How Not to Reach the Super Bowl
NFL Conference Championship - The 2022 playoff season has been defined by some spectacular finishes, and this weekend’s conference championships provided more of the same. Both games went down to the wire and were essentially decided by late interceptions. Earlier in each game there was a particularly pivotal moment that impacted the outcomes.
The Chiefs were in a seemingly commanding position just moments before halftime. They had a 21-10 lead with first-and-goal at the Bengals 1-yard line. With only 9 seconds of game clock and no timeouts, they would get at least one shot at the end zone and hoped to do no worse than a field goal. After Patrick Mahomes threw incomplete on first down, they decided to take one more shot at a touchdown with five seconds remaining before the half. Inexplicably, Mahomes threw a pass in the flat to Tyreek Hill, who was tackled short of the goal line as time ran out. The following table represents some different possible scenarios and their resulting GWC.
|Up to two passing attempts at touchdown with default to field goal on third down||97.3%|
|One passing attempt at touchdown with default to field goal on second down||96.9%|
|One rushing attempt at touchdown with no time for field goal attempt||95.4%|
|One passing attempt for touchdown with default to rushing attempt on second down||96.7%|
The following assumptions are being used:
Passing success rate = 49%
Rushing success rate = 55%
Field goal success rate = 99%
As it turned out, the Chiefs only managed to take a 21-10 lead into halftime but had the benefit of first possession in the third quarter. This resulted in a GWC of 92.4%. Obviously, the Chiefs were in a very strong position regardless of the debacle at the goal line, but the difference between a 24-10 and 21-10 halftime lead is still 3.4% GWC. Most importantly, this was a completely preventable error. It was hard to imagine at halftime, but every little bit of GWC turned out to matter as the Chiefs staged one of the most surprising collapses in NFL playoff history. While credit must be given to Cincinnati’s defensive adjustments, the Chiefs were almost unrecognizable on offense in the second half.
A key decision occurred during the NFC Championship Game when the 49ers faced a critical fourth-and-2 on the Rams' 45-yard line with 10:01 remaining in the game and nursing a three-point lead. Kyle Shanahan decided to serve up some standard fare as he initially had his team line up for a punt while Sean McVay squandered his third timeout on an unsuccessful challenge. Next, Shanahan instructed Jimmy Garoppolo to attempt to draw the Rams offside with a long count. As is typically the case, the ploy was futile and only served to back up the 49ers 5 yards for the punt attempt. This was hands-down the worst coaching decision of the weekend as it cost the 49ers more than 5% in GWC at a crucial juncture of the game. Even though they were struggling on offense at the time, the 49ers still should have been favorites to convert a first-down attempt. A successful conversion retains scoring prospects, burns clock, and keeps the ball away from the Rams offense, and was clearly worth the risk of turning the ball over near midfield. Shanahan showed why he is rated in the bottom tier (20th in the EdjSports Critical Call Index) of NFL coaches on fourth-down decision-making.