November 14, 2011

What Was Mike Smith Thinking?: The New Orleans Saints won in overtime over the Atlanta Falcons 26-23 Sunday, thanks to a bizarre call by Falcons coach Mike Smith to go for it on 4th-and-1 at their own 29 in the extra quarter. ESPN crunches the numbers, which were not in Smith's favor. "The ball was inside a half a yard and I thought we could get it," Smith said. "I did not want to give the ball back to the Saints."

posted by rcade to football at 09:36 PM - 12 comments

The link to ESPN suggests that the numbers were in Smith's favor.

In reality, most of the numbers are meaningless because they are not adjusted for the team. Yes, there are some Falcons-specific and Saints-specific numbers in the linked piece, but they go back to 2008. Who cares what the Saints defense did in 2008, 2009, or even 2010? What should matter most (at least from the standpoint of assessing the defense) is that the Saints actually are pretty crappy on defense in short yardage situations this year.

The call is defensible, although I probably would not have gone for it there. It looks horrible in retrospect because they failed, but there are numbers that suggest it was, if not a high percentage play, at least slightly above break even in favor of the Falcons.

posted by holden at 11:56 PM on November 14

Pretty simple, which scenario do you think is more likely:

a. Your offense, given one play, gets one yard
b. Your defense stops the Saints from getting into field goal range.

I can't blame him for chosing a.

posted by apoch at 06:13 AM on November 15

Smith should get a pass on this one.

He didn't want to give the ball back to the Saints in an OT situation. Certainly understandable.

He thought his offense could gain a yard. Gutsy decision. The offense just blew it. All the quarterback had to do was fall forward and they'd get a yard.

Just one of those plays where, if the coach is right, he's a hero. He was wrong in this case, his offense ended up not getting the yard, so he's the goat.

posted by roberts at 07:15 AM on November 15

I think they needed a better play call. Plus, the Saints already had the ball in OT and the Falcons defense stopped them.

posted by bperk at 07:38 AM on November 15

I watched that one. The Falcons D had been shutting the Saints down in the 4th and OT. Big Mo was on their side; the Saints offense was stalling.

Most fans won't knock a coach for the aggressive call but, in this case, it was without question the wrong one.

While I'll agree, you'd like to think your team could line up and get ONE yard when necessary, you've got to punt there. At best you get the opportunity to go 70 more yards. You don't get it, you've already lost.

Inside your own 30, in OT, AT HOME, with your defense playing well? There's no decision to make.

posted by SooperJeenyus at 07:52 AM on November 15

Smith should get a pass on this one. He didn't want to give the ball back to the Saints in an OT situation.

The Falcons had already stopped the Saints once in overtime, though. They went three and out.

The problem I have with Smith's call is that the upside is just first and 10 around your own 30. The risk is too great for the reward.

posted by rcade at 09:13 AM on November 15

I agree that it was TOO close to their own end zone to pull that off. If you do that on the 40, at least you can limit their chances of getting a field goal by the defense stepping up.

From the 30, your defense could stuff them 3 straight plays and the Saints will STILL be in field goal range.

When the offense came back onto the field and it was decided that the Falcons were going for it, I immediately switched teams for whom I was cheering. I now wanted the Falcons to make that play just so it could be added to the small (but growing) pile of risk-taking plays. The NFL needs more of that.

posted by grum@work at 09:32 AM on November 15

Tebow would have gotten the yard there. Easy call for the head coach if you have Tebow, not so sure if not.

posted by holden at 09:49 AM on November 15

"The problem I have with Smith's call is that the upside is just first and 10 around your own 30. The risk is too great for the reward."

This is my "problem" with the call too. If it works, congratulations you're still 30 yards from field goal range. If it doesn't then you just handed your opposition the game.

I'm a fan of going for it on fourth down, but this one just seemed to have a tiny amount of possible upside.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 11:28 AM on November 15

Thus far, Smith is getting cut a lot more slack over this blunder than Belichick did when he pulled his infamous fourth and short fuck-up in Indy.

Smith needs to be careful. There are already a lot of people trying to pin down why the Falcons have not been meeting expectations.

Mr. Blank might be thinking about having him fitted for an orange store smock.

I can't see Cowher wanting to sit at that studio desk with all those other lame suits forever.

posted by beaverboard at 11:38 AM on November 15

What was Mike Smith thinking? He was channeling his inner Bill Belichick, of course. Belichick came closer, and the game situation was much different, so BB's call has been defended by many. In Smith's case, there is no justification at all, unless your punter is operating on 2 broken legs.

posted by Howard_T at 01:37 PM on November 15

I did not blame the coach for trying to go for it. I just questioned the call. I mean there was one play the defense was lined up to stop and he called it. A play fake to Turner and a pass, or roll out what ever, but you have to know just like the defense did what was coming and the only upside to that play was 1st and 10 with still a long way to go. You could see from the line up that NO was digging in to stop a run in the middle. Any other play would have worked. I actually expected them to try to draw the defense off side not actually snap the ball.

Of course if you are going to gamble with the game on the line, why not play fake to Turner up the middle and then try to burn the defense with a slant or possible big gainer. At least that would have a big upside and potentially gained a lot of yards. Every defender was in the box. If your are going to take that big of a gamble, take a big gamble and surprise the defense.

posted by Atheist at 01:53 PM on November 15

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