Lions miscommunication or mis-decision?
September, 24, 2012
By Dean Oliver, Stats & Info Group | ESPN.com
Tim Heitman/US Presswire
Lions head coach Jim Schwartz looks on during the Lions 44-41 overtime loss to the Titans
The Tennessee Titans and Detroit Lions lit up the scoreboard in a 44-41 overtime thriller, which saw the Titans escape with the win.
The two teams combined for 1,020 total yards, but it was one, single yard that decided the game.
Down three points in overtime, the Lions ran a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-one from the Titans seven yard line, but were stopped short.
A field goal would have tied the game with 6:41 left to play.
In response to questions about the decision, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, said the play was "miscommunication” and that his team never intended to go for it.
It may have been a “miscommunication” to go for it, but should the Lions have taken advantage of the situation and really gone for it?
It appears so.
Going for a field goal was the safe option, having about a 96 percent chance of tying the game at that point.
But the subsequent kickoff would have put the ball back in the hands of the Titans.
In the NFL, the offense generally has the advantage, perhaps even more so in a game with more than 80 points already scored.
So giving it back to the Titans, who only needed a subsequent field goal to win the game, was evening the score, but not evening the odds.
Historical evidence suggests that by going for the field goal (assuming a tie is half a win) the win percentage for the Lions was only about 38 percent, far from an even bet.
Actually, trying to convert on fourth-and-one with everyone on the same page, has succeeded a lot historically. Especially on drives where teams go for it on fourth-and-one between about the four and 10 yard line.
In those instances teams have scored touchdowns about 54 percent of the time, made field goals eight percent of the time, and either not converted immediately or on a subsequent fourth down the remainder of the time.
The 54 percent of touchdowns already makes this option far better than the 38 percent chance of going for a field goal.
Even if you want to say that the Lions had a lower chance of succeeding because it was a tight game or because the Lions have only converted 50 percent of fourth-and-one situations under Coach Schwartz -- their chance of scoring would have to come down a lot to be comparable to the 38 percent chance of winning on a field goal.
However, the Lions made their choice and thus suffered their third loss since the 1970 merger when scoring at least 40 points (2011 and 1986 vs Green Bay Packers).