NFL GameChangers: Week 12 Edition (11/28/16)
The Situation: The Vikings were playing in their biggest game of the season on Thanksgiving. Playing in Detroit against the Lions who they were tied with atop the division. Sam Bradford found himself in a tie game with less than forty seconds left. The Vikings, who played the entire game close to the vest offensively, tried to drive for a game-winning score when Darius Slay jumped a Bradford pass for an interception. The Lions went on to kick the game-winning field goal themselves to end regulation.
The Take: The Lions actually disguised their defense well on what would be the game-winning interception. They faked man-to-man defense while actually in a zone. Darius Slay, with help from the safety over the top, checked off of his man in coverage and jumped the out-route ran by Adam Thielen who was open at the time.
The Vikings took an interesting time to try to score considering Bradford only threw for six yards per attempt on Thursday. Heading into the last few seconds, the Vikings held a 48% chance to win on the road. After the interception, the Lions then held a 90.8% chance to win and would eventually allow Matt Prater to knock one through the uprights as time expired.
The Situation: After an exciting finish in regulation, the Broncos and Chiefs traded field goals in overtime. The Broncos decided to try a 62-yard field goal with just a minute left in the game on 4th and 10 as opposed to punting or going for it. McManus would miss the field goal and resulted in the Chiefs getting the ball on Denver's side of the field. The Chiefs then drove the short field and kicked the game-winning field goal.
The Take: In a close divisional race, the Broncos adding a game to the loss column was huge. If Gary Kubiak was going to take a chance to win the game, going for 4th and 10 seems like a much better option than kicking a 62-yard field goal with enough time left on the clock for the Chiefs to drive in the opposite direction. In a game where Denver was a small favorite at the time at 51.5%, the Chiefs odds immediately jumped to 65.4% after the miss.
From some independent studies, it seems 4th and 10 is converted around 25% of the time. One would think the odds of McManus hitting a field goal out of his reported range is less than 25%. Thus, if Kubiak was set on going for the win, he should have tried to convert with his offense since an incomplete pass or similar plays would have resulted in a longer field for the Chiefs anyway.
However, in such a tight divisional race and such a low chance to win the game on that drive, the best value would have been to punt the ball into the Chiefs own territory and make it close to impossible to get into field goal range with the time remaining. The situation begs the question of if the Raiders happened to lose earlier Sunday if Kubiak would have made the decision to kick the field goal, punt, or go for it on fourth down.