Vermeil's decision to go for TD

Last Sunday (November 6) the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs beat the Oakland Raiders by scoring a touchdown on a 1 yard run on the game’s final play in regulation time. Chiefs’ coach Dick Vermeil is being complimented for his bold decision to “go for it” and play for the win in regulation time, rather than have his team attempt what would have been an easy field goal which would’ve sent the game to sudden death overtime.

Vermeil’s decision would be mocked if the run had failed, of course. The question is, what would all the football knowledgible Dopers have done in Vermeil’s shoes?

I would’ve gone for it as well. I figure that overtime is essentially a crap shoot where the other team has as much chance to win as my team does, whereas when I have the ball on the other team’s 1 yard line with 5 seconds left I’ve got an excellent chance to win it right now.

Your thoughts?

A good, brave play. High risk. It worked and he is lauded, if it failed he would be dragged through the mud.
I liked it, but scary.


I like the decision, based mostly on how the game had been proceeding for the last quarter or so. The Raiders offense was clicking, the Chiefs couldn’t stop them, and there was a pretty high probability that if they lost the coin toss they would lose the game. In that sort of situation, your odds of scoring a TD from the 1 are probably at least as good as your odds of winning the game in OT.

If there is reason to be confident in your defense, the call is probably an unnecessary risk. Since there are maybe three or four teams in the NFL right now that are more confident in their defense than their ability to score a TD from the 1… yeah.

It was against the Raiders. You don’t play for the tie against your arch-rival, you play to beat them. And nothing hurts more than a last second win like that. God, just thinking about those dejected Raiders sulking off the field after Vermiel ripped their hearts out makes me smile. It was the right call, even if they hadn’t scored. Kiros is right, the way the game was going it was about the only call that made sense.

Can you tell I’m a Chiefs fan?

It was a gutsy move, but Vermeil counted on the Raiders to expect the same thing that the announcers were… a quick pass so that a field goal could be tried if the pass failed. The run surprised everyone.

I thought it was something that only a coach secure in his job would try, because a borderline coach could lose his job on it if it failed.

Or maybe a coach that’s retiring at the end of the season?

I think it’s almost a no-brainer.

Yes, it’s a chip-shot, but what happens if the field goal unit muffs the snap, or the kick is blocked? It wasn’t a guarantee that the field goal even puts it into overtime. From the 1 yard line, you better believe you can get one yard if you need it.

I’d have gone for it, no doubt.

An even gutsier call was the 1984 Orange Bowl, Miami versus Nebraska, the winner is going to be the de facto national champions (as much as anyone can be national champions in college football.)

After giving up a big deficit to the Hurricanes Osbourne’s huskers score a touchdown and are within 1 point of tying the game. They can kick the extra point or go for two and the win, there’s virtually no time left on the clock. Osbourne goes for the two, it fails, and Miami’s rise to national prominence begins.

I’ve actually probably done more reading about this than anyone should.

First of all, the blog at freakonomics commented on it. The blog was somewhat dull, but the comments were interesting. Some of the people suggested that the decision to go for it was made in part because he’d HAD a lead, lost it, and wanted it back, implying that had they just come from behind, they would have played for the tie.

And, one poster wrote the following, echoing the Tuesday Morning Quarterback. . .

The Tuesday Morning Quarterback has talked about this before. His major criticism of the decision to kick the FG is that not only is it WRONG mathematically, but that it’s a move made by a coach who wishes to avoid criticism (“I tied it up. The players lost it.”). I think that’s a major factor in most football coaching decisions AND especially major league baseball decisions. I always think that pitching changes, in particular, are usually made by the book so that no one can say to the coach after the game, “why did you leave the lefty in the pen with so and so coming to the plate?”

He also talks in that article about the Jets (wrong) decision to pass 3 times trying to get into the end zone against SD and the Packers (correct) decision to run 3 times to get into the end zone against Pitt.

That’s the best weekly article on the NFL as long as you can skip over all his oh-so-interesting sidebars into movies and TV.

It’s not a no brainer, even though it’s correct. Most coaches do the opposite.

That FG was the same as an extra point, which I think are converted at about a 98% clip.

Yeah, I guess all those teams who try it and fail week after week (like the Jets on 4 attempts Sunday) just didn’t need it. :rolleyes:

It’s not easy to punch it in from the one. That’s why the decision is not a no-brainer. But the question is: is it better than 50% – which are essentially your chances of winning in overtime?

The answer is: yes.

The next question is: well then, why don’t more coaches do it?

The answer to that was in my first post.

Trunk, I read the exact same thing in King Kaufman’s column on Salon Monday. Kaufman went into more detail and had the numbers to back him up. Running the play gave KC about a 20% greater chance at victory. He also explained why it was wrong when Miami did it (which was more a result of the play call than running the play). To me, looks like Easterbrook cheated.

I think the key to his sentence was the word believe, as in “You have to believe that, if you need the touchdown, you can get it.” I loved the call, and I wish more coaches showed that kind of bravery. From KC’s standpoint, if you have a good offensive live and a runner as good as Larry Johnson, you ought to be able to get that yard, and Vermeil trusted them to do so.

I made my thoughts clear here.

I agree with the concensus that it’s the only logical choice. First it’s notable that the ball was more accurately on the 1 foot line, well inside that 1 yard marker. Secondly, the Chiefs are a strong running team with an excellent line going against a decidedly weak Oakland run defense. Were this the Eagles playing against the Bears or Jags run defense, you may hesitate a little more.

Taking the FG places the outcome in the hands of fate to large degree in that you’re counting on a coin flip at the outset of overtime. Just because conventional wisdom indicates that a pass or a FG are the more common choices doesn’t make them the right one. I’d wager that under almost all circumstances a team has a higher likelyhood of gaining 1 foot on the ground than either a completed pass for a TD, or a FG followed by a OT win.

Taking emotional factors out of consideration, the run is simply the wise call. I don’t know that I call it “ballsy” since its practically a no-braner. Still there are alot of coaches who’d have screwed it up nonetheless.

The only real decision was whether to hang it off or to run a QB sneak IMHO.

Han’g’ it off [sub]teehee[/sub]. If the defense gets penetration, an RB is better at forcing the yard than a QB. I also say don’t go over the top.

It’s not a fair comparison, a QB sneak doesn’t allow time for penetration. It’s more a factor of gap filling and halting the line. In a RB hand off penetration is more a factor. I’m a big proponent of going over the top, I’m frankly baffled that more backs don’t specialize in the Walter Payton/Marcus Allen type ability to go high over the line. Anything inside the 2 was a gimme back then.

That was a gutsy call because Nebraska would’ve won the mythical national championship with a tie, there not being any overtime in college football at that time. (Nebraska would’ve had a record of 11-0-1, Miami 10-1-1 and some others 11-1). Situations like that are why I dislike the college overtime system. I loved the end of game, go for it or not decision. Notre Dame’s decision in 1966 to play for a tie is still a hot topic in some circles, whereas if it had been settled in OT the game would’ve been long forgotten by now.

As I’ve noted before, my wife is actually a bigger football fan than I am. She hadn’t seen the game or heard anything about it. I laid out the scenario for her and asked what she would do: run, pass or go for the FG. Without hesitation she said “Give the ball to the back and let him push through.”

I agree that this is really important. I tend to agree with TMQ’s philosophy on this kind of stuff, and I agree with him here, but when he says

he’s off on the percentages. Scoring from the 2 on one play is the situation for a two-point conversion, and those go pretty close to 50% as I recall. If teams could score on 80% of the plays from the 2, they’d go for 2 all the time.

Maybe off topic, but this brings up a somewhat similar situation from the Pitt-NE playoff game last year, if I recall correctly. The Steelers were down 14 in the 4th quarter, and had 4th and goal at the 2; they kicked the FG to get within 11. This means that to tie, they needed:

  1. A TD, 2. A 2-pt, 3. A FG

If they go for it from the two, they need to tie:

  1. To make the TD, 2. Another TD

Except the bold parts are the same thing - one shot from the 2.

Oh, and one other thing in my little hijack: in that situation (down 14 near the end of the game) had the Steelers gone for it on 4th and scored, I say they then should go for two, to try to get within 6. Hijack over :stuck_out_tongue:

Except Easterbrook makes these same points every time a coach calls for the OT-producing figgie, and then go on to lose the game. I can’t count how many times he’s rehashed those numbers over the years.