I’d like to bring you back to a little buzzword that sportspeople invented years ago to pacify their shortcomings and It’s called momentum.
But with momentum comes a host of metrics behind it. If you don’t like analytics, then the NFL isn’t for you.
Yesterday, trailing by seven, the Carolina Panthers needed a score on the road to the Detroit Lions. Cam Newton found DJ Moore in the back of the end zone for six.
As is the case with most scores that late in the game, coaches opt to kick the extra point and risk the wrath of overtime upon themselves.
It’s the cautious approach and while it may be commonplace, more and more coaches are going for that two-point conversion option instead of kicking the point-after try.
In this given situation, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera decided to roll the dice and try to win the game instead of tying it.
People have a real problem with this approach to the sport because we’re so used to conservative sports that reward patience.
But given that Newton has just marched down the field and flung a crisp ball to their high draft pick in the back of the end zone, the Lions defence appeared on its last legs.
You only ever hear the negative comments re: two-point attempts when they go wrong, and for ‘Big Ron’, it did.
In theory, you only need a 47.5% success rate to justify attempting two-point tries all the time as they’re worth twice as much as the point-after. Since the NFL moved the point-after back from a chip-shot, more and more coaches are understanding this to be the case, because, as we’ve seen, more and more kickers are struggling to do the one thing that’s expected of them.
If you were at the Chargers – Titans game at Wembley, you’d have seen the Titans try to win right at the death. It didn’t work out, either.
But on the whole in 2018, there’s a 60% success rate and those are metrics you just can’t argue with. The extra-point, when taken from closer in, was a 99.9% certainty. Now, it’s probably in the high-90s, but containing a significant drop-off.
With a 60% success rate on the season, Ron wasn’t optimistic, he was realistic and despite the ill-feeling that you threw the game away because you couldn’t score late on, the analytics back him up.
There are a whole host of things that could have happened had they attempted the point-after – and it’s worth remembering that Graham Gano actually missed a field goal earlier in the game.
For example – Gano could have missed the kick. The Lions could have scored to win the game with a minute left on the clock anyway. Extended periods of time increase player fatigue and a chance of injury to key components because of that.
Sometimes, it’s best-suited to teams who have a multi-layered offence.
In Carolina’s case, they have a quarterback who can run the ball, a running back who can do everything, a Hall of Fame tight end, receivers who had been playing well and an offensive coordinator in Norv Turner who is liable to call anything.
I understand your angst, Panthers fans – but Rivera made the right decision – it just didn’t work out on this occasion.