Falcons coach made the right call

Falcons coach Mike Smith is getting hammered for going for it on fourth-and-inches deep in Atlanta territory (the 29-yard line to be exact) in overtime. As you know by now, the gamble failed. Michael Turner got stuffed in the backfield, and John Kasay knocked in a chip-shot field goal.

As former Jets coach Herm Edwards famously said, you play to win the game. Smith was trying to be aggressive. It's easy to say the defense would've held the Saints, like it did late in the game and already in overtime. But that's a mere assumption. Drew Brees already threw for 310 yards in the game. What's to say he wouldn't engineer a long drive for a field goal? And if the defense was so good, why did it allow the Saints to march from the 29 to the 8 after Smith's gamble?

My only qualm with the decision: Why not a QB sneak instead? That made more sense than handing the ball off to Turner four yards in the backfield. Ryan could've punched it forward for a yard.

What do you think? Dumb decision? Great call, but poor execution? Falcons should have punted?

 

 

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Connor Threlkeld
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Connor Threlkeld 11/14/11 - 06:59 pm
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I liked the aggressive call,

I liked the aggressive call, I don't begrudge the choice to go for it, but I agree with you Chris. I think it would've made much more sense to go for the QB sneak in that situation. Granted, seeing what happened, Ryan wouldn't have made it either. The Saints pushed the whole Falcons line back more than a yard right off the snap, there was nowhere to go. But again, it's easy to say that 27 hours after the game ended.

As a disciple of the Mike "Go For It" Leach school of offense (we miss you Mike!), I'm very familiar with the art of the gamble. But while I'm a fan of taking the risk and trying to keep the drive alive, I would have had to send in the punt team if it was ultimately up to me.

If you get the first down, you're first and 10 at your own 30. Congratulations. You still have to gain 35-40 yards for a shot at a game-winning field goal. Far from a lock considering you are already struggling inside your own 30. If you don't make it, the opponent's in field goal range, and the game's over. The defense was struggling, but it's a lot easier for the defense to protect the tie if they have an extra 30-40 yards of margin for error before the Saints hit field goal range. They'd already forced a three and out once in the overtime, who says they couldn't do it again?

The fact that the Saints went from the 29 to the 8 is moot because in the situation (already in field goal range), the whole playbook opens up because there's no situational play calling. The down and distance doesn't matter. The clock doesn't matter. The only requirement is don't turn it over. The defense has to defend every possible play (except maybe the Hail Mary, taking a knee, killing the clock and punting) on every down.

Basically, by arguing the defense is struggling, you're rationalizing the decision to go for it by saying it would've happened anyways, which we don't know for sure. It'd be like rationalizing punting and later losing because the Saints drive for the win by saying the Saints probably would've stuffed the Falcons on fourth and inches. You just don't know.

justthefacts
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justthefacts 11/14/11 - 07:27 pm
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The game was lost because of

The game was lost because of the play calling during the overtime. 6 passes????

Riverman1
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Riverman1 11/14/11 - 07:45 pm
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I wouldn't have done it. The

I wouldn't have done it. The thing was if you didn't make it the game was over. If it had been out further downfield....probably. Then you at least had a chance to stop them.

Vito45
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Vito45 11/14/11 - 09:11 pm
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Yep RM, that is the key; on

Yep RM, that is the key; on the off chance they stick you on 6 inches, the game is likely over. I bet if you ran all the probabilities on a computer, the logic would have given the Birds a much higher probability of a win had they punted. Easy to MM QB from here though. We left the game after NO went up by 10, so probably missed the most exciting 10 minutes of play in the interest of "beating the crowd". There were a train full of us on Marta in the same boat.

justthefacts
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justthefacts 11/15/11 - 10:00 am
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Vito, you, apparently would

Vito, you, apparently would lose the bet. Found this in SI.com(Peter King's article). "If Atlanta punted the ball, the numbers say New Orleans would start its drive on its own 33-yard line, and the Falcons would have a 42 percent chance of winning the game. If they went for it on fourth down, they had a 47 percent chance of winning."

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