Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Putting The Headset On: Down 15 Points

I'd like to start a new segment that should spark some discussion on this site among the readers.  In this new segment called "Putting The Headset On" you are placed in the position of head coach and you have a decision to make.

The first scenario is you are down 15 points with 4 minutes to play.  You score a touchdown to cut the lead to 9 points.  Do you...

A. Kick the extra point
B. Go for 2

Conventional wisdom will say go for the extra point and extend the game.  You will be down 8 points and it will still be a one score game.  The problem is that you are leaving the two point conversion try for later in the game.  At this point it will more than likely be your last gasp. 

There is no decision to make here.  I go for the two point conversion everytime in this situation for the following reasons.  You eventually have to go for two anyways and you mine as well be operating with the best information possible.  If you go for the two point conversion and fail you are down 9 points.  Being down 9 points you are going for an onside kick no matter what you timeout situation is.  If you don't go for two and choose to stay down 8 points you leave your are almost definitely kicking it deep and hoping to get the ball back.  Should your team get the ball back you need the two point point conversion to tie the game.  If you make it, great your going to overtime.  If you miss it, well here comes the onside kick and the desperate attempt to get down the field in a hurry.

To conclude: It may feel nice to say you are only down one score if you postpone going for two, but if you miss it you were really down two scores – just like if you missed it after the first TD. The only difference is that you are pretty much doomed if you were playing as if you were only down one score. If you miss after the first TD, there is more time left to try to get the necessary extra score and you can plan accordingly.

If you make it, it doesn’t matter when you went for it.  When playing the game of football you want to know what your up against and you want to give yourself the most information to make a decision from as possible.  Go for two here every time. 

I'll hang up and hope for you to explain to me why I'm wrong.


  1. Am I at home? If so, I'm playing for the tie. If I'm on the road I may play for the 16 points to try to get out of there without OT. How does the prospect of overtime look when I compare my kicker to their kicker? Do I know of a weakness in the opponent's secondary I can exploit? Then maybe I know I can get down the field twice. What's the wind/weather situation? How many timeouts do I have? Am I confident enough in my run defense today that I can get a 3-and-out if I need it?

    One question opens the door to dozens more questions. But I'm still kicking the PAT nine times out of ten. Being down 15 late, you are in desperation mode and the thought of winning the game in regulation almost has to go out the window.

    The concept of possessions needed (kind of like in basketball) is just as important as the amount of points needed. Say you miss the two pointer the first time around, you think "OK a TD and FG win the game for me now." But even if you get the ball twice more, a last-second field goal attempt requires just as much time and more plays (you need a pass or two to get in range, plus a spike or a sideline completion) than a Hail Mary or lateral play. Putting yourself down 9 in the waning minutes essentially means you now need the time and ball matriculation that you'd need for a 14 point rally.

  2. I think pretty much no matter the cirmcumstances I'm going for two here. Going for 2 twice is rare and was only a toss in in my arguement. I'm surprised McDonald agreed with me and you kinda don't. The next one will probably deal with 4 and ? inside the 40 and whether you should go for it. That one will have even more questions surrounding it.