By Brian Burke
It's a very close call.
Converting a 4th and 10 is a 35% proposition. And had MIN converted, they would have had a 1st and 10 at their own 46 (at least) with about 2:30 to play. That equates to a 35% WP. On the go-for-it side of the ledger, having all 3 timeouts isn't beneficial because they had plenty of time to score, even without them. Time was not the factor.
A failed conversion attempt gives them an almost zero chance of winning. So on net, the go-for-it option is just:
0.35 * 0.35 = 12.2% WP
A punt would be expected to hand GB possession at their own 26 or so, worth 0.13 WP. But this is where the 3 timeouts might make a difference. But adjusting for the one additional timeout than typical in this situation doesn't affect the numbers much because the factor driving the WP isn't time as much as whether or not MIN can make a stop on GB's initial series. Still, it tips the balance in favor of the punt, giving it a 0.14 WP. Then again, GB's offense isn't typical, so there should be consideration given to keeping the ball out of their hands all together.
The numbers are likely even closer, given the assumption that a successful conversion gains exactly 10 yards. Plus, although a failed 4th down conversion attempt yields an almost certain loss, the WP must be something a tiny bit larger than zero.
When the league baseline numbers are this close, it's hard to fault either decision. Coaches are expected to have local information specific to the situation that might edge the choice one way or another. (I said expected to, ok?)
One thing to note is that this kind of decision should be made at least before 3rd down. If you have a 4-down mindset, you have many more options on 3rd down. In this case, MIN wouldn't need all 10 yards. They could check down or scramble to pick up a handful of yards, then come back on 4th down to get the conversion. As long as you think you can get 3 or more yards, making the 4th down conversion attempt significantly more manageable, it makes it worthwhile.