Should Titans have gone for two?

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
11:50
AM ET
The most surprising Twitter conversations I’ve been part of since the Tennessee Titans loss in Houston were regarding Kenny Britt's trade value.

Somehow there are people who think someone would give up a third-rounder for an unproductive player with a bad knee who has had off-the-field issues and is not under contract beyond this year. (As a bonus, he has now also revealed himself to be disgruntled.)

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When Alterraun Verner returned an INT for a TD late in regulation against the Texans, should the Titans have gone for 2 to try to make it a 9-point lead?

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    36%
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    64%

Discuss (Total votes: 453)

Just consider that Anquan Boldin, a very good receiver, brought only a sixth-round pick back to the Baltimore Ravens from the San Francisco 49ers.

On to the second-most surprising conversation: The idea that the Titans should have gone for two points after Alterraun Verner's interception return for a touchdown made it 23-16 with 4:59 remaining on the clock in regulation. They kicked the extra point for a 24-16 lead.

I would have done the same.

While it remains a one-score game, the opponent still has to score both a touchdown and a 2-point conversion. Go for two and miss, and a regular touchdown ties it.

I don’t believe in chasing points when you do not have to. Especially if missing those points makes things easier for the opposition.

But I am hardly a top numbers analyst, so I looked to some colleague and sources who are far better at that then I am.

First Bill Barnwell of Grantland:
I've actually written a bunch about going for two to make it a nine-point game in the past; my idea has always been that it's valuable in an endgame scenario because you force the opposing team to drive twice in a limited timespan. Chase Stuart wrote a good counter of it here. I think I'd still recommend it in a shortened timespan, but I'd only start thinking about it right at that five minute mark. Given the Titans' struggles in short-yardage, I probably would have kicked the XP.

From that Stuart piece:
Assume you go for 1 and extend the lead to 8. If your opponent faces a 4th and short on their next drive, they may still punt, because it’s (in their minds) a one-possession game. They won’t punt if down by 9. They are more likely to take their time trying to score (which is beneficial to you, the leading team), which means the odds are very low that they win in regulation. Trailing by 9, they know they need two scores, and will play more aggressively to win the game. To me, I don’t see any reason to incentive bold moves by my opponent, and the more time remaining, the worse the decision to try to "ice the game" by going up 9 looks.

From a analytics person inside the league:
"I think the Titans did the right thing. We figure that they need at least a 62 percent shot at a two-point conversion to justify trying it, and it's unlikely that they'd convert that often against anybody, let alone Houston."

It’s an interesting conversation. I do not think a coach who does not have a heavy analytics background like Mike Munchak goes outside the box here, and it’s not about what would draw the most criticism.

What do you think? Vote in the attached poll.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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