For all the dumb things the Giants did down the stretch on Monday night as they tried to erase an 11-point deficit, they did something smart after scoring a touchdown while down by 14 earlier in the fourth quarter: They went for two.
Far more amazing than the decision from Giants coach Pat Shurmur to try to cut the score from 20-12 to 20-14 was the fact that every member of the ESPN announcing crew had no idea that the reason for going for two had nothing to do with the kicker possibly being injured or Shurmur pulling the idea out of thin air and/or his butt. Little more than two weeks ago, Eagles coach Doug Pederson did the exact same thing, and the issue became framed, dissected, and fully explained.
MDS wrote the article at PFT. In lieu of cutting and paste our own content (after all, we only cut and paste content generated by others), here’s the link.
It’s a simple exercise in analytics, and it’s somewhat amazing that it took the NFL’s teams nearly 25 years to realize that the smart play while down 14 late after scoring a touchdown is indeed to go for two.
The logic is simple. If you kick the extra point (which is no longer a gimme), you’re still down by seven. So if you score another touchdown (and kick the extra point), you go to overtime. If you go for two and make it, another touchdown plus an extra point delivers a potential win in regulation. If you go for two and fail, you can still force overtime by scoring again and going for two.
The broader goal is to avoid overtime, where victory is a 50-50 proposition that hinges in many respects on winning the 50-50 coin toss. Overtime also adds wear and tear to the players, which becomes more of a problem when playing another game on a short week.
Bottom line: The numbers favor the approach. And that’s why Shurmur did it. If the Eagles hadn’t done it 15 days ago, the level of confusion from Joe Tessitore, Jason Witten, and Booger McFarland would have been understandable. Post-Eagles, there’s no reason to be confused as to why a team that scores a touchdown while down 14 points goes for two.
It’s one thing to have a different opinion, even if the statistics don’t support it. It’s quite another to be clueless as to why a team would go for two in that spot.
Moving forward, here’s hoping that more media and fans will understand why it happens when it happens. Although Shurmur deserves plenty of criticism for how he handled the game after that point, he shouldn’t be criticized for going for two. It’s a strategy founded in analytics, and it’s something that more teams should do.
Maybe as more teams do it, more media and fans will understand why. Now that it’s happened twice this month, hopefully the announcers won’t act like they’ve just seen a three-eyed fish the next time it occurs.