Chiefs retreated 13 yards to convert a 3rd & 1 to a 1st & 10

For those who didn’t see it, this was the scenario:

Tie game, early third quarter. Chiefs face 2nd and 18, and get 17 on the play, setting up a 3rd and 1 on their opponents’ 24, putting them well within field goal range. But there’s a holding penalty on the play, and Reid chooses to take the 5 yards and the first down instead. This gives them 1st and 10 at the 37, only within range for a very long field goal. Was this the right choice? It feels wrong to me, but then I don’t think penalties should work this way anyway (I think you should always get some benefit from the penalty, even if you are better off to decline it).

The only scenario where this would make sense to me is if you had a lead very late in the game, and getting a first down would allow you to go into “victory formation”.

I wrote the above while pausing the game, before anything happened post-penalty, because I know from poker that “results-based” thinking is bad. One data point doesn’t prove anything. But I’ll still note that on the ensuing series, they lost three yards and ended up punting from the 40.

I didn’t watch the game, so without knowing the score or the clock situation, it’s difficult to answer. If it’s a case where you’re up and you want to eat some clock, take the penalty. If you’re down, maybe decline, but again depends on the situation.

Situations like this come up not infrequently. My impression is that coaches tend to play it safe, and take the first down, even at the cost of yardage.

Except in very specific circumstances you are playing for a touchdown. 3rd and 1 is by no means automatic. You take the 1st down and the multiple opportunities.

The Ravens have a stout defense, one of the best. Give them a 3rd and 1 and that’s like putting blood in the water. Don’t give them that opportunity to make a stop. Yes, being on the 24 gives you good FG range even if you don’t convert but I think Reid liked an extra set of downs to try to set up a deep pass for a TD.

Yeah, unless it’s a situation where I’m down by 1 or 2 in the very late game (i.e., where a field goal is likely to be definitive), I’d take the first down. Much better chance for a touchdown, that way.

:confused: But I did say in the OP that it was a tie game, in the third quarter.

“Not infrequently”? I have had NFL GamePass for about a decade (since it was called NFL Rewind), so with the condensed games I watch most of the plays on any given Sunday. I have never seen this scenario before.

I also don’t see how it’s “safe” in a tied game to retreat out of field goal range in exchange for getting a first down, when you had a 3rd and 1 in field goal range and much closer to the end zone.

In a tied game you are playing for points, but sure: 7 is better than 3. I just don’t see how retreating 13 yards farther from the end zone is going to make it more likely you get a TD. I mean, okay: you get “multiple opportunities”, yes. But you have to use those to regain the ground you lost. To say “I don’t know if I can get one yard in one play, but I can get to that same part of the field in three plays from 13 yards further back” doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

The Chiefs have one of the strongest offenses in the league, so they have a better chance than most to do that. But if they are willing to go out of field goal range, why wouldn’t they also be willing to take two cracks at getting the first down? Try on 3rd and 1, then again on 4th and short if you get stuffed.

Yeah, it’s a pretty uncommon scenario because it’s only going to happen with defensive holding, which is an automatic first down but only 5 yards gained. The other “automatic first down” penalties are 15 yards (or DPI which is the point of the foul). So the only instance where this is a choice is where the following happens:
A) Defensive holding happens
B) A Pass of more than 5 yards is completed
C) They don’t get the first down

I don’t know if anyone has stats on this. has a lot of information, but it doesn’t show what the outcome is of the declined penalties.

Going completely by memory, 3rd and 1 is converted about 70% of the time, and 1st and 10 is converted (eventually) about 65% of the time. By those numbers, taking the penalty is the wrong decision. However, there are lots of game-specific things that might change this evaluation. For example, since the Chiefs have a good offense, they may prefer several plays, to reduce variance. And of course the conversion odds for these two teams are different than the league-wide odds.

It’s “safe” in the sense that it removes the chance of an immediate bad outcome. There is a tendency for coaches to try to delay the point where a failure happens, even if it means increasing the chance of that failure occurring.

One thing to remember is that the Chiefs have a QB playing at levels making him a strong MVP candidate and they lost their star RB. They probably favor situations where they can sling it over grinding it out. 3 chances to toss it might be more appealing than one chance to make up a single yard or have to settle for a FG. I’m just speculating on what’s going through the minds of the playcallers.

Or maybe they have a crystal ball and saw the missed FG their kicker was going to have just before the end of regulation and got spooked. :smiley:

Even if they wanted to pass, start from the 24 and go for it twice!

Chiefs fan here. I was watching the game with a bunch of my cohorts at the local pub, and we were evenly split on whether or not to take or decline that penalty.

I was of the opinion that the penalty should be declined and take the 3rd and 1. Yes, KC just lost their star RB, but the current RB, Spencer Ware, is much more of a bruiser than Kareem Hunt, and I think he could get a yard when he needed to. But Andy Reid obviously thought differently.

And the kicker, Harrison Butker, had missed a FG in the first half. Granted, it was a 51 yard attempt, but he’s not quite as reliable as he was at one point. He’s missed a couple of extra points this season, and missed 2 FGs yesterday. That may have figured into Reid’s decision.

This was a game that the Chiefs should have lost but somehow found a way to win. Baltimore is a damn good team, and they very well might win the AFC North.


BTW, there seems to be an implicit assumption that 4th and 1 at the opponent’s 24 is clearly worse than 1st and 10 at the opponent’s 37. I actually think they are pretty close to even. But then when you switch it to 3rd and 1, it tips way over in that direction IMO.

I’m still trying to parse this scenario. So they started this situation on their own 49 yard line, no? If it was offensive holding, it’s TEN yards in the opposite direction and as always a repeat of the previous down, so that’s not possible. They would have had the ball at their own 39 yard line, 2nd and 28 to go. If it was defensive holding, it’s 5 yards and an automatic first down for the offense. Five yards *towards *the direction of the defender’s end zone. So that would have been a first down and ten on the Ravens 46, right?

Even if it wasn’t a spot foul, the ball had to be at the 46 (NOT within long FG range, as that would have been a 63 yard FG…right?

I am confused somewhere I guess,

“A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.”

The Ravens have a very tough defense. If they stopped them on 3rd down, then the Chiefs would have been faced with a 4th down gamble. By accepting the penalty, they got a whole new set of downs and were still within field goal range anyway.

I think most teams have expected points projections. That is, they know that if you have 3rd and 1 on the 24 they tend to score x points and if they have 1st and 10 on the 37 they will tend to score y points.

It’s not terribly unreasonable to me to think that it’s possible that y > x. Especially if you’re unsure of your kicker.

This blog post gives some probabilities of reaching a 1st down from different yardage and down situations. (good memory borschevsky)

Just by chance to get the 1st, the 3rd and 1 seems very slightly better. But from 1st and 10, I imagine, if you do get the 1st down you’re more likely to have extra yards on top. Meaning a 1st down from the 3rd and 1 is likely to be a short run while the 1st down from the 1st and 10 very well might be a big yardage play.

Overall, meh, doesn’t strike me as that weird.

No, the Chiefs had 2nd & 18 on the Baltimore 42. Chiefs pass, pick up 17 yards, so it’s 3rd & 1 on the Baltimore 25. But defensive holding is called, and the Chiefs accept, so they get 5 yards from the previous line of scrimmage, and it’s now 1st & 10 on the Baltimore 37. So they gave up 12 yards to get a 1st down.

ETA: You can find the whole play by play here. It’s the 4th drive in the second half - “Punt, 12 plays, 35 yards, 6:49”

In the 3rd quarter you are not playing to break a tie you are trying to get a touchdown. The other teams score is almost irrelevant at that point. 4th quarter with only a couple of minutes left? That’s different.

I suggest in the 3rd, you are still in the ‘compiling points’ stage, where you take whatever points you can get. This choice increased the likelihood of 0 points on that possession.

In any case, for this choice to be positive, you must get a 1st down in the next two plays. I’m not a big fan of those odds.

OTOH, if it’s late 4th quarter and you NEED a touchdown, getting the extra two plays may be the right choice. Of course, at that time, you would have two plays to get 1 yard, if you don’t take the penalty, and maybe that’s better than the 1st down.

I think it’s close, but put me down for preferring the 3rd and 1.