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You're driving in the 4Q down two scores. When do you kick the FG? (1 Viewer)

ignatiusjreilly

Footballguy
This came up in the Indy-Arizona game thread. Cards were down nine, drove to the Indy 10 yard line and then, after two incomplete passes, kicked a FG on 3rd down with 42 seconds left to make it a six-point game. Colts recovered the onside kick and the game was over.

I feel like this topic comes up every time teams are driving in the 4th quarter down between 9-11 points, and I still can't figure out what the optimal strategy is. (Although according to every single color commentator, you should kick the FG as soon as possible, which inclines me to think you should never kick the FG because those guys are always wrong.)

Obviously, there are various permutations. If you're down 10 or 11, IMO you really want to score the TD first if possible, because then you also preserve the possibility of scoring a second TD and winning in regulation. It also matters how close you get on that first drive, how much time is left, and how reliable your FG kicker is. (Beating up on the TV announcers some more, because why not, I recall an MNF game where Gruden was urging a team down 10 to kick a 50+ yard FG with like two minutes left; I can't imagine any analytical model that would recommend that strategy.)

Anyway, I was curious if any of the smart analytics guys like Chase Stuart or the 538.com nerds had ever come up with a framework for that scenario, like, "You should kick the FG if the following conditions are met; otherwise try to score the TD." Or maybe it's impossible to come up with a framework because there are too many independent variables.

Anyone know?

(In tonight's game, I'm not sure what the smartest option would have been, but kicking on 3rd down from the 10 definitely seemed suboptimal. At least take one more shot at the end zone before you kick.)

 

ignatiusjreilly

Footballguy
Kicking the FG on 3rd there was moronic.  Free shot for the TD risking 8 seconds at most.  
 

obv need the onside kick either way but getting in FG position is a lot easier than getting a TD.  8 seconds isn’t worth giving up that opportunity.  
Right, it certainly seems like once you make it all the way down to the 10 yard line that's probably going to be your best chance to get a TD. And equally obviously, if you stall out at 4th and 20 from the 30 yard line you should kick the FG because you're probably not going to convert.

It's those scenarios in between that I wonder about.

 

ILUVBEER99

Footballguy
Right, it certainly seems like once you make it all the way down to the 10 yard line that's probably going to be your best chance to get a TD. And equally obviously, if you stall out at 4th and 20 from the 30 yard line you should kick the FG because you're probably not going to convert.

It's those scenarios in between that I wonder about.
Yup. Definitely times when kicking the FG early makes sense.  Just not from the 10 when most you risk is 8 seconds.

the TD gets them down 3 and with onside kick recovery they have 30’ish seconds to get a FG.  Way better odds doing that than getting a TD with 8 more seconds to work with.

maybe the analytics say different but I highly doubt it. 

 

Army Eye

Footballguy
Seems like you should be pushing for a TD until you get a 4th and long.  

One of those drives has to end in a TD.   If you prematurely settle for a FG,  you're giving up one of those chances to get that TD.   Why go all-in on one drive instead of having two shots

 

CanaBuc

Footballguy
I am guessing that it there was a botched small or hold on 3rd down they could throw it away and still have another shot at the field goal. 

 

jbz

Footballguy
Made no sense to kick it on 3rd down. If the cards were willing to get the 3 first then they should have kicked it way earlier to conserve time. As mentioned before, one more shot at a TD wouldn't have killed much time. 

 

zed2283

Footballguy
Really dumb decision by the Cardinals coaching staff.  You wasted all that time to get down there and then kick it on 3rd down?

 

Grahamburn

Footballguy
Seems like you should be pushing for a TD until you get a 4th and long.  

One of those drives has to end in a TD.   If you prematurely settle for a FG,  you're giving up one of those chances to get that TD.   Why go all-in on one drive instead of having two shots
Because you have to score twice regardless and the time that’s lapsing while trying to score the TD makes it more likely you’ll have to onside kick it. 

I always wonder why coaches don’t kick the FG sooner in those situations. Especially when they have timeouts. If they have the opportunity to make it a one score game take it as soon as you’re in range. Then kick it deep. Get a stop. Use the timeouts. 

 

ChiefD

Footballguy
I just want to see better onsides kicks. Line up and drill the guy right in the middle with a low liner. He won’t be able to catch it and you then have the whole field for it to bounce around.

I can’t believe after all these years the onsides kick hasn’t evolved at all. And half the time the ball goes out of bounds. So dumb and boring.

 

Ghost Rider

Footballguy
I normally would kick the FG onside once inside the 25, but Prater was having a bad night and once they got to the 10, it only made sense to take a few shots before kicking it.  

 

ignatiusjreilly

Footballguy
I am guessing that it there was a botched small or hold on 3rd down they could throw it away and still have another shot at the field goal. 
I know teams sometimes use that logic when driving for a game-winning FG, but in this case, the upside of going for it one more time and potentially scoring a TD is way more important than eliminating the downside risk.

Imagine if a team was driving down three and decided to kick from the 10. Everyone would recognize it was ridiculous to not take one more shot at the end zone and try to win in regulation. Same basic logic applies here.

 

ignatiusjreilly

Footballguy
Seems like you should be pushing for a TD until you get a 4th and long.  

One of those drives has to end in a TD.   If you prematurely settle for a FG,  you're giving up one of those chances to get that TD.   Why go all-in on one drive instead of having two shots
I think this is the answer. I mean, maybe if you have multiple penalties and are facing like 3rd and goal from the 30 it might make sense to kick early, but like you said, you're going to need the TD eventually, and there's no guarantee you'll be in a better position to score one after the onside kick.

I guess the question is whether to kick the FG early enough that you can do a regular kickoff and try to get the ball back. And obviously, there are a number of factors that might impact that decision (TOs left, how effective you've been at stopping their running game, etc). Still, I feel like your best chance to win a game is generally going to be letting your offense try to score TDs.

 

JohnnyU

Footballguy
In the Cardinals situation last night they should have gone for the TD because the field position would have been horrible for a TD had they recovered the onside kick and much easier to kick a FG.  The Cardinals coach messed up.

As for the OP, Cardinals situation notwithstanding, the optimal time to kick a FG when down two scores is if you have time to get the ball back and not have to rely on an onside kick try.

 

scothawk

Footballguy
I normally would kick the FG onside once inside the 25, but Prater was having a bad night and once they got to the 10, it only made sense to take a few shots before kicking it.  
Prater is a bigger factor in this than most give credit for. Had a bad night and for sure the coach let it interfere with his thinking

 

JaxBill

Footballguy
It is about the clock. Score whatever as fast as you can. 


yeah this is what I wrote in game thread

I think the only time kicking the FG first makes sense is if you save enough time to theoretically get the ball back if you DON'T recover the onside.  Once they lost that opportunity, agreed they should have went for the TD at least 1 more play




eta- looks like the only way that FG first makes sense is if they clock the ball after this play and try a 37 yards with roughly 1:30 left.

And even then people would lose their minds.

2nd & 13 at IND 34

(1:41 - 4th) (No Huddle, Shotgun) K.Murray pass short middle to C.Kirk to IND 20 for 14 yards (J.Addae).

 
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Sam Quentin

Footballguy
Prater is a bigger factor in this than most give credit for. Had a bad night and for sure the coach let it interfere with his thinking
They were having holder issues…McCoy sucked and they relegated it to the reserve punter who they signed two days ago….so, yes, they lacked confidence in that group 

 

sho nuff

Footballguy
Minnesota doing it as soon as they got in range.  Having Mattison and Jefferson.  I wish they wouldn’t have. Haha

 

Gally

Footballguy
In the Cardinals situation last night they should have gone for the TD because the field position would have been horrible for a TD had they recovered the onside kick and much easier to kick a FG.  The Cardinals coach messed up.

As for the OP, Cardinals situation notwithstanding, the optimal time to kick a FG when down two scores is if you have time to get the ball back and not have to rely on an onside kick try.


This is the answer.  if you are going to have to kick an on side kicker regardless of what type of score you get then it becomes somewhat time dependent vs likely to score a TD.  By that I mean, if you have a 3rd and 25 with 1:45 left an no timeouts and are in 40-ish yd FG range I can see kicking at that point.  In order to drive for a TD after a recovered onsides kick you will need 1:30 or more to have a likely chance to get it done.  If you are under a minute to go 60-ish yards for a TD with no timeouts is unlikely.   So it makes sense to preserve the time in case you recover the kick.  If you don't recover everything else doesn't matter anyway.

Now if you are sitting at over 2 minutes with 3 timeouts left or at the 2 minute warning with all 3 TO's left you should probably choose to kick the FG right away (assuming 35-45 range) because now you can kick deep and play defense because you can get the ball back around 1:45 if you can stop three running plays.  I think that gives you the best chance to have the ball in your hands to try and tie/win.

Now, for actual decisions that coaches make it seems to basically boil down to the following:

  • If I have the losing team's kicker they will choose to go for the TD no matter what and never kick the FG
  • If I am playing against the losing team's kicker they will choose to kick the 50 yarder on 1st down no matter how much time is left on the clock.  
 

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