Sunday, October 7, 2012
Win probability and Seahawks' late stand
By Mike Sando
The Seattle Seahawks held off the Carolina Panthers, 16-12, after making a critical defensive stop on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line with 3:47 remaining.
Seattle led the game, 16-10, when Cam Newton threw incomplete.
The decision to go for it instead of kicking the field goal was one worth revisiting. Dean Oliver, head of ESPN's analytics department, has passed along the following analysis of the play, based on ESPN's model calculating win probability:
"Carolina last week played it cautious last week on fourth-and-1 to close out Atlanta in what was a bad decision, but this one is about neutral. Going for it at the goal line is hard to accomplish -- only about 32 percent in similar situations. So the win percentage of going for it is about 30 percent. Kicking a field goal would put them within another field goal of tying, so there is some benefit to kicking, but the overall win percentage is about 28 percent. In both cases, the chance of winning is about three in 10."
Those percentages are based on similar plays run in similar situations over the past decade or so. Coaches must obviously account for additional variables relating to injuries, their own capabilities and the capabilities of the opposing defenses.
The possession in question marked only the second time all game the Panthers possessed the ball in Seahawks territory. A chance to make the go-ahead score in that situation had obvious appeal.