Was it the smart call? Why did Belichick allow the Giants to score the eventual game clinching touchdown in Super Bowl XLVI?
Sam Borden, writer for the New York Times, tackles this subject. In his article titled, After Giants' Surreal Touchdown, Debates on the Strategy. Because the Patriots lost the Super Bowl, many people think Belichick's decision to let the Giants score was a miscalculated gamble. But was it?
With the Giants trailing the Patriots by two points 17-15, the Giants had the ball on the Patriots six yard with a little over a minute left in the game. After taking a hand off from Eli Manning, Ahmad Bradshaw runs toward the end zone. It was all too easy as he reached the goal line. Despite not getting any specific instructions from head coach Tom Coughlin, Bradshaw teetered at the goal line. His mind wanted him to fall short of the end zone. On the other hand, his body fell forward. The Giants score a touchdown and are up 21-17.
After the game ended with a Giants victory, Belichick was asked about his controversial decision. His rationale for letting the Giants score was based on how short a potential winning field goal attempt would have been. With the ball inside the 10, Belichick said, it is “a 90 percent field-goal conversion” rate for N.F.L. teams. Indeed, there is a kernel of truth to his reason.
But there were other factors involved here.
As Andy discussed in yesterday's recap, the Giants got lucky breaks on this Super Bowl run. And none luckier than seeing a sure-handed Wes Welker drop a crucial pass with four minutes left in the game. If Welker makes this catch, the Patriots and not the Giants are celebrating a Super Bowl Championship.
Even with critical miscues, from the four minute mark of the second quarter , the Patriots were able to move the ball against the Giants defense. Yes, the Patriots scored only 17 points. But this is somewhat misleading. The Patriots had 5 possessions in the second half. They scored a touchdown on the opening possession of the third quarter. After that it was punt, INT, punt, and failed Hail Mary. On the third and fourth possessions, the Patriots were getting into a rhythm. Brady's long pass intended for Gronkowski was picked by Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn. And the fourth possession snarled because Welker could not secure the football. I believe Belichick made the decision to let the Giants score because he KNEW their best chance of winning was by scoring a touchdown. I do not think he has faith in his kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
In 2006, after clutch kicker Adam Vinatieri left the Patriots and signed with the Colts, Stephen Gostkowski has been the Patriots plackicker. If you look at his statisitics on ProFootball Reference, he appears to have good numbers. In 2011, he had a very admirable 84.8 percent FG conversion rate. Over his entire NFL career, Gostkowski has an 84.4 percent conversion rate. So with these impressive numbers, it would seem he is a better than average kicker. But is he?
Remember in Super Bowl XLII, the Patriots were leading the Giants 7-3 early in the third quarter. The Patriots were looking to pad their lead. On a important 3rd and 7 from the Giants twenty five yard line, Brady was dumped on the ground by Michael Strahan for a six yard loss. Strahan's sack moved the ball back to the Giants 31 yard line. Instead of opting to attempt a 48 yard field goal, Belichick decided to go for it on 4th and 11. Again a risky decision by Belichick, and like his decision in Super Bowl XLVI, it too was foiled. Brady's pass fell incomplete. The Giants got the ball on downs. And Belichick did not trust Gostkowski in 2008. It sure seems he still does not trust him. Why is this?
Let's look at Gostkowski's numbers from 40-49 yard field goals. Over his career, he has attempted 34 field goals and converted only 25 of them. Therefore, despite having 84.4 percent overall conversion rate, his longer field goal percentage is 73 percent. So he is not as accurate from longer distances. Most likely, if Belichick did not use his matador defensive strategy, the game could have come down to a long field goal. When Belichick was the defensive coordinator of the Giants in 1990, he witnessed first hand a pressure packed Super Bowl deciding kick. Buffalo's Scott Norwood's 47 yard attempt went wide right. And Norwood talked about his missed long field goal in Super Bowl XXV, "Maybe you overdo the analysis," he says. "The truth is that, at 47 yards, the percentages are against you. If it were 30 yards, O.K., but 47 .... At that distance, the average in the NFL is under 50 percent. You're working against the numbers. Maybe you break everything down too much. A quarterback doesn't get two throws a game and then sit down and analyze where his feet were and how his arm worked on the one he missed. It's 1.3 seconds. You go out and do it."
Speaking of the percentages, like Norwood stated, the rate of field goal conversion from long distances especially in a Super Bowl are against you. This is why Belichick made his gutsy decision.
What a bunch of horseblip this opinion is.
If the Giants don't score, they kick a FG with 20 seconds on the clock and NO NE time outs left. What are the odds of going down and getting a FG in THAT situation. Especially with Giants' DL teeing off every play. Good luck with that!
Bill's call was top of the heap coaching.
I have to say the best part of this superbowl was this video that came out after. And of course the G-Men bringing the lombardi back home! http://bit.ly/AwuZ76
Even when they scored their points at the end of the half and start of the half. It still took them about 4 minutes each time and that was while playing at a very brisk pace....while completing every pass and absolutely rolling as a unit.
I think you are giving Bill too much credit.
The Pats dont move down the field quickly, so they were always likely to have their final play being a heave into the endzone because of that lack of ability to make plays over the top
What are the percentages for hail mary's? They are a damn sight lower than the percentages for a 50-55 yard field goal ina dome stadium.
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I think you missed the mark on this one, Glenn. Belichick let the Giants score because they were going to bleed the clock down to around 15 seconds. With the new kickoff rules, you don't have much of a chance at a big return. So you're probably starting from your own 20/25 yard line in need of 55 yards in 10-12 seconds with no timeouts. What sounds easier to you - go 80 yards in 57 seconds with 1 timeout, or 55 in 10 seconds, then somehow get your field goal unit on the field in time to attempt and make a 50+yard field goal? Everything you said may be true, but I don't think it applied in this particular situation. He knew they were screwed. He was just trying to give them the best possible chance to win. I'm glad we took the points, but the percentages say that the Giants chance of victory actually decreased when they scored that touchdown with 57 seconds remaining, than if they had bled the clock then kicked the field goal. Of course, that doesn't matter now. We won, and that's all that matters. But we did give them one last gasp.
Looking from the other side (ours), I was strongly against stopping short and kicking it.
First off, I don't trust Tynes, even from 25 yards out. Second, we had 3 blocked FGs (albeit long ones). Our snaps (longs or not) have been scary at times lately.
Get the 7 !
I'd rather score 7 and get beaten by Tom Brady than be cute and lose a SB because of a missed short FG.
Quick question : who gets to be SB Champ ?
I mean, for instance, does Brandon Stockley get in on it ?
@bummy123 Do you actually have hard data that shows the Pats don't move the ball down the field quickly, or is that just based on anecdotal evidence? Because they were one of the more prolific offenses of all time this season. They scored 5 touchdowns in one half of football against the Broncos in the playoffs, a team with a pretty decent defense. I don't care how you score them, 5 TDs in one half is explosive. I understand that their offense is built around 2 TE and a slot receiver, but all three of those guys are exceptional. Hernandez is basically a yoked up WR.
I think you're asking the wrong question re: percentages. It's not whether the percentage of made 50-55 yard field goals is greater than the percentage of completed hail mary's. The answer to that is obviously the 50-55 yard field goal. But you can't just assume the Pats get a shot at a 50-55 yard field goal if the Giants bled the clock and made the Pats use their final timeouts before kicking a chip shot for the winner. Taking that into account, the question is whether the percentage of going 80 yards for a TD in 57 seconds with 1 timeout is greater than the percentage of going 47 yards for a field goal in 10 seconds with no timeouts. I'd have to see the numbers on that, but I think you have to like your chances more going for the TD. I just don't see how you'd have time to pick up 50 yards and kick a field goal in 10 seconds with no timeouts. You'd absolutely have to get out of bounds to have any chance whatsoever.
@TC4EVA Exactly right. There wasn't much of a choice at all. If Bradshaw gives himself up with :57 and the Pats call their last timeout, the Giants still have 3d down. If Eli takes a knee they can run the clock down to 15 seconds before kicking the field goal. No time for anything, especially with no timeouts.
In fact hoodie's strategy worked pretty well, and gave the Pats a decent chance to win the game. If Brady throws that first pass a couple of inches higher, Branch is in Giant territory with :50 left. Big trouble. Even the way it turned out, Gronk wasn't too far away from that tipped hail mary. And he would have been much closer with a better ankle.
The real problem with the call isn't that it's bad strategy, it's bad football. If Bradshaw does the right thing he goes down and doesn't score. Or better yet, wanders around for a couple of seconds, a few yards from the goal line. Until one of the defenders who's been told to let him score hits him. So the spectacle at the climactic moment of our most intense sport is the offense trying not to score against a defense trying not to stop them. This is going to start happening more, and we were discussing it, at least the offensive strategy, during the regular season when the Pack and then Romo torched our D for last minute drives from deep in their own territory after Giant TDs. Leave it to hoodie to initiate a major decorum dilemma to give himself better odds. I predict the rules committee is going to have to deal with this next year because there are too many offenses, including both in the SB, who are good enough to play this way.
@TC4EVA What percentages are you referring to ?
@TC4EVAIt may seem far-fetched. Belichick is a guy who looks at everything. He knows Tynes is shaky on his kickoffs. In the GB playoff game, he kicked the ball out of bounds. Imagine if Brady started from his own 40 with 57 seconds. What went through my mind was the 2003 MNF game Dallas vs Giants. This was Tuna's return to Giants Stadium. Fassel did not bleed the clock to 3 or 4 seconds.
@Arthuro They should give Rex Ryan half a share. Maybe a pinkie ring
There is a middle option that might be the best: Bradshaw takes a knee at the 2-inch line on 2d down, declining the gift TD. That forces the Pats to use their last timeout. Then the Giants honestly try to score the TD on 3d down. If they make it (odds are they would), they're better off (Pats have no more timeouts, several more seconds have elapsed) than if Bradshaw scores on 2d down. If they don't make it, the clock winds down to under 30 seconds, and then we call a timeout and send in the field-goal team. I believe this is what the Oregon coach said in the Times that he would do. Makes sense to me, at least if you think (as I do) that with one minute and one timeout, Brady's odds of getting a touchdown are 10% or better.
@Arthuro I agree, plektor. Even as short as the field goal attempts were for Tynes in this Super Bowl, his kicks were not down the center, but to the left without much room to spare. I would have hated to see the Giants still behind with seconds left on the clock and relying on Tynes. I would rather depend on the defense to make the plays than Tynes. I'm sure I would feel different if a Patriot had somehow caught that hail mary. At that point in the game, I just wanted to see the Giants with more points on the scoreboard than the Patriots! I guess that is short-sighted thinking, but I just don't trust Tynes.
@Arthuro@TC4EVA Not sure if you've heard of Football Outsiders, but the guy who wrote this article used to be one of their main guys until he started writing for Grantland.com. Outsiders uses heavy statistical analysis to evaluate teams. In terms of game analysis, there's something called Win Probability that charts a team's percentage chance of victory after each play in the game. In the article, Barnwell said their Win Probability went from 89% when Nicks picked up the first down, down to 85% when Bradshaw scored. If they had kneeled 3 times and kicked, their win probability would have been anywhere from 89-96%, based on my understanding of what Barnwell said. As a side note, there's some other really interesting stuff in the article. Barnwell wonders if Coughlin had 12 men on the field on purpose at the end of the game, in effect saying that he might have been willing to trade 5 yards for 9 seconds of clock. Apparently, Buddy Ryan used to do this. I personally doubt that Coughlin did this intentionally, but it's interesting nonetheless:
@UltimateNYGGlenn I completely agree that Belichick looks at everything. And you make a good point by bringing up the Dallas game. But knowing that BB's a guy that relies heavily on percentages (he referenced that a field goal from there was a 90% probability), I would HIGHLY doubt that he was banking on a kick out of bounds. I'd venture that Tynes had 1 or 2 kicks out of bounds all season out of 80+ kickoffs. I'd bet that there were less than 20 kickoffs out of bounds all season by all the kickers combined in the NFL, particularly with the new kickoff rules that spot the ball further up. It just doesn't happen very often. Neither do 1 minute touchdown drives, but at least in that case you're relying on arguably the greatest QB of all time to get the job done. Still not a good chance you score 6 with only 57 seconds left, but you give yourself a shot.
Furthermore, I think BB's behavior clearly shows he thought Coughlin was bleeding the clock. And Coughlin clearly was. He ran the ball on successive downs into the teeth of the defense, and rightfully so. Coughlin and Fassel should not be mentioned in the same breath. Coughlin knows how to manage a game. But I do think that in this case, he gave the Pats some life by not insisting that Bradshaw get down before scoring. Even so, I must say that seeing Tynes job out on the field for a winning field goal would have given me a heart attack.
@TC4EVA Matt Bryant's kickoff sails out of bounds. Cowboys take over with no time outs. Cowboys QB Quincy Carter finds a hole in Giants Cover 2. And hits Antonio Bryant on a long corner route. Billy Cundiff kicks game winner. Furthermore, Advanced NFL Stats Brian Burke believes BB should have let the Giants score around the 2 minute mark. http://www.slate.com/articles/sports/sports_nut/features/2011/nfl_2011/super_bowl/giants_patriots_super_bowl_the_ballsiest_call_in_super_bowl_history_.html
@Arthuro They also ran off two seconds after Bradshaw scored
@TC4EVA @Arthuro One thing that argues against the on purpose 12 men penalty is that it gives Brady a free play and an automatic stop of the clock after the play. If Brady throws deep and makes the completion in bounds he gets the play and the clock stops on the penalty which is then declined. I doubt Coughlin wants to do that
@TC4EVA Talking about the clock, I'm pretty sure the clock operator was a Giants fan. When Brady spiked the ball with 19 seconds left, he let it ran for 2 full seconds after.
That's just freaking shamefull, I hope he never "officiates" in the NFL again.
@Arthuro Yeah, love FO. I agree. Doubt that Coughlin put 12 on the field on purpose, but what a strategy if he did. I think the NFL closes that loophole next season, and gives the team the option to take the yards or have the clock back. Or maybe, they give them both.
@TC4EVA That's right, I remember AdvancedNFLstats' Win Probability now.
FO is a great site, I may go premium next season.
I can't believe Coughlin would put 12 on the field. On those high tension plays, an INT is likely or at leat very possible, you'd take the risk of negating one.
Also, Brady might see it and take huge shot (having a free play), that's dangerous.
Plus, Tuck was running out.
@UltimateNYGGlenn Heck, just watched the sequence again and Belichick actually had the defense stuff Bradshaw at 1:06 after the Nicks first down/out of bounds play, which forced BB to use a timeout. I know it's hard to ever say this, but I think BB mismanaged that sequence. He eventually made the proper call in that situation, but he unnecessarily sacrificed about 45 seconds and a timeout in the process.
@Arthuro Right. I think he should have instructed him to go down. And I read that Eli yelled to Bradshaw as he was handing him the ball not to score.
@UltimateNYGGlenn One other thing. I thought Belichick made a big mistake not burning a timeout two plays earlier. Bradshaw takes the handoff on first down and picks up 8 yards, to the Pats 12 yard line. The clock ticks down from about 1:53 to 1:13, then Nicks gives them a gift by getting out of bounds. Then, of course, Belichick lets Bradshaw score. My question is, if BB felt like the right move was to let them score, don't you burn a timeout at 1:52, then let them waltz into the end zone? Things would have been really interesting then. It makes me actually change my mind about the whole TD versus field goal debate. Even though putting the Superbowl in Tynes' hands seems less appealing than taking the sure 6, I think the right move was absolutely taking a knee multiple times then kicking. And if BB had played it right, he may have gotten the ball back with 1:45 and we might have been screwed. I think he just had a hard time pulling the trigger on that call, for whatever reason.
@TC4EVA Coughlin said he didn't ask Bradshaw to go down, he let Manning make the call (post game interview).
@TC4EVAGiants defense did not tackle well. And Patriots receivers were getting YAC. If Branch does not drop the ball, who know it could have been another Flipper Anderson play.