September 28, 2010
When you were 10 years old, sitting in front of an exciting new game of Tecmo Bowl, you didn't know much. You had no idea what a fade pattern was or how many guys were blitzing. You didn't know about reading defenses or calling audibles or icing the kicker.
The only thing you knew, the thing you really knew, is at the end of the game, you wanted to win. That's why, for most kids in a position similar to the Green Bay Packers on Monday night, if the other team was on the 9-yard line with 1:44 left in the fourth quarter in a tie game, you let the team score a touchdown.
Now comes the debate between real life and an old video game. Is letting your opponent waltz into the end zone with just under two minutes left to play the right move?
First, let us set up the play. The Bears got the ball on the 9 after a pass-interference call with 1:44 left. The game was tied, and the Packers only had one timeout remaining. The next play would gain Chicago 6 yards, leaving the ball on the 3 with just under a minute to play. Time was ticking away, and the only hope for Green Bay were the following scenarios: fumbled snap, fumble by the ball carrier, interception (which is highly unlikely that Jay Cutler(notes) would be throwing the ball in this situation), and missed field goal.
The fine people at Advanced NFL Stats put the chances of a missed field goal from the initial position (the 9-yard line) at 6 percent. That means there is a 94 percent chance it goes through the uprights and the Bears are celebrating being 3-0. As the ball moved closer to the goal line, as it did, that number continued to improve.
Now, more facts. Pushing aside any ridiculous happenings (like Matt Forte(notes) fumbling the ball into the arms of a Green Bay defender and him taking it 97 yards to the house), the best-case scenario for the Packers is a tie. They were tied at the moment 17-17, so if they blocked the kick they'd still be tied, but if the Bears scored, they'd have a chance to go down and tie the score with a touchdown. Letting the Packers walk into the end zone with over 90 seconds left on the clock and a timeout gives you the chance to control that destiny.
No matter what you say in this situation, if you let the Bears score, and get the ball back, the results are in your hands. The Advanced NFL Stats people put the percentage of a team marching down the field and scoring a touchdown in this situation at 10 percent, which seems about right here, because you'd have to bump the number higher since Green Bay has such an explosive offense, but bring it back down if you factor in the Bears solid defense and the fact that they're at home.
We had a poll in our Monday night chat, and 70 percent of people agreed to let the Bears score a touchdown. Let them get into the end zone with 1:35 or so left, and give yourself a chance (albeit a small chance), to take the game into overtime.
I'm sure a lot of this has to do with ego between players and coaches. It's tough to tell uber-competitive males to roll over at the end of a big football game for the benefit of the team, but as we saw with Brian Westbrook(notes) against the Cowboys in 2007, sometimes being smarter than the score can guarantee you a win.
So, do you let the Bears score and attempt to march down the field to tie, or do you play tough defense and hope for a missed kick? Give us your thoughts.
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