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Congratulations to kicker Nick Novak for hitting a long kick under pressure to wrap up San Diego’s impressive victory over Indianapolis. But he never should have had the opportunity.Ben Stockwell of Pro Football Focus breaks down the Chargers-Colts game.
Why did Mike McCoy send his field goal unit out to even attempt this kick? It doesn’t follow. Punting shouldn’t be an option. You give the Colts good field position with a stuff, but you give them even better field position with the extra eight yards provided by a missed field goal attempt. Even ignoring that, there’s one simple question to consider here: Is it easier to convert on fourth-and–1 foot than it is to kick a 50-yard field goal?
Of course it is! On third- or fourth-and-1 over the past five years, teams have converted 68.8 percent of the time. That’s almost surely a conservative estimate, since the Chargers didn’t need the full yard and had been gashing Indy on the ground all night. The Chargers probably convert on a Philip Rivers sneak or a Le’Ron McClain handoff about 75 percent of the time in that spot. Kickers have hit field goals between 50 and 52 yards over that same time frame 64.7 percent of the time. Novak had been 6-for-12 on kicks of 50 yards or more, but he was playing in calm conditions at home, so maybe 65 percent is the estimate. The move worked out for McCoy, who has done a great job with the San Diego offense this year, but it wasn’t the right call.