Statistics Show Patriots' FG Before Half vs. Ravens Is Worst Play-Call Decision of NFL Season
Listen - just like one loss is no reason to freak out about a New England Patriots team that is in the midst of their bye week with eight wins in nine weeks, one coaching mistake should also be not viewed as a single action that labels a coaches ability. Especially if the mistake is made by Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who has made historically good decisions that have led to six championships in New England over the past two decades.
With that being said - Belichick made a pretty poor decision in Week 9 versus the Baltimore Ravens. And the statistics prove it.
Nate Weller of Sports Info Solutions (SIS) recently used SIS's win probability model to calculate "decision making" and "excitement" throughout the league this season. What he found was that of the "worst decisions" made by a team this season, the Patriots have the No. 1 worst decision, based on how much win probability a team missed out on because of a certain play call.
The play that found itself at the top of the list was the Patriots' decision in Week 9 against the Ravens to kick a field goal with 10 seconds left in the first half as opposed to trying to score a touchdown on 4th-and-1 at the one-yard line with Baltimore up 17-10. New England's win probability would have went up 15.9% had they went for it on 4th down instead of kicking the field goal.
The next worst "worst decision" on the chart was when the Kansas City Chiefs kicked a field goal on 4th down in Week 7 against the Denver Broncos with 8:04 left in the 2nd quarter with a four-point lead, which caused them to miss out on a 10.4% win probability increase.
Here's what Weller had to say about New England being at the top of the unappealing list:
"It turns out that Bill Belichick is indeed human and capable of the same mistakes that plague so many other coaches. Heading into the half of last Sunday’s game against the Ravens, the Patriots faced 4th and goal from the one down a single score. Rather than going for it and trying to level the game heading into the half, the Patriots settled for a field goal and went into the half trailing by 4."
It's a hard pill to swallow, but Belichick might have outsmarted himself on that play.
Sometimes scoring the easiest available points is viewed as the best approach. With the ball at halftime, Belichick likely thought the Patriots were capable of coming out in the second half and scoring again. But that changed when Julian Edelman fumbled the ball on the first series of the second half, which resulted in a scoop-and-score opportunity for the Ravens defense.
Don't get me wrong - if didn't fumble that ball, it was 1st-and-10 at Baltimore's 30 yard line. So the Patriots could have at the very least made it a one-point game by kicking another field goal. But Belichick's decision in the dwindling seconds of the first half wasn't the best judgement we've come to expect from the future Hall of Fame head coach, especially in a clutch situation.