Dolphins Should Have Intentionally Allowed the TD

Leading by a point, the MIA defense was on its heals as BUF drove into FG range with less than 3 minutes to play. With all 3 timeouts, MIA must have been feeling pretty good about its chances of getting the ball back with some time to retake the lead.

BUF ran the ball, forcing MIA to use its timeouts. With one timeout remaining and 2:37 to play, BUF faced a 3rd and 4 at the MIA 28. BUF ran the ball for a 10-yard gain, earning a fresh set of downs and forcing MIA to use its last timeout.

At this point, MIA would have preferred to allow BUF to score a TD. The odds favored scoring a TD of their own in response. Accordingly, BUF should have preferred to take a knee rather than score then.

Here is the chart, built using this research. The red dot is where MIA found itself. The dotted black line is the Win Probability curve for allowing the TD, and for reference, the teal line is the 20 yd line.

At best, MIA would have an 0.08 WP for trying for force the stop and FG, and about a 0.24 WP for allowing the TD. According to the Time Calculator, MIA would have only about 30 sec to respond to a FG, the bare minimum time required. But having two and a half minutes to score a TD is much more likely, even accounting for the possibility MIA converts for 2-points after the TD to make it a 7-point lead.

MIA essentially cut their chance of winning by two thirds by forcing the FG.

In fact, the best thing for MIA to have done is to conditionally allow the TD on the previous 3rd and 4 play. If possible, they should allow the TD should MIA get past a 4-yard gain. This would have maximized the time remaining to counter the score, would have saved a timeout, and would have most likely caught BUF off guard before they would be wise to the strategy.

15 Responses to “Dolphins Should Have Intentionally Allowed the TD”

1. Joshua Perry says:

Well, they are a shit franchise for a reason.

2. Anonymous says:

as mentioned before, the defense does not control whether the offense scores or not. If the defense lied down, the offense would down the ball at the 1 inch line and burn time, since they would have the same information that the defense does.

3. Brian Burke says:

As mentioned before...that's why it's good to do it early, before the offense is aware. And it's not hard to make it seem convincing.

4. Anonymous says:

I don't understand why you think the defense knows to give up the TD, but the offense doesn't know to not score the TD. I do not understand why you think the defense is aware of the situation and the offense is not.

There is a glaring asymmetry, the defense cannot force the offense to get a TD. The offense can certainly decide to get a TD or not.

I assume both teams read this website, not just the team on defense in that particular situation.

5. Jeff Clarke says:

I agree with everyone else. If people are thinking strategically, the defense allowing the TD is trumped by the offense not taking it. In this situation, Miami at least got 30 seconds. Does anyone else think it would be interesting if the NFL let teams forfeit a TD? Just tell the ref, they get the points. They can't turn them down. It wouldn't come up all that often but it could potentially make some otherwise anticlimatic games interesting at the end.

6. Brian Burke says:

You put too much faith in offenses. There are many examples of offenses scoring TDs when they shouldn't. Don't kid yourself. And if you read the links in the article above, you would know the "glaring asymmetry" is addressed.

7. Anonymous says:

Wasn't there a play during the final drive where the Bills ran into the end zone. It was called back on a penalty, but everybody watching in my house was shouting for the runner to take a knee. So don't put too much faith in the offense.

8. Anonymous says:

I recall reading about the Mafia trying to fix basketball by bribing the players. The players would meet with the soldiers and agree to throw the game. The soldiers would be at the game in plain view of the players but the players would get caught up in the game and end up winning. It is pretty easy to believe that someone with the football would go for the TD. It would seem like a smart idea for coaches and defenses to do some decision making drills to strengthen their discipline so when the time came both coach and players would be ready to make the decision at a time when the offense would be suprised and the defense would be able to maintaine discipline and let the offensive players' natural desire to compete take its course.

Cheers,
J

9. EpicWestern says:

Just the fact that the offense is running the ball in the first place might be proof that it doesn't know what its doing. When the ball is close enough to the goal line I would bet the risk of a fumble outweighs any small percentage points you gain when a field goal is a couple yards closer or slightly more centered.

10. EpicWestern says:

^and in the same line of thinking I don't think a defensive team should ever just do nothing, while tackling might not be best in these rare situations I don't see a reason why they shouldn't go for a strip.

11. Anonymous says:

EpicWestern,
yeah, I see no reason not to run some practice drills in that vein. "OK, if the opponent gets the first down here stop trying to tackle them and concentrate on stripping the ball. Either we strip it or they get into the endzone... either way we get the ball back." The President of the US and the Military do all sorts of crazy decision-making exercises for all sorts of crazy scenarios. Given the need to immediately understand all sorts of difficult situations I don't see why NFL coaches and players don't do the exact same thing. They are professionals and I would imagine it would be something fun and extra-ordinary to do during otherwise routine weekly practices.

Cheers,
J

12. EpicWestern says:

"When the ball is close enough to the goal line I would bet the risk of a fumble outweighs any small percentage points you gain when a field goal is a couple yards closer or slightly more centered."

I wasn't sure about the above so I decided to try and answer my own question:

I assumed that since extra point (kick) conversion kick was so high it would be comparable to that of a field goal at the same location. It turns out its not. An extra point converts around 99% while a field goal from the same distance or closer is only around 85%. I'm sure kicker's nerves play into that, but I think a lot of it is due to the ball not being centered. An extra yard generally does seem to improve completion percentage by about 1%. The fumble percentage for a given run is about 0.9%. Both of those numbers are over huge samples.

So basically I was wrong in my guess. A team should always be running the ball to get as close and as centered as possible, as opposed to just downing it, until its centered at the 1 or less.

13. Mike says:

Epic Western - You sure about that? According to PFR, field goal attempts from the 1 or the 2 are successful 98% of the time.

14. EpicWestern says:

Mike - I used PFR originally, but I used "yards to go" instead of field position which obviously gives me wrong numbers. The sample size for each yard position isn't quite large enough to get accurate numbers (~400 for each) but it looks like its 99% from the 1, 97.5% at the 5, and decreases to around 92% at the ten. So inside the five it looks like a pretty close decision between running it and downing it, outside the five it looks like you should clearly be running it (just don't run it all the way in).

15. J.D. Krull says:

Are there any examples from real games of teams allowing a touchdown (not counting the 1971 Gator Flop)? I remember once about 10 years ago in a Niners-Saints game when the offense scored a TD, a penalty was called on the offense, and the defense declined it so that the TD could count. But no examples of the defense obviously laying down, or of coaches confessing to ordering their defense to lay down (and they might confess to that, if the strategy worked).