Should MIN Have Gone For It?

I received a few requests to analyze MIN’s final drive from last night. With a little over 5 min left, down by 5 points, they faced a 4th and 11 from the NO 44. MIN punted, and NO was able to convert 3 first downs and seal the game. Should MIN have gone for it?

The short answer is no. 4th and 11s are converted less than 30% of the time. The WP model shows the punt being worth 0.26 WP, and the conversion attempt being worth 0.23 WP. As always, keep in mind these are baseline numbers. A WP of 0.26 seems pretty high in that situation, but that’s because teams virtually always get the ball back with the opportunity for a game-winning final drive.

The real story of the game is was the clinching drive by NO. While most teams would be content with three straight runs into the jaws of a waiting defense, NO converted 2 of its 3 first downs through the air. During those 3 series, they passed 3 times (including once on 1st down) and ran 4 times, highlighting Sean Payton’s level of aggressiveness and his confidence in his offense.

That drive took NO from a 0.76 WP to a 1.00WP. That 0.24 WPA overshadows any of the other significant events of the game, including the MIN interception, the missed FGs, and even all 3 TD drives of the game. In this case, the old cliché is right: The best defense can be a good offense.

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7 Responses to “Should MIN Have Gone For It?”

  1. Sherman Unkefer says:

    I agree, you can't go for it on 4th & 11 and risk it. 5 minutes should have been plenty of time to get it back and score. Should have been.

  2. Tom B says:

    13:14 left in the 3rd quarter, 4th and 3... THAT is where they should have punted.

    Play scared, get beat.

  3. Tom B says:

    err... shouldn't have punted.


  4. Anonymous says:

    Cool. Thanks for responding. Clearly, the Saints were very aggressive and successful in the game clinching drive.

    Still, the difference in win percentage was somethat you said at the end of your piece a good offense can be the best defense. I still think they should have gone for it.


  5. johnbart says:

    Looking at the struggles both offenses had moving the ball up to that point I think the real numbers would favour the punt even more than the baseline.

    Thanks for the write up.

  6. Zach says:

    I agree with johnbart. Additionally I would add that punting allowed for the chance to pin New Orleans up against their own goal line where either offenses must be more conservative and/or the defense has an opportunity for a huge play.

    A fumble in the endzone by Brees could mean a quick six. And even a safety gives the Vikings possession needing only a field goal to tie. The ability of the Vikings defensive line combined with the above made punting a better option.

  7. Kos says:

    Putting in a request for analysis on Lovie going for it on 4th and goal from the 1. Seems like everyone is hating on it, though I'm guessing that's because it failed. I'd be surprised if it wasn't the correct call, so I guess I'm more interested in *how* correct it was in terms of WP.

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