With 1:10 remaining in the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay led 14-13 on the Saints' 29-yard line. Facing a 4th-and-3, with an 82% chance to win the game, Greg Schiano elected to attempt the 46-yard field goal - about a 64% proposition. If the Bucs hit the field goal, they go up four points, increasing their win probability to 86%. With a miss, the win probability drops to 74% and Drew Brees gets the ball on the 36, needing only a field goal to win.
Schiano also had two other options: punt the ball and pin the Saints deep or go for it. Below are the numbers:
There are two caveats to these baseline numbers. The Saints had a tough time offensively all game in the sloppy conditions, but keep in mind, their offense is still far above average. This means that in any situation where the Saints get the ball back, Tampa Bay's win probability is, in all likelihood, lower than the baselines above. On the other hand, the Saints had no timeouts left and the win probability calculator is independent of timeouts (it assumes an average number of timeouts since it comes directly from historical data).
Let's look at the punt first. A punt from the 29 is expected to net about 14-15 yards, giving a league-average offense an 11% to drive down and score with one minute left. This is actually a higher win probability for the Bucs than if they had successfully converted the field goal. This seems odd given that being up one and being up four is a huge difference, but there are two reasons. First, Brees and company would be expected to have much better field position coming off a kickoff rather than the punt. Second, being down four forces the Saints to be more aggressive offensively as they know they need to score a touchdown, rather than settle for a field goal. This is a similar paradox to what we wrote about last week in the Saints game. More aggressive in the NFL typically means more efficient.
Last, Schiano could have elected to try to convert on 4th-and-3. League-wide, teams convert such an attempt at 57%. If the Bucs convert, the game is over as the Saints had no timeouts left. If they fail, the Saints are in a slightly worse situation than a missed field goal, just due to field position. Overall, both going for it and punting are superior options to a field goal, by about 6-7%; I would lean toward going for it given Brees' offensive prowess. The Bucs also had a 2nd and 3rd-and-6 leading up to the 4th-and-3, so they would have the option to game-plan around going for it on fourth down as well, for whatever that's worth.
In the end, Rian Lindell missed the field goal, Brees quickly drove down the field for a chip-shot 27-yard game-winning field goal. We can't evaluate the decision based on the negative outcome of the missed field goal. But, the win probabilities and probabilities of converting both point toward the field goal as the least desirable choice.