Armed with 20/20 hindsight, a lot of Monday morning quarterbacks are suggesting that it was stupid for Denver Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak to have kicker Brandon McManus attempt a 62-yard field goal with just over a minute remaining in overtime Sunday night against the Kansas City Chiefs.
But like an attention-seeking Facebook relationship status, it’s complicated.
By attempting even a long-shot field goal, the Broncos gave themselves a chance to win the game — a chance that would have been forfeited if they had punted. But in doing so, Denver also increased its chances of losing the game by giving Kansas City great field position after a miss.
That, of course, is what happened. And while those who believe only in numbers will tell you that Denver would have been better off essentially punting for the tie, there are a lot of folks who continue to applaud Kubiak for playing for the win.
Raw output from the 4th down calc on Kubiak's FG decision:
WP Go 0.470
WP FG 0.411
WP Punt 0.520
(Tie=.5 win, Denver alt. not acct'd for.)
— Brian Burke (@bburkeESPN) November 28, 2016
But the Broncos should have considered option No. 3.
They should have gone for it on 4th-and-10.
That way, they wouldn’t have had to sacrifice the win by punting, but they also would have limited the potential downside associated with failing in that situation.
The Chiefs defense was gassed, and the Broncos offense had scored on three straight possessions. The drive had stalled at the Kansas City 44-yard line, but Denver had moved the ball relatively easily until hitting a speed bump. The Broncos had a very realistic shot at picking up 10-plus yards there.
In the last five years, 30 percent of 4th-and-10 gambles have succeeded. Meanwhile, in the last two decades, kickers are only 1-for-6 on 62-yard field-goal attempts. Only six kicks have been made from that length in the history of the NFL, and the league’s all-time success rate from that distance is eight percent. Considering that McManus’ career high is 57 yards, it’s safe to say his chances of making that kick were below 30 percent. And that’s even in Denver, where the altitude helps a lot. This model from Brian Burke at Advanced Football Analytics supports that:
Remember: Even if the fourth-down attempt failed, Kansas City likely would have had a larger task on its hands. Barring a sack or a penalty, the Chiefs would have started a minimum of eight yards back from where they did. A nine-yard play on the fourth-down attempt would have bought the Denver defense an extra 17 yards on that final Kansas City drive.
I don’t think Kubiak was stupid to attempt a field goal there, and I don’t think punting would have been stupid either. Frankly, he was going to be criticized regardless of what decision he made in the event of a Denver loss. But I do think the smartest approach would have been the happy medium that is a fourth-down gamble.
Stupid things from Week 12
** Denver’s approach prior to Kubiak’s decision
Kubiak might have never had to make such a difficult decision had he called better plays leading up to that moment.
The Broncos had a 1st-and-10 at the Kansas City 44-yard line at the overtime two-minute warning, and Kansas City had just one timeout. In that situation, barring a turnover, you should either be looking at a win or a tie. Nothing else should be on the table. But after a first-down run for no gain, Kubiak and/or offensive coordinator Rick Dennison had quarterback Trevor Siemian throw back-to-back low-percentage passes. Nothing safe, no screens, nothing that would at least guarantee that the clock would keep moving.
As a result, after the missed kick, the Chiefs got the ball back with over a minute to play and a timeout in their back pocket.
Kubiak never should have let that happen.
** Everything Brock Osweiler
But mainly this…
And the fact he’s making $18 million a year.
** The fact Steve Smith was called for unnecessary roughness on this blatant Vontaze Burfict flop…
** And the fact Eagles coach Doug Pederson thought it made sense to use his team’s final challenge in order to save two yards
Yup, two yards on an overturned catch in the third quarter Monday night against the Green Bay Packers. By winning the challenge, Pederson backed Green Bay up to 2nd-and-10 rather than 2nd-and-8. Two plays later, the Packers picked up a fresh first down anyway, and seven plays later they were in the end zone.