I’m writing this early Sunday morning, as I sit here in northern Indiana waiting for the doomsday snowstorm to finally make its way to me. It’s been hovering a few counties away for a couple of hours now, but it’s coming. Last night, I considered doing whatever it is adults do in this situation; getting bread and milk, perhaps. But every grocery store was ridiculously busy (apparently people really don’t want to go without bread for more than 24 hours.) So I ordered a pizza, bought some Pepsi (no Coke Zero at the convenience store) and settled in for the second half of the Colts and Chiefs. I almost didn’t turn it on. I had checked the score while waiting to pick up the pizza, and it was 38-10 Kansas City.
Now I’ll note that in yesterday’s bullets, I may have given the impression that I wasn’t very excited for the NFL playoffs, due to a hangover from the Bears loss last weekend. Whatever reticence I had going into yesterday was erased right along with Kansas City’s 28-point second half lead. What an entertaining game. as the Colts stormed back to win 45-44. (According to ESPN’s Stats & Info’s Twitter, the Colts became the first team to win in NFL history to win in regulation after trailing by at least 28 points.)
Also in yesterday’s bullets, you’ll find my prediction that Indy/KC would be a low-scoring affair. Whoops. Though I did pick the Colts to win, and the Saints as well. I arrived at the proper destination, I just went the wrong way to get there. The Colts comeback was so good that it sort of overshadowed the Saints winning in Philadelphia on a field goal as time expired. Just a great day for NFL football; hopefully today’s games are entertaining as well.
- A quick thing from that Kansas City/Indianapolis game: with 5:40 left in the game, the Chiefs led by three. They faced 4th and 6 on the Colts 25 yard line. Their defense had been shredded the entire second half, having given up touchdowns on four of the Colts previous five offensive possessions. Andy Reid sent out the field goal unit, Ryan Succop converted from 43 yards out to extend Kansas City’s lead to six. At the time, I said on Twitter that I might have gone for it in that scenario, and here’s why: if you convert that play, en route to a touchdown, you win the game. (Well, most likely. Who knows with that game.) You would be up by 10 at that point. If you fail to convert, you’re still up three; a touchdown beats you, of course, but it would have (and did) had they made the field goal, anyway. It would have enabled the Colts to kick a field goal to tie, but with the way the Chiefs defense had played, giving the Colts incentive to play for a field goal might not have been a bad thing. (It didn’t get that far due to the immediate T.Y. Hilton touchdown, but the Colts would have been in four-down territory for the entire drive. That has a benefit for the offense.) The Chiefs had a chance to play for the win on offense, and passed on it, choosing to give their defense a chance to win the game. But that’s a chance the defense would have had either way; in essence, they passed up a shot on offense. It’s as close as a football team can get to a sacrifice bunt. The Colts scored very quickly, and the Chiefs once again had the ball on offense; Reid’s decision did give them a chance to win with a field goal, but Kansas City never had that opportunity; they ended up failing to convert on a 4th and 11 play, the Colts took over on downs, and the game was essentially over.
- When grading coaching decisions, it’s important to focus on the context of that decision, and not so much on what happened in the aftermath. (For example, had Robbie Gould made the infamous second-down field goal, that wouldn’t make retroactively make it the correct decision for Marc Trestman.) I felt like Reid’s decision to kick the field goal was not the move that put his team in the best position to win the game. For what it’s worth, the New York Times/Advanced NFL Stats 4th Down Bot agreed with me; according to the math, going for it would have put the team’s likely winning percentage at 79%, versus 76& for attempting a field goal. (Interestingly, punting would be 75%.) The Bot notes that coaches attempt the field goal 82% of the time in that situation. The idea that you should “always take the points” or that you should “extend the game” is a pervading one, but I think they might be on their way out. You shouldn’t take the points if going for it gives you a better chance of winning the game. And you shouldn’t extend the game if doing so means giving up what is likely to be your best chance of winning the game. The Chiefs gave up 4th and 6 and ended up needing 4th and 11. (And that’s not even factoring in that a failed try on 4th and 6 wasn’t even close to a definite game-ender.)
- Slow day for Bears news, but Adam Jahns of the Sun-Times writes that the Bears want Josh McCown to return. Specifically, Jay Cutler wants him back. I think if Josh wants to stay, the Bears would be willing to make that happen. If he gets offered a starting job elsewhere, that might change the equation, although it’s hard to say how much. If you’re McCown, do you want to go start for a team in the short-term? If no competitive team is in play for him, would you want to go somewhere else to start, knowing that by the end of the year you might very well be backing up a rookie anyway? It’s an interesting situation. From the Bears perspective, I’m not sure there’s any more ideal backup for this team than McCown, and as Cutler noted in the Sun-Times piece, Josh’s positive impact on the team really does seem to reach far beyond his performance on the field.
- The Titans fired head coach Mike Munchak, who had just finished his third season in charge. As Sports Illustrated’s Peter King noted on Twitter, that means 15 NFL head coaches have been fired in the past 53 weeks. That’s staggering.
- Former Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher told ESPN that he won’t be coaching anywhere this season. (He didn’t outright say “So Daniel Snyder can stop calling me, please.” But I think that’s implied.)
- Today’s NFL games: San Diego at Cincinnati at 1:00 PM Eastern, San Francisco at Green Bay at 4:25. My “analysis” for yesterday’s games was so poor that I’ll just skip it this time; I’ll take the Bengals and the 49ers today.
Enjoy the games, and if you are in the path of winter weather, please be safe.