Texans Try Once, Fail Twice

Down 14-0 at the start of the second half to the New York Giants,
the Houston Texans faced a 4th-and-1 on their own 46-yard line. At this point, with just a 9.0% chance to win, Bill O'Brien made the correct call to go for it. A successful conversion means a 12.9% win probability, while a punt means about an 8.6% chance to win. The break-even point going for it is far below an estimated 65% conversion rate on 4th-and-1. Alfred Blue ran off right tackle and was stuffed, turning the ball over on downs. The Giants would kick a field goal to go up 17-0.

On the very next drive, Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Texans downfield to the Giants 9-yard line where they faced another 4th-and-1. With 6:13 left in the third, down 17, Bill O'Brien elected to take the chip-shot field goal. Even the commentators suggested he should be going for it. Obviously, the prior failure on fourth down should not have an affect on the Texans' decision this time. If that were the case, O'Brien would be judging his previous decision on the outcome, rather than the process. The only other logic could be that he figured they would need a field goal at some point, down 17 - common faulty logic in the NFL as coaches should be doing whatever they can to maximize their chances of winning.

4th-and-1 from the 9 gives the Texans a 7.5% win probability. A successful conversion means an 11.6% chance to win, while a failure results in 4.0% win probability. Expected win probability going for it (with a 57% conversion rate on 4th-and-1 near the end zone) is 8.3% versus a 6.4% win probability attempting a field goal. The best decision, again is to go for it. Bullock made the easy field goal and the Giants would go on to blow out the Texans 30-17.

Keith Goldner is the Chief Analyst at numberFire.com - The leading fantasy sports analytics platform - and creator of Drive-By Football.  Follow him on twitter @drivebyfootball or check out numberFire on Facebook. Check out numberFire's new iOS App in the app store now.

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1 Responses to “Texans Try Once, Fail Twice”

  1. Anonymous says:

    so, there is a ~1/50 chance that the FG decision would make a difference in the game. Am I reading that correctly?

    That doesn't seem like a big deal.

    Also, I would think the previous identical play would and should have a huge impact on the decision to do it again. This isn't a known fair coin you are flipping, it is the giants and the texans not nfl average vs nfl average, and thus with a largely unknown probability distribution. What if they got stopped twice? Should you ignore that? How about stopped 10 times in a row. 20? 100?

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