Another football question: as 1st half is ending, why not try to score every time?

I could barely get out of bed this a.m., having watched my beloved Rams crash and burn in Kansas City yesterday. But the game reminded me of a football issue which has nagged me for some time now.

The Chiefs had the ball (and the lead) with a handful of seconds left in the first half. Granted they were not even close to the Red Zone, and had enough time for only one, maybe two, plays tops. So the Chief QB “took a knee” and ended the half.

But, why not try to score? Throw a Hail Mary, or run a gimmicky play that no one expects.

It seems that no one tries to hurry up and score in the waning seconds of the first half anymore. (I seem to recall that, in my youth, teams almost always tried to “squeeze” in that last first-half score.) Today, even teams that are behind seem to just run out the clock unless they’re in good field position.

What is there to lose? The opening kick-off of the second half won’t be affected. And if the other team intercepts they’ll be in really lousy field position with even less time to play. Furthermore, why not give your team some real life two-minute-drill practice that might, just might, put some points on the board?

I would have to say that it’s a matter of risk management. The chances of an interception/fumble increase dramatically on the kind of long-shot plays that can score under those circumstances. Granted, it’s not at all likely that the other team will be able to capitalize on it–but neither is it likely to score for your own team. Before I gave up on football in disgust (grew up in Louisiana–between the Saints and the Tigers, anyone should give up), I saw nearly as many turnover-scores as successful long-shots. I think everyone has pretty much written it off as a bad risk.

For coaches, the fear of looking stupid greatly outweighs the hope of looking lucky.

The potential for a way to score in one play from your own 20 yrd line or farther back becomes less likely than the defense doing something so THEY score from that position.

Yer pal,

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I think these guys pretty much answered it.

The theory is this. The odds of actually scoring with little time left and on the opposite side of the field are very low.

To score, you’d need to throw long passes against a defense that is in “prevent” mode, ie, all the defenders are defending against the pass, not the run. This increases the chances of an interception. With 4-5 receivers down field, this makes it harder to tackle the intecepting player, increasing the chances of a score.

I guess you could try and trick the defense then and run the ball and try to get a low percentage 40 or 50 yard field goal at the last second, but it could get blocked and the defending team could run it for a touchdown.

Also, your QB could get hurt in those extra three plays. And by kneeling down and running out the clock, it gives your players extra valuable seconds of rest for the second half.

Frankly, I’m with you. I think it’s a wussy way to play football, and I wish there was a way for the NFL to make a rule against it, but that’s the theory anyway.

I think during a Miami-Bew England game Dan Marino pretended to kneel down at the last second of the half then threw a touchdown pass while the defense stood around looking at their watches, but I’m not sure if this is exactly what happened.

One of the big things to worry about, is the big sack. If your down to only a few seconds, the only way you are going to get anywhere is a hail mary. The quarterback has to run around for a while to give the recievers enough time to make it downfield, which gives the linemen a chance to rush around from the back, and nail the QB, possibly resulting in a fumble return for a touchdown, a broken quarterback, plus the fact that the QB may strain his shoulder going for the long bomb.(and he probably doesn’t really want that extra INT on his stats as he goes into negotiations next time)

Generally, the team that’s winning is a lot less likely to try a 60 yard pass play at the end of the half. Imagine the mood in the locker room at half time if you were up by 4 with 4 seconds to go in the half and you had the ball, but actually entered the locker room down by 3 thanks to a 108 yd interception return for a touchdown.

Also, for a long pass play, the QB has to wait around for the receivers to get downfield. There’s a real good chance that he’ll get hit at the end of the play, and posibly injured. That’s something you don’t want to subject your quaterback to if you don’t have to. Also, if an interception is thrown (which is likely against a dime or prevent) anyone on the team who intercepted the ball gets a free shot at the quaterback under the guise of blocking for the return. The closest people to your quaterback will be some big mean defensive linemen.

Darn it, theuglytruth seems to have made all the points I was making.

Also, I think the Marino play was that he acted like he was going to spike the ball to stop the clock. Everyone on both teams thought he was going to do this except Mark Clayton (it may have been someone else). The offence hurried to line up, Marino took the snap, Clayton ran a 4 yd pattern into the endzone, no one covered Clayton, Marino threw, Clayton scored, fans rooting for the team that was not the Dolphins said, “WTF!”

Dsamn, I’m not posting fast enough. But I’ll say it anyway.

I can’t believe a Rams fan would ask such a question, when Warner broke his finger on the play before.

Going for the bomb in that situation is a high-risk, low-percentage play. Not only do you risk an injury, but, as Woody Hayes once said “only three things can happen when you throw the ball, and two of them are bad.”

The Chiefs were ahead. If they’d gone for the Hail Mary and the Rams had intercepted and run it back, it would have been a first-rate momementum-shifter.

As mentioned, the Marino “fake spike” was a different situation. The receiver, BTW, was Mark Engram. Their opponent was the Jets. It turned the 1994 season around for both team, Miami doing very well the rest of the season and the Jets going to pot for the next couple of years.

As to the OP – just take a look at the Bengals/Dolphins game a couple of weeks ago. Bengals are up 13-3 with under a minute. The ball is on their end of the field. They could kneel on it and go into half-time with a 10 point lead. Instead, Akili Smith goes back for a pass, get knocked over by Jason Taylor, fumbles, Taylor recovers and runs into the endzone for a TD. Bengals go on to lose after the huge shift in momentum.

Since I went a bit overboard on the last football thread, I will just limit my comments to saying that a football coach evaluates the situation on a “risk vs. reward” system.

Obviously, the Chiefs’ coach felt that he had little to gain and a lot to lose if something went wrong.

  1. Superbowl XVIII. Redskins have the ball at the close of the 2nd quarter. From Raiders Dismantle Redskins, Records in Super Bowl, 38-9:

*Gibbs opted not to run out the clock. He opted not to throw deep, perhaps since cornerback Hayes stood 45 yards downfield, protecting against the big play. Instead, Theismann dropped back into the end zone and threw a swing pass to running back Joe Washington in the flat. The ball never reached Washington. Squirek leaped in front of him at the five-yard line for the interception, then ran into the end zone for the 21-3 touchdown.

Later came Gibbs’ reasoning: “With 23 second (actually 12) left in the half, you have two choices: you can either fall on the ball or try to get something . . . I wanted to run something safe. It got us a 67-yard gain in the first game (against the Raiders). I was hoping we’d get 20 or 30 yards and maybe get a field goal . . .I didn’t like the idea of falling on the ball.”*

It’s still painful to remember…

Hey Satan, want to explain to the group why, when teams are running out the clock with the lead at the end of the game, the quarterback now does absolutely nothing except take a knee, and he is carefully surrounded by teammates, including one several yards behind him?

(I’m just being mean. The answer to this question is an extremely ugly memory for Giants fans.)

Milo must die…

Milo - that’s just cruel!

Can I yank this love-fest back to football for a sec?

But, before I do, speaking from KC, that was quite a game. I don’t watch much football, but… I thought the Rams were supposed to be good? :stuck_out_tongue:

Anyway, I have been wondering about the dearth of “trick plays” in general in Pro Football. I watch the Chiefs when I can, and I see them kick lots of field goals. Why not try a fake now and again? I mean, when it’s 4th and 4, and you line up for a FG, the chances of hitting a guy like Richardson for a 5-10 yard gain on a kick fake seem pretty good. No?

Then, if you fake maybe 30% of the time, you have put the fear in your opponents, who will probably rush fewer linemen at the kicker, making his job easier. What am I missing?

Again, it’s a case of risk vs. reward on trick plays. Do you think you are more likely to get 3 points, 6 points, or 0 points? 0 points is an outcome frowned upon by football coaches.

Most teams guard against a fake field goal anyway. If you watch, there will always be a least two guys on the outside who don’t do much of anything except stand around and watch the play.

Field goals are usually blocked by guys in the middle of the line when the kicker doesn’t get enough lift on the kick.

Hey boys and girls, thanks for all your input thus far. And keep adding your two cents.

I just thought I’d chime in now with some comments. Except for the “momentum” issue, and the absurdity of trying to throw a TD pass from your own, say, 5 yard line, I must confess that I’m unconvinced by the arguments I’ve heard so far. (Not like that matters, mind you. Nobody’s knocking on my door to offer me a head coaching job. But anyway…)

Let’s face it every single play is a potential fumble/interception/injury. What’s the big deal about running a play with 12 seconds on the clock vs. 12 minutes?

Now, some of you have said that go-for-broke plays are extra dangerous (that is, injury-inducing) and improbable. Well, dangerous I can understand; but who cares about improbable? Why not run a reasonably safe (that is, one not likely to cause a QB injury) and try to score anyway? Sure, I may have only a one-in-two-hundred chance that my running back will break the line and scamper 70 yards for a TD – or at least get to FG range, but I’ve got a big, fat zero chance that I’ll go anywhere if I take a knee.

As for all the examples of last-minute disasters – turnovers and injuries – well, what does that prove? That when you actually play the game sometimes things go wrong? No kidding. The same see-I-told-you-so “logic” can be applied to any play that turns out badly – any time in the game.


You don’t seem to be paying attention here.

A running play with 12 seconds on the clock from the 10 yard line will most likely get a small-to-medium gain, a gain which means nothing because of the time and field position.

Best case scenerio - to get in position to score - is incredibly unlikely with the way a defense would play in that scenerio. Worst scenerios - a bad snap, a forced fumble, a player getting injured on a play with little chance of helping the cause - are also not likely, but they are MORE plausible than the best case.

So why on earth would someone risk the bad with such a tiny chance of success?

On a play with 12 minutes left, sure, you have the risk of something bad happening, but you have a much GREATER chance of success. On a 1st and 10 from the 20 in the middle of the game, any gain from four yards on is not a bad result.

Whereas in the 12 seconds-left scenerio, gaining as much as 40 yards is meaningless (except to pad stats).

I do hope this clarifies things…

Yer pal,

Six months, two weeks, 19 hours, 35 minutes and 3 seconds.
7912 cigarettes not smoked, saving $989.08.
Extra life with Drain Bead: 3 weeks, 6 days, 11 hours, 20 minutes.

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> Also, I think the Marino play was that he acted like he was going to spike the ball to stop the clock.

The Bucs did that one successfully a few weeks ago.
I’d like to see a QB take a knee on the first possession of the game. It would be stupid, but I’d really like to see it.

Satan, yes this is very helpful. And yes, I am paying attention.

Now, you wrote:

Best case scenerio - to get in position to score - is incredibly unlikely with the way a defense would play in that scenerio. Worst scenerios - a bad snap, a forced fumble, a player getting injured on a play with little chance of helping the cause - are also not likely, but they are MORE plausible than the best case.

First of all, the truly best case scenario is not “to get into position to score,” but to actually score. It may be unlikely but, as we all know, it can happen on any play.

Then you asked:

So why on earth would someone risk the bad with such a tiny chance of success?

Well, if that’s the case, why do losing teams continue to play defiantly at the end of the fourth quarter when they are so far behind that they mathematically can not possibly win? Why not take a knee on each play, run out the clock and not risk injury or disaster in an even tinier (read: nonexistant) chance of success? I mean, even when they pull out the first-string QB to avoid injuries, the second-stringer continues to fight as long as his team has the ball.

Whatever logic can be applied to answer that question can be applied to answer your question.