by Bill Krasker (not verified) :: Thu, 12/29/2005 - 4:38pm

MJK (#12):

Atlanta had just one timeout. In addition, barring an improbable loss against New Orleans in Week 17, only a loss to Atlanta could keep TB out of the playoffs. So TB would have punted on 4th down in their own territory.