Monday, November 16, 2009

29 comments MMQB Review: Peter Dissects the Most Important Play Call In the History of The Rivalry of the Decade

There was no doubt to me that Peter King was leading off his MMQB this week with comments on the great Indianapolis-New England game last night. Even though Brett Favre had another great day, as did Aaron Rodgers for those wondering, it was going to be all about "The Rivalry of the Decade." Peter warned us last week to get ready for the hype of Indianapolis-New England, so I knew immediately he would take part in this hype. I was forced to watch NBC's pregame show this week and it was as bad as I was having nightmares about it being. Keith Olbermann's smugness makes me want to slap him, I learned nothing of substance and Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison show absolutely no neutrality in analyzing the upcoming game between the Patriots and Colts. I don't know how any network could hire analysts who are so wedded to their previous teams they are like a cheering section. Harrison even called the Patriots "us" like he still played for the team when talking about the game. NBC also asked the 20 Hall of Fame quarterbacks which quarterback they would rather have on their team...which annoyed me for some reason.

Let's see what Peter has to say about the most important play call in the history of the rivalry of the decade.

Three o'clock in the morning, and I'm still rolling Bill Belichick's call around in my head. I wonder how many people in New England aren't asleep yet ... and how many won't be able to sleep all night.

Peter King is just another tortured Patriots fan right now. He has no time for journalism. I bet Bill Simmons is being a major drama queen right now and comparing this game to stomach punches and using hyperbole about how the people of the New England area are all walking around like zombies. I am sure he will be glad to tell us what his dad thinks about this at some point.

This call reminds me a lot of Grady Little's call in the 2003 playoffs, when all logic said he had to take a done-in Pedro Martinez out of Game 7 of the ALCS playoffs in Yankee Stadium.

Of course. That is really the only comparable event that has ever happened in the history of sports...and of course it had to happen to a Boston team. They're so tortured!!!!!!! These are the only two times ever a manager or a head coach has made a bad decision on the baseball or football field. Why them??? Peter must know why he and his teams are so cursed!!!

The Patriots should still win their division and host at least one home playoff game. That's not the same as having home-field advantage through the playoffs, which was possible midway through the fourth quarter but is now out the window.
At least Peter doesn't sound bitter about it. You know it's so stereotypical of a New England area fan to compare this hard loss to another one of their team's hard losses, even though they aren't comparable really, they were just both poor decisions by a manager or head coach. Peter is really giving fuel to those that love to mock how Boston-centered the fans of the Patriots and Red Sox teams are.

Come on, if the Colts and Patriots play again, the Patriots can beat the Colts in Indianapolis. Your team is still 6-3. You lost a tough game, it's happened before and it will happen again. Let's not act like losing homefield advantage in the playoffs means the Patriots won't even make the playoffs.

Kevin Faulk
up the middle for no gain; Indianapolis timeout. Brady eight-yard pass to Wes Welker; Indy timeout. On third-and-two, Brady, pressured, threw a ball for Welker that was nearly picked off by Colts rookie cornerback Jerraud Powers. Incomplete. Fourth-and-two.

New England timeout, 2:08 left. The Patriots' last one.

This breakdown by Peter is for those of us who are too lazy to read the play-by-play or actually watch the game. Next week Peter will break down an entire game in print form like this.

Get the punt team on the field, try to pin Peyton Manning back as far as you can, and make him drive 70 or so yards. The New England punter, Chris Hanson, hadn't had any of his four punts returned, and he'd averaged a 44-yard net. So if he did what he'd done all night, the Colts would start at their own 28 at the two-minute warning with one timeout left.

Or you could go for it and then try and bleed the clock out to end the game. A gutsy move but also a move that doesn't give the ball back to a red hot Peyton Manning. Since Belichick's decision did not work, this was the wrong call. If it had worked, he was a genius.

Look, I am not for the call because of the outcome, but at the time I couldn't help but smile to myself and think what a great and gutsy move this was. Obviously, it was also a massive risk, but if the risk pays off the game is over. I know it was semi-stupid, but Tom Brady is the quarterback, I would trust him over my defense.

But back went Brady to the field, and he lined up in the shotgun, and started calling signals without the head-bob you normally associate with trying to draft a team offside.

"My God,'' I thought, "he's going for it!'

My God, I am being over dramatic!

I know I am in the minority on this, but Tom Brady is your quarterback, and you have two of the best receivers in the NFL in Randy Moss and Wes Welker, as well as a running back in Kevin Faulk who can catch the ball very well. It's a gutsy move and I actually expected them to go for it out of the timeout and convert it. I know it was a dumb move, but apparently Belichick had no faith in his defense and wanted to end the game right there.

Other than the play call not working, the biggest mistake New England made was to tackle Joseph Addai on the 2 yard line after they failed to convert. Let him score and let Tom Brady have some time to get in field goal range so the best kicker in the NFL (according to Peter King) Stephen Gostkowski can nail a field goal. But they just had to go and tackle Addai and let the Colts bleed out the clock. I really think the Patriots should have just let the Colts score and then get the ball back to Brady with some time left.

Let's place the odds of Brady getting two yards at 60, 65 percent. The odds of Manning going 72 yards to score a touchdown in less than two minutes ... that's maybe 35 percent.

Absolutely. Let's do a factual study based on numbers Peter King just completely made up. I place the odds of Brady converting at 99.9% and Manning having odds of scoring a touchdown at 1.67% because the New England defense is fucking clutch. My numbers are almost as accurate as Peter's since we both made them up, but based on my completely made up numbers it shows that New England couldn't have chosen wrong here. Based on my made up numbers it was obviously a curse that caused the play call to not work. On to the factual study:

Three punts, two interceptions, two touchdowns. Now, maybe Belichick thought his defense was tired. Maybe he feared Manning. Maybe he trusted Brady. Whatever, the faulty logic here is that Manning was a sure thing to ram it down the Patriots' throats.

Right, but the odds of Brady converting were 60% (or 99.9%) could have also been the right call. Of course like TMQ does constantly, we know the outcome so we can second guess. I didn't hate the play call. It was aggressive and put trust in a Hall of Fame quarterback. Put me tentatively on Belichick's side. Also, I look like an asshole because it was a dumb call, but I did love the aggressiveness.

Of course if the Panthers did it, I would view the call differently, but for a team and a game I didn't care about it was a good, gutsy play call. Of course, if the Panthers did the same thing the Patriots did then it wouldn't be dissected by anyone in the national media, least of all Peter King so I would just be steaming silently about it. This was a more public bad coaching move because it involved the RIVALRY OF THE DECADE and two high profile teams.

But the Patriots had no timeout left. The team that never makes dumb mistakes made one with 2:23 to go, calling one because of the miscommunication that resulted in the wrong personnel being on the field.

The Patriots should have saved that timeout and taken a penalty knowing that later they would need another timeout to challenge a call. Where's the psychic powers on this team? This was a bad time for miscommunication but I am guessing the dome in Indianapolis was also pretty loud at this point, which could have had something to do with it.

If they could have challenged the spot, what would referee Scott Green have ruled? I saw the replay eight or 10 times. There wasn't a perfect angle with a camera right at the 30, and you couldn't see exactly when Faulk stopped juggling the ball and got indisputable possession. Over and over again in the wee hours this morning, I watched to see when Faulk had the ball, and it was very, very close.
He does sound like a Patriots fan does he? Obsessing over a replay that was hard to decipher, criticizing a coach's play calling, and talking to God about what is happening on the field. He's just a neutral observer though.

(Note to Patriots fans. This game sucked for you and I know it. I was depressed last week about my favorite team's game. Next week you play again and you are still 6-3. Everything will be fine, put down the bottle...except for Peter King, he can keep drinking for all I care.)

The difference between Manning driving 29 yards for the winning touchdown and 72 is too great. Too many chances for him to err in 72 yards, as he'd been doing occasionally during the night.

Chris Hanson is a good punter but can we stop assuming Manning would have had to go 70+ yards? TJ Rushing is also a good returner so he could have very well returned the ball near midfield.

All in all, I hated the call. It smacked of I'm-smarter-than-they-are hubris. Let Manning, with the weight of the world on his shoulders and no timeouts under his belt, drive 72 yards in two minutes, with his mistake-prone (on this night) young receivers and the clock working against him. Sure he could do it. But let him earn it. This felt too cheap. It was too cheap.

These are the words of a bitter, angry New England Patriots fan.

Belichick's too smart to have something so Grady-Littlish on his career resume, but there it is, and it can never be erased.

We're so tortured! No one else in the NFL or MLB is tortured like this! TWICE our managers have made bad decisions that have cost our teams the games! Dan Shaughnessy should write a book about this and see if he can sell some copies about a curse.

On first down, defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer rushed six. Linebacker Brandon Johnson, a free-agent pickup after Arizona cut him two years ago, beat the block of running back Mewelde Moore and forced Roethlisberger to throw incomplete.

An unwanted player contributed! Alert TMQ!

On second down, Zimmer rushed the customary four, and Roethlisberger, hurried slightly, misfired deep down the right side for wideout Mike Wallace, with another 2008 street free-agent, safety Chris Crocker, in tight coverage. Incomplete.

Another player who was given up on by a team made a good play. Where is Gregg Easterbrook when you need him to tell you about how great these unwanted players are?

On third down, Zimmer sent five, and Roethlisberger had enough time to make a good deep throw to Hines Ward --but Ward was blanketed by cornerback Johnathan Joseph, and the Bengals defender actually dropped an interception.

Another unwan---wait, Johnathan Joseph was a first round pick. Notice how Peter doesn't mention Joseph was a 1st round pick. Is this "unwanted player" crap a seminar they teach at Crappy Sportswriting School?

On HBO's "Hard Knocks'' last summer, Zimmer, to me, came across like a head coach in waiting. I've always known him to be a very good teacher; what I didn't know was how naturally hard-nosed and disciplined he is. It just flows from him, and it's not forced. In the midst of his greatest tragedy, he is building a solid case to be an NFL head coach. If you can turn the Bengals' defense into a top 10 NFL defense, you deserve a bushel of interviews.

You mean the Bengals defense that has 1st round picks playing for it like Roy Williams, Leon Hall, Johnathan Joseph, and Keith Rivers? The same Bengals team that has been able to draft in the top half of the draft a lot recently because of the mediocrity of the team? Mike Zimmer has done a good job but it's not like there isn't some skill there to work with. I am even not mentioning Rey Maualuga who would have been a 1st round pick if some NFL teams weren't so stupid and passed him over.

Fine Fifteen

1. New Orleans (9-0). No Darren Sharper. No Jabari Greer. And a road game, from the start, that was tougher than it looked. This is the fourth straight game the Saints were in trouble, but there's something special about teams that survive games like these.

I don't want to be down on the Saints, but this is the fourth straight game they have escaped trouble. Maybe it is their year this year, but I can't help but not have 100% confidence in the way the team is playing right now to say this team is a lock for the NFC Championship Game.

3. New England (6-3).
4. Minnesota (8-1).

I would switch that around. I don't think the Patriots are a better team than the Vikings right now. This is really a minor point because both teams are good teams.

13. Green Bay (5-4). Quite a comeback: The Pack allowed 38 two weeks ago against the Vikings, 38 last week against the Bucs ... and seven against Dallas.

If only they had a decent quarterback...

MVP Watch

3. Brett Favre, QB, Minnesota. This is getting ridiculous. Is the old man ever going to play a bad game? With a 20-of-29, 344-yard, one-TD, no-pick game in a win over Detroit, Favre's got a 17-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

It's been since at least last year since Peter King hasn't mentioned Brett Favre once in his MMQB and the streak continues. It's amazing what a running game will do for a quarterback isn't it? Favre has played well, I won't be stubborn enough to not admit that.

Let's see what Aaron Rodgers did yesterday...25-of-36, 189 yards, 1 TD, no picks and he has a 17-to-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Plus he did that against the Cowboys and not the Detroit Lions. Yes, I am not giving up in comparing these two players. This whole Brett Favre retirement/unretirement thing has turned me into a card carrying Aaron Rodgers fan.

This is also a good time to see how 2028 Hall of Fame inductee Mark Sanchez is doing.

53.3% completion percentage, 1,655 yards, 66.5 rating, 9 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

It turns out he is human after all. Remember the hype and over-excitement that accompanied Sanchez over the first couple of weeks? Well, teams have learned his tendencies and how he plays the quarterback position and have adjusted accordingly. This knowledge can't take back all the pain the drooling over Sanchez during the first couple weeks of this season caused me.

Defensive Player of the Week

Charles Woodson, CB, Green Bay.

First, Woodson winning this is an achievement in itself, because the Bengals had about five guys who deserved this.

I am not exactly sure how Peter thinks him naming Charles Woodson "defensive player of the week" is an achievement for Woodson, who also has a Heisman Trophy, but I like how Peter has such a high opinion of himself and his awards.

Special Teams Player of the Week

Bernard Scott, RB/KR, Cincinnati.

Coach of the Week

Mike Zimmer, defensive coordinator, Cincinnati.

If anyone else needs proof that Peter King doesn't watch every single NFL game every weekend, or at least pay attention to every NFL game in an effort to provide full NFL coverage, here is an example.

Peter said earlier in MMQB that he watched every single snap of the Bengals game this week. Then in the awards section of his MMQB he gives two of the four positive awards to Cincinnati Bengals players and thinks he should have given a third award out for "Defensive Player of the Week." to up to 5 Bengals defensive players. What are the odds that the one game Peter watches entirely is also the game where the "Coach of the Week," "Special Teams Player of the Week," and 5 of the candidates for "Defensive Player of the Week" in his MMQB played? Not very high. Peter gives these awards out to the players from this game because this is one of the few games he watched this week, so it's also one of the few games he has enough knowledge of to know who deserves these awards.

Really this part should be called, "Awards For Achievement In Games I Watched," since that is really what it is.

Quote of the Week I

"We need a touchdown here, but let's not be in a hurry to score.''
-- Peyton Manning, on what he said in the huddle to his teammates with a little under two minutes left in Sunday night's game and the Colts starting a drive at the New England 29.

How amazing this game was, obviously. The Colts, with four minutes to go, trailed 34-21 and had the ball at their own 21. To think they'd be trying to bleed the clock and waste time at the end ... well, it just shows what an incredibly weird and compelling spectacle this was.

It also shows that the Colts had two minutes to go 29 yards and did not want to give Tom Brady the ball back with time left on the clock. This "incredible weirdness" had a strategy behind it. Somehow Peter misses this idea.

I remember in
Boomer Esiason's heyday with the Bengals, sitting with him in his hotel room the night before a big game, talking to him for a story and then actually quizzing him on formations and pass-routes he planned to use the next day. Today, it's rare to talk to a player the night before the game, and actually being in his room, having an in-depth interview?

It sounds like Peter King has always stalked white quarterbacks. I would bet $100 that Peter Kign still gets interviews the night before the game with Brett Favre though.

Tweet of the Week

"The Who?!?! What's their target market? CSI fans?''
--@fillbish, Bill Fishof New Jersey, soon after news broke on SI.comthat the British rockers from another lifetime would be the halftime entertainment at the Super Bowl in south Florida in February.

I am 52. I like The Who. Then again, I am not the future of the NFL. This band was formed 45 years ago; 39 years ago it did its signature album, "Who's Next.'' Two of the original band members, Keith Moon and John Entwistle, are dead. The other two are 65 (Pete Townsend) and 66 (Roger Daltrey). This group is almost too old for Roger Goodell.

Agreed. I know the NFL is afraid of performers having body parts fall out of their clothing but The Who don't even have half of their original members nor can Roger Daltry even come close to hitting the high notes that he used to be able to hit. Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen and Prince, I can stand because they are still making relevant music to those that like them, but The Who only have half their original members and really haven't had a hit album in years. Even diehard fans of The Who probably don't think this team is exceptionally relevant these days.

What a dumb choice. Are there no other fully clothed performers available for the Super Bowl?

b. Just because Steven Jackson is playing for a 1-8 team doesn't mean he's invisible. He's a heck of a back, both inside and outside the tackle box, and he tormented arguably the best team in football for 131 rushing yards Sunday.

I think it has been proven that the Saints have a team that can be run on. So Steven Jackson ran well against a team that has shown it can't defend the run exceptionally well of late.

d. This tells you everything you need to know about the stunningly bad inaccuracy of JaMarcus Russell: He's attempted 81 passes to Louis Murphy and Heyward-Bey ... and completed 22. Ridiculous.

Keep him in the game! Never take out JaMarcus Russell.

Russell's stats for the year: 47.1% completion rate, 1,067 yards passing, 47.9 rating, 2 TD's and 9 Int's with 6 fumbles. Yes Virginia, now that Derek Anderson is no longer starting for the Browns, until the 3rd quarter tonight, JaMarcus Russell is the worst quarterback in the NFL and possibly the history of the NFL.

g. When we talk about the great tight ends, we too often forget Antonio Gates. Philip Rivers doesn't.

What's this "we" crap? I don't forget about Antonio Gates and many other NFL fans don't forget about Gates either. As usual, Peter just assumes the rest of the NFL fans are as stupid and East Coast-centric as he is. The only reason he watched the Chargers play is because they played the Eagles yesterday and the Eagles are one of the teams he follows closely.

h. My football buddy at NBC, Joe Gesue, had this comment when FOX showed a sideline view of four defensive linemen on the Vikes, with Jared Allen on the right: "Three Men and a Mullet.''

Hilarious. Get this man a job as a stand-up comedian. It's bad enough we have to deal with Peter constantly sending messages to his friends and family through his columns, now we have to deal with him conveying bad and unfunny jokes to us.

i. Beautiful throw by Vince Young, rainbowing a bomb into Kenny Britt late in the first quarterback of Bills-Titans.

Now that's not a sentence you read a whole lot. Ok, I am done making fun of Vince Young now.

n. You're right, Troy Aikman: Cullen Jenkins is one of the best, and most tireless, defensive linemen in football.

Why can't Peter send a text, fax or a carrier pigeon to tell Troy Aikman this? Why waste the readers time by conveying personal correspondence to people? Why does Peter insist on doing this?

d. Aaron Rodgers' pocket presence. He's taken a step back from last year. There's a book about Bill Bradley from the sixties, when he starred at Princeton, called A Sense of Where You Are. Someone needs to get it for Rodgers.

I love how Peter bashes Aaron Rodgers for his pocket presence when it is not completely his fault. I agree Rodgers does have some things to learn but this is his second year starting in the NFL and his offensive line stinks. Give the guy a break and quit bashing Aaron Rodgers to make Brett Favre look better. Their statistics this year aren't as far off from each other as Peter and everyone else would like to believe. Of course Peter will always defend his BFF Brett Favre because he is absolutely obsessed with Brett Favre.

f. Detroit's offensive line. You guys are going to get Matthew Stafford killed back there.

I guess Stafford doesn't need a pocket presence. I wonder what the difference in Peter's mind is between a sack being the offensive line's fault and the quarterback not being aware. I think it has to do with which jersey the player is wearing.

e. Don't tell me there's only one "Curb Your Enthusiasm'' episode left. Come on! You just started, Larry David! How do you expect us to exist on Funkhauser reruns only? And really, you could have given us a little more Seinfeld in this year's run.

I bet I know why Larry David did not give the audience more Seinfeld. Because if there had been more Seinfeld then the show would have been called "Seinfeld" and not "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

Such good luck Brady Quinn's having. He got yanked after 10 quarters after facing three pretty good defenses -- Minnesota, Denver, Baltimore -- and now comes back in what I believe is a hopeless attempt to save his job in Cleveland, facing a team that's spitting mad and trying to save its season, in front of a home crowd that just might boo the tar out of the Browns.

I am still angry Derek Anderson didn't start this game so he could compete with JaMarcus Russell for the worst quarterback in the NFL currently and potentially the history of the NFL. I wouldn't be shocked if Anderson ends up making a cameo in the third quarter if Quinn struggles. You can't keep his kind of shitty quarterback play down for long.


RuleBook said...

1. New Orleans (9-0). No Darren Sharper. No Jabari Greer.

And the Rams put up 23 points. I think this only makes the case for Darren Sharper as Defensive POY stronger.

So Steven Jackson ran well against a team that has shown it can't defend the run exceptionally well of late.

I'll give you that, but Jackson is still a beast. If he were on a remotely decent team, he would be ranked with Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson right now (disclaimer: I have Steven Jackson in all three fantasy leagues I am in, so impartiality may be at stake).

g. When we talk about the great tight ends, we too often forget Antonio Gates.

I had to read this three times to be sure I read it right. Since when has Gates been overlooked? It seems to me that every conversation I've heard in the last 4 years or so involving best TEs involved Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, and sometimes Jason Witten. This is the equivalent of that writer before the season saying that this could really be a breakout season for Adrian Peterson.

f. Detroit's offensive line. You guys are going to get Matthew Stafford killed back there.

The Mullet's stat line against that awful offensive line? 1 Tackle, 1 Pass Defensed. Exactly what one would expect from the defensive player of the year.

Martin said...

While it's a gutsy call, the problem is that it's at the 29 yard line. If it doesn't work, you're screwed. Also, why the hell didn't they have him run a 3 yard route instead of a 1 and 3/4's yard route? it looked like the Bears offense 2002-2007 where every 3rd down pass play inexplicably seemed to be a curl 1 yard short of the first down. It jsut seemed to me that if they had been at midfield this is a good and gutsy call, while at the 29 it's a gutsy and stupid call.

More than anything, I'm glad it's like a needle in the eye for TMQ.

Martin said...

Bah and I totally forgot to mention something Reggie Bush said, the Saints faced teams coming off bye's 3 weeks in a row. That's really really tough, no matter how bad the other teams are. The Chargers had to do this a couple years ago, and it just sucked. They made a couple long road trips in the 3, and it just seemed really unfair, as I think it is for the Saints. There just seems no excuse for any team to face teams coming off bye weeks 3 weeks in a row.

Bengoodfella said...

Rulebook, yep that does help the case for Darren Sharper to get the Defensive PoY award. Especially when Bulger is lofting throws to Donnie Avery over the head of the cornerback who has no safety help.

I didn't mean to indicate Jackson wasn't a beast. He actually he is a great running back who would be a huge name if he played somewhere where the team is over .500, I was more talking about the Saints run defense which has given up 130 yards rushing in three straight games.

Peter forgot about Gates. We didn't, he did. So he blames us all, even though what you are saying makes sense.

So that means Jared Allen now has 3 sacks in 7 games not against the Packers. There is no way he should be defensive PoY. None.

Martin, I have to agree with your criticism of the play call. I didn't think the designed route was very good and should have been longer or designed better to get past the marker. It was a gutsy call but it was also stupid because it didn't work. I would have flipped out if John Fox had done that, so I understand where Pats fans are coming from...but he would never be that aggressive.

I can't wait to read the excuse TMQ has for this. It's going to be an epic. He will probably insult the routes like we did. I wish I could get TMQ up tomorrow and not Wednesday, but thems the breaks I guess.

I don't know what Bush is talking about in regard to the Saints playing 3 teams off their bye week. The only teams they played off their bye week were St. Louis this past week and Miami in week 7. There may be another team on the schedule they play off their bye week, the game just hasn't gotten played yet. I count it as 2 teams, but there may be a 3rd at some point.

Either way, that does suck for the Saints. It's really not that fair to do that to a team.

Go said...

I had to look up this Antonio Gates guy too. I can't believe I never heard of him and I play a lot of fantasy football. He's got to sign with the Giants, Jets or Pats next year to legitimately be considered a great player.

2005 - 89 rec. 1,101 yds. 10tds (all best in NFL that year)

2006 - 71 rec. (4th) 924 yds (1st) 9tds (1st)

2007 - 75 rec. (4th) 984 yds (4th) 8tds (3rd) - hurt toe at end of year

2008 - 60 rec. (6th) 704 yds (7th) 8tds (2nd)

2009 - 49 rec (2nd) 668 yds (2nd) 2 tds (t-14)

Anonymous said...

As has been noted elsewhere (I saw it first here:, it was statistically the correct play to go for it on 4th.

It's amazing what happens when people just look up facts and use math instead of guess based on their own risk aversion!

AJ said...

Gates plays on the west coast...I think we all know that players out there are no good. I can't tell you anyone who plays on the west fact I'm not sure they even have teams out there.

It was just last week, watching SD play, that I mentioned to my friends that Gates is not only the best TE in football, he is probably better then 98% of the WR's in football.

Did anyone else watch the Lions-Viks game? Sadly, it was the only game on in my area so I had it on in the background while doing other things. But everytime I turned around the announcers were doing some stupid poll contest about naming the Vikings defense.

By the way, Stafford took a beating in that game. He's winning a lot of fans in this area for his toughness. While Calvin is losing a ton.

KentAllard said...

Back in 2005 and 2006, I remember watching Antonio Gates in the Pro Bowl and thinking "why can't this completely unknown player get just a little recognition from someone?" I hope holding the record for most touchdowns in a season by a tight end helps ease his lonely anonymity.

If he played for the Patriots or the Farveians, we'd hear about him endlessly, and anytime another tight end did anything significant, it would be described by PK as "Gates-ish".

Mantis said...

"h. My football buddy at NBC, Joe Gesue, had this comment when FOX showed a sideline view of four defensive linemen on the Vikes, with Jared Allen on the right: "Three Men and a Mullet.''

During this game on a couple of occasions that I noticed, FOX showed a graphic with nicknames for the Minnesota defensive front. Three Men and a Mullet was just one of several listed. Peter's football buddy seems to have the incredible superpower of being able to read and speak that which he read.

I also can't wait to see TMQ admit that fortune doesn't favor the bold after New England missed that late 4th down. Who am I kidding? When New England wins a couple more games later this year, he'll point back to this moment in the Colts game as when the team proved it was bold enough to win some games later this year.

Cougar said...

Obviously, since anyone who's anyone reads Peter King, the most efficient way for him to send personal messages is via the column. You know all the power players are waiting with baited breath to find out what Peter thinks about the Kindle, Brett Favre, and all the northeastern teams.

Seriously, I think this is just another way for Peter to remind us (without directly stating it) how important and influential he is. If he's sending a message to these people through his columns, we must assume he knows that the intended recipients read the column. So this, along with him bitching about his great job, shortcomings of 5 star hotels, and his inability to access star players the night before huge games, is just another message to the masses about how great he is, and how he makes such a ridiculous amount of money.

RuleBook said...

Anon, thank you for that reference. I have been noticeably silent on this particular issue (when I am usually fairly vocal on 4th down decisions). The reason is that I haven't seen the numbers to tell me whether it was a statistically sound decision or not.

I do think that the link you gave us simplifies the numbers more than it should. I'm not necessarily siding with one side or the other (I think it's virtually a wash). However, I will just to point out some flaws in the numbers they use, simply as a thinking point.

1) The site gives the Patriots a 100% chance of winning if they convert. There was 2:08 left on the clock, and if the Patriots converted and the Colts called an immediate time out after the conversion (when Faulk hit the ground initially, there was more than 2:00 left), then there would have been another play before the 2 minute warning. This would leave the Colts around 30 seconds if they held the Pats on the next two plays and forced a punt. I don't know what the percentages are with regards to the Colts driving 60-70 yards with 30 seconds and no timeouts, but it is greater than zero. I'd guess the actual winning percentage would be between .98 and .99.

2) The site uses the average conversion rate in the equation. I would imagine that the Patriots would me more likely to convert than the average team would be, so that number is probably low.

3) They do say:
However, these numbers are baselines for the league as a whole. You'd have to expect the Colts had a better than a 30% chance of scoring from their 34, and an accordingly higher chance to score from the Pats' 28. But any adjustment in their likelihood of scoring from either field position increases the advantage of going for it.
However, they do not consider the difference between the league average disparity in those two positions and the Colts disparity in those two positions. For example, they say the league average from the opponent 28 gives a 53% score, and the league average from the own 34 is 30% score. However, if the Colts are 80% from NE 28 and 40% from IND 34, then the percentages become (only changing that one variable):
Go for it: (0.6*1) + (0.4 * (1 - .8)) = .68 WP
Punt: .60 WP
Thus, the difference between the two options decrease. In essence, the difference between the Colts and the league baseline is not the same from the opponent 28 and own 34.

4) They use the league baseline for the punt. As King himself said: The New England punter, Chris Hanson, hadn't had any of his four punts returned, and he'd averaged a 44-yard net. So if he did what he'd done all night, the Colts would start at their own 28. The difference between the game in question and the league baseline must be considered here.

Thus, the numbers they show are not as clear-cut as they make them.

Also, I hate to bring emotion into the equation, as I can't stand statistically sound coaching decisions being heralded for "firing up the team." However, I would wager that the Patriots defense may have felt demoralized knowing what they faced after the failed conversion.

Just something additional to think about.

Bengoodfella said...

Go, I guess I have another entry into my "Peter King talks about a player as if he is surprised that player is good even though everyone else already knows this" list. I have no idea who forgot about Antonio Gates, other than Peter of course.

Anon, I didn't think it was a horrible call by Belichick. It was gutsy and it didn't turn out well, but he did what he thought was right in that situation. I don't think I will be as hard on him as everyone else is going to be. The play call was slightly inferior in my opinion...or excellently defended by the Colts, take your pick.

Gates could very well be better than many of the wide receivers in the NFL. I didn't see the Vikings game at all yesterday, but I greatly tend to dislike the naming of a team's defense. I don't inherently hate it, but the suggested names are usually pretty worthless.

Kent, I do hope someday one of the best tight ends in the history of the NFL (very soon, he will be this) could get more people to know about him. As long as studs like Kevin Boss are around Gates will never get his due. I think I am going to call it "King-ish" when a guy refers to a player who has already proven how good he is in terms that this player just now proved how good he was.

Mantis, thanks for that heads up. I guess it shouldn't shock me that his friend ripped off the name. Those type names are why I many times don't like naming defenses. That's what it so annoying about Easterbrook. If the Patriots got the first down, he would praise Belichick for going for it and being bold, while if he didn't get it (which happened) Gregg will talk about how this is going to pay off down the road and then when the Patriots win a close game he is going to bring this up. You are right and there is nothing we can do about it.

Cougar, it probably is a huge ego trip for Peter. He acts like the world is ended because he can't order room service with a quarterback anymore and then feels the need to name drop his column. He's like, "look how important I am, I can send messages to famous people." I think I will start doing that, just randomly sending messages out to people who are well-known.

The best way for Peter to get in touch with anyone is in a public fashion in his MMQB. He is too busy to email anyone.

Rulebook, I love your use of numbers there and I would have to agree in that the Colts chances of conversion from both the Pats 28 and their own 34 are higher than league average and the same thing goes for the Pats conversion rate on fourth down. I honestly believe it was just a ballsy move that Belichick wanted to make and it backfired.

Pretty much anytime you give Manning a short field, you are going to pay and that is what happened. I think the NE defense knew the Colts were going to score and there wasn't much they could do. That would make an argument to not go for it, but I still say if you can keep the ball out of Manning's hands potentially that is not a bad move, especially when Brady is your quarterback.

There is no doubt the defense probably was a little demoralized for NE.

Martin said...

The numbers that Anon and the site use are far too simplified, or at least the information they give that they say they used is far to simplified. They are using some average percentages that don't go far enough.

They give the Pats a 60% chance to convert, yet since 2001 the Pats have only converted 63% of their 4th and 2 OR shorter attempts. So this success rate includes all the 4th and inches types that they did convert. One could say the 60% rate value is too high then for the Pats. The value for 2 point conversions is 45-51% the last few years, and I think makes a better statistical model for this exercise.

They failed to use the 4th and 2 rate for road teams vs home teams, I don't know if it's higher or lower, but you need to work that in as part of the equation, and my guess would be lower.

While they are taking into account time and distance, they aren't taking into account time outs.

As Rule points out, the Colts would more likely be starting from their own 28, not the 34, this too changes the equation. League baselines are all well and good for generalizations, but for specific instances like this one, are not reflective of the teams or situation as it really is. They say that one of the reasons they use baselines is because team specific stats are too small a sample size, yet the incident is nothing BUT team specific. As one commentor on their site says "Teams score at a 30% success rate, yet your scales show that teams on average only score at a 20% rate. The success rate gets higher with only 2 minutes left?"

I think the last critical factor they miss is they vastly underate the odds of the Colts scoring from the Pat 29 yard line. 53% chance? Not even close. With Manning and the Colts, it has to be something more like 80%, and there is no way I would adjust the % up nearly that high for them starting from where they get the punt. This is where the lack of a specific sample set kills the analysis. This isn't the Lions or Raiders trying to score from the 29, it's Manning and the Colts, who I would place far above the mean on likelyhood of scoring from the opponents 29 with a timeout left and 2 minutes on the clock.

Syed Ashrafulla said...

There are a lot of math excuses that have been thrown in the face of Brian's analysis; one only has to take a look through the trash to find the statistical "follies" that people purport on his Fifth Down Blog post.

First, the prior used for the 4th and short calculation is hard to use. New England is north of 70% on 4th down since 2005. However, one could argue that third down is a better indicator; I can't sort the downs stats on ESPN based on distance to get a good cross-section.

Second, his argument that the Colts offense is stronger would at worst make it a wash is correct. The worst-case probability are the Colts being 100% successful from the opponent 30 means that the go-for-it strategy has a WP of 0.6*1 + 0.4*(1-1) = 0.6, which means the punt strategy has to hit 0.6 to be fruitful; hence if the Colts are 100% successful from the opponent 30, they must be worse than 40% successful from their own X (whatever X is) for the Pats' punt strategy to work.

In total, Indy has 30 TD, 14 FG and 36 punts, which means (rough metric warning) they are 37.5% from anywhere on the field for scoring a TD and that's not including the bias of settling for a TD. Include the recent history of the game (the previous three lightning-fast scores) and the Colts are above 40% from anywhere reasonable on the field.

I think the key is to realize that the Patriots are
- really good on 4th down, and
- the punt causes a difference of X yards.
The question, which gave Belichick pause, was "is X yards worth it?" The answer, in most cases, is no. The blown call was really the 3rd and 2 play; there is a major argument to run the ball in that situation, independent of whether you go for it or not. Faulk was north of 3 yards per carry and certainly was fit to seal the deal; the ball should have been in his hands, but via a carry on 3rd down rather than a catch on 4th down.

Bengoodfella said...

I still think the Pats should have conceded the touchdown on Addai's run and tried to get the ball back.

Regardless, it seems like we having some problems with whether the statistical model to be used is accurate or not. I guess the model doesn't adjust for team specific cases, but I think it is suffice to say that the % would be pretty high for the Colts to score.

Syed put it well when he said the question is whether X more yards the Colts would have to drive on offense is worth the chance of the Patriots converting the fourth down. I think it is interesting because if I am not wrong it is Bill Belichick who champions the idea if you know as a head coach you will for it on fourth down, it gives you more freedom on third down. I agree there should have been a running play on third down, which I think would have made fourth down easier or negligible. Obviously that didn't happen.

I think the 53% chance of the Colts scoring from the 29 yard line is wrong. The Colts could almost kick a field goal at that point and have better odds of scoring at 53% without taking a snap.

I guess what I am saying is that if I were to make a statistical decision on this I would need a model or metric I felt comfortable with and some of the ones we have here are either flawed or the numbers seem kind of off.

It's not a given the Colts would have scored if the Pats had punted, but we can't ignore the fact Peyton Manning still had two minutes left in the game. Since we don't know exactly where the ball would have ended up on the punt it makes it hard to correctly guess what the odds of scoring a touchdown were for the Colts. That's the problem with baselines and that is they are not specific to each team and each situation.

RuleBook said...

The key reason I believe this call is so controversial is the following comment that I have heard everywhere:

but if you don't convert...

Therein lies the main folly of most sports media people that I've seen. They look at the best worst-case scenario, rather than looking at the best scenario. Essentially, going back to the original formula from the referenced site, we get:

(.6*1) + .4(1-.53)

The problem is, most people in the media (and actually, this applies to society at large) ignore the chance of success (the .6). Instead they look for the worst scenarios and compare them. They are comparing the chances for the colts to score with each other, which obviously would favor the longer field.

Though I listed several issues with the numbers in question, my chief complaint with the numbers that site use was the 100% win chance for the Patriots if they convert. With a timeout left, the Colts could still get the ball with 30 seconds left.

All that said, I don't think there are any numbers that anyone can look at that they can clearly say it was a bad decision (the play choice notwithstanding), so I really think the criticism of Belichick is relatively unmerited.

Actually, I'll go one step further. That call is why Belichick has such an amazing win percentage. Let's go back to the numbers we have been debating. Let's just assume the 0.79 win percentage with going for it and the 0.7 win percentage with punting are right. Then, based strictly on decision making, in 100 similar games, Belichick would win 79 of them, whereas a typical coach would win 70 of them.

Martin said...

Now see, by knowing the Colts score a TD roughly 40% of the time is a stat that takes some precedence over league wide average. If the league average of driving 70 yards and scoring a td with 2 minutes and 1 timeout is 30%, then one would feel safe in saying that the Colts would probably be above league average, say 40%, and punting becomes a less attractive option.

It also depends on your source stats. The Pats are 70% since 2005, where as the stat I was using was from 2001-2009. Yet again though, from what distance and home vs away need to be taken into account.

The best analysis of this I've seen basically all say it was a wash, or damn close. I'll totally buy into that. I tend to be risk averse, so to me my mind is made up by the fact that if my team fails to get the first down, we are going to almost assuredly lose, say 85%. If we make it, we 99% win. Since we are already winning, in a wash situation, I feel that I have to punt and that anything else is stupid. Manning has already thrown 2 interceptions against this defense this half, let my defense close out the game. That's just me though.

I completely agree with the fact that this game was lost on 3rd and 2. You have to run to kill more time and Faulk was likely to get that yardage. The Colts D hasn't been strong against the run in 8 years. And then you can not use the last time out to figure out if you are going to go for it or not. That choice had to be made before 3rd down was run.

This reminds me a bit of the USC-Texas NC game a few years ago. Everybody lambasted Pete for not punting when to me the key play was on 2nd down when for some reason they ran an ugly screen pass to the fullback that was dropped, stopping the clock. Even for no gain, it would have taken another 25 seconds off the clock, but instead was a circumstance of the play calling outsmarting itself.

In the end, I think people are suing stats to justify their position, when yes, it looks most likely that it was a wash % wise.

Rich said...

I know I'm late to the party, but:

If PK thinks the probability of converting the 4th down is 65% and the odds of the Colts scoring after a punt at 35%...

Then the friggin' Patriots have a 65% chance of winning no matter what they do under King's delusional system. Either they get the first down and bleed the clock (65% chance of winning) or punt the ball and have a 35% chance of the Colts scoring (65% chance of the Pats winning).

Peter King: sucks at sportswriting and math.

Syed Ashrafulla said...

With respect to

I think the 53% chance of the Colts scoring from the 29 yard line is wrong. The Colts could almost kick a field goal at that point and have better odds of scoring at 53% without taking a snap.

... I think Brian's model uses as scoring touchdowns only, and then has a field goal model on top. What I mean to say is, you can't infer a field goal given position because field goals almost always only occur on 4th down (thus P(field goal) is conditioned on the down).

At least, it better be that way because otherwise WP is a whack stat to be including field goals and assuming those averaged out. Individual matchups and stuff (like on the NYTimes comments section) are unimportant statistical confounding variables; having field goals in there is way too important and should be taken out.

Bengoodfella said...

Rulebook, I am with you on that. I don't think there has been any reason given to say that the call by Belichick was a bad call. If it was a bad call, it was so close that I think it may have been a wash. I would agree the media does tend to focus on the worst case scenario in situations like that.

Martin, I would have probably punted the ball also if I was in the position the Patriots were in, but I do understand why Belichick went for it on fourth down, though I would have run on third down. I am not sure what kind of model should be used and all of that, but I think we are all at the same conclusion it was a gut call and Belichick's team didn't convert.

Syed, I didn't think that field goals would not be in the model, it makes sense to me now. It would screw it all up if field goals were a part of it.

Rich, that's a good point about the percentages. They looked funny to me, but I didn't delve into them. Peter King does such at math and sportswriting though. Even from Peter's fuzzy math it is still a wash.

AJ said...

All this talk about if the call was the right one or not and all the stats and blah blah blah...

Lets think for a second...if they punt the ball and Indy comes down and scores, does anyone even question the punt on 4th and 2? NOPE. And why is that, because this isn't a Madden video game, 99.9% of coaches would have punted the ball.

The only reason this is being talked about is because he DID go for it, and he didn't make it. If he punts, no one talks about this, and we are all talking about how Indy came back and won that game (or how the Pats blew it, depends on what area of the US you live in). Or we are talking about how Indy ran out of know, there isn't an exact % of them scoring with 2 mins left and 70 yards to go. We need to remember, they needed a TD, not just a FG.

All these stats can be skewed to however you want to look at it, just like ALL stats can be.

Bengoodfella said...

AJ, that's true because most coaches would end up punting here and the statistics one way or another be damned because we would never investigate into it because there was no need. Tell you what, next time a coach is in a similar position I bet he punts.

Indy did need a TD, not just a FG, so the degree of difficulty was higher. I kind of wish NE had punted so we would know what would have happened.

Go said...

I don't know if this has been mentioned but since it was 4th and a little over a yard I never once thought that NE would do a surprise run. When it's 4th and a foot or two the defense has to play a little tighter to the line in case of this. I don't watch the Pats a whole lot but do they only play from the shotgun? If Brady goes under center there, is there a chance the Colts have that doubt that it's a pass and hesitate allowing Brady an easier throw?
Also does the NE defense now feel like shit and will lack confindence until they prove in an upcoming game that they're still a good defense? Or is this just a blip on the radar becuase they faced the Colts' offense? That sounds a lot like the standard media question but it may be an interesting thing to watch. I personally doubt it affects them, but if somehow the Jets next week run them ragged what becomes of that defense?

AJ said...

I think NE will be fine, they ran into a hot offense and got beat, nothing wrong with that. They are still a very good team, and one that has a very good shot of winning another SB. I think Indy is the team to beat, obviously, but I feel (and it was shown) that NE can in fact beat them.

I'm pretty sure this will have no effect on the defense. It is what it is, a decent defense...nothing great, but nothing bad either. It's a good enough defense for that offense.

Bengoodfella said...

Yeah, I think the Patriots will be ok and beat the Jets this upcoming week. I am sure Belichick will convey to the defense he didn't make the decision because it wasn't because he didn't trust them, but instead it was because he thought he could get the first down.

I obviously don't have inside information nor am I a smart person, but I would believe this doesn't affect the Patriots that much. I could be wrong, but Belichick seems like he has a lot of loyalty in that locker room.

I am sure the defense will have gotten over it and be ready to play Sunday.

Syed Ashrafulla said...

There is a huge misconception about statistics being skewed to however you want. The reason most people believe this to be true is that statistics are probabilistic measures that tell you whatever data you give it.

If you were to use, say, 4th down efficiency for New England last year as a prior to their success rate this year, that's a very high 77%. If you were to say that's not a lot of data points, and 3rd down is similar, then the success rate drops to 45%. If you were to say "wait a second that includes all the plays of 3rd and 3+ which are out of this domain" then the percentage increases again.

Similar thought meandering leads to misguided statistical analysis. In that end, the best we can do is to use a defensible metric (read: NOT established) and then act upon that. Once you have a defensible stat (one really good one is 3rd and short success rate), then you can attack the problem and see if the decision was good.

The only people that bash statistics as biased are those who are either a) want statistics to either agree with them or gtfo, or b) are listening and mimicking someone who wants statistics to either agree with them or gtfo.

Martin said...

Yeah, I'm not sure I buy into the "Defense feels bad" idea. If they had punted would the offense feel bad? Maybe both marginally feel that way, but he can also tell his D that "I had faith you'd stop them from a TD even 30 yards out." they lost a game they should have won, and there is plenty of blame to go around that locker room.

Martin said...

Syed, that totally reminds me of one of the radio sports guys last night saying "New England only has a 47% success rate on 4th down this year. They had less then a 50% chance to make it!" Completely ignoring all the other factors, like time, distance, home and away.

I love stats, I jsut want to make sure the metrics are all the best they can be. Sloppy stats drive me nuts after years of watching my company use sloopy stats to pretty much justify doing whatever it is they want to do that year.

Bengoodfella said...

Well, I guess that is sometimes the problem with statistics is that they give you the outcome you want, so you have to make sure what data is being used to get the conclusion is good data. A lot of the conclusions that are reached are based on the input of data and if it is skewed data or not.

I have no problem with statistics, but in some cases they do seem to go a bit overboard. Not in this case though. Usually people who have problems with statistics don't understand them or don't agree with the conclusion they come to. Sometimes people just don't like stats I guess.

Martin, the defense should probably feel good Belichick thought they could stop the Colts with such a short field. No one thinks of that though right?

You are right you can't just use the 4th down percentage for the Pats as a whole in measuring whether this was a good decision. If there 15 times the Pats went for it and 7 of them are fourth and inches, well they have a better conversion rate at that distance potentially than 4th and 2 or something similar.

I have found companies are like people in that they want to avoid the stats that don't tell them what they want to hear.