Big Ben and Eli Manning faced off against each other Sunday, leading the teams that have won four of the last seven Super Bowls; Manning and Roethlisberger will always be linked as the No. 1 and No. 3 QBs taken in the 2004 NFL draft. Let's look at the plethora of interesting decisions between the coaches.
What first tickled my fancy was when the CBS announcer mentioned that, "Mike Tomlin says he makes all these decisions strictly on feel." This was before the Steelers went for it on 4th-and-1 from the Giants 48-yard line, down 7 in the second quarter. After I shuddered at the quote, I checked out the 4th-down calculator to confirm my notion that this was one of the easier football decisions to be made:
As we get later in the game, though, time left and score matter more in these fourth down decisions. Up 7 with about a minute and a half left in the 3rd quarter, Tom Coughlin faced another 4th-down decision - 4th-and-Goal from the 5.
If you ask anyone in the NFL, this would be a no-brainer. A field goal is almost a guarantee and it puts your team up two scores. But looking at the numbers, it may actually be the better decision to go for it. 4th-and-Goal converts at roughly 36% from the 5-yard line (the field is smaller so this is lower than elsewhere on the field). Expected win probability going for it is 87%, 2% higher than the 85% win probability of kicking a field goal. In fact, the numbers say to go for it if you believe you can convert one out of five times. The main reason for this is that going up two touchdowns with just more than a quarter left equates to a 96% chance of winning.
The last and most controversial decision came from the Steelers on 4th-and-1 from the 3-yard line. Down 20-17, Mike Tomlin seemed to feel that kicking the field goal was the proper decision:
Keith Goldner is the creator of Drive-By Football, and Chief Analyst at numberFire.com - The leading fantasy sports analytics platform. Follow him on twitter @drivebyfootball or check out numberFire on Facebook.