Last night, the Texans and Bengals played in a yet another boring and low-scoring game. In the final seconds of the first half, the Bengals trailed 10-3, but got a big break when Cincinnati completed a 37-yard pass down to the Houston 11 yard line. The Bengals had 1st-and-10 with 16 seconds left, which should have been enough time for… 2 plays? The first play took four seconds, and the second six, which caused the Bengals to send out the field goal team. Cincinnati ultimately lost by four points.
|0:24||1||10||HTX 48||Andy Dalton pass complete deep right to Alex Erickson for 37 yards (tackle by Kareem Jackson)||10||3||2.390||4.840||51.6|
|0:16||Timeout #2 by Cincinnati Bengals||10||3|
|0:16||1||10||HTX 11||Andy Dalton pass incomplete||10||3||4.840||4.140||48.6|
|0:12||2||10||HTX 11||Andy Dalton pass incomplete||10||3||4.140||3.130||44.4|
|0:06||3||10||HTX 11||Randy Bullock 29 yard field goal good||10||6||3.130||3.000||43.8|
That feels like an overly conservative move, particularly given that the Bengals had run a pass play that took four seconds just one play earlier. So I looked at all plays with 5, 6, or 7 seconds left in the first half since 2007 where the team had the ball anywhere from the 8 to the 15 yard line and before fourth down. How often do teams kick a field goal?
There were 12 times this occurred with exactly 7 seconds left. Five times the team kicked a field goal, including a 3rd-and-2 from the 9-yard by the ’07 Bucs. Of the other 7 plays, 5 landed incomplete (including one interception), with the other two being short completions that did not lead to touchdowns. In those two situations, the offense kicked FGs on the next play, with :01 and :02 remaining.
With 6 seconds left, there were 16 such plays, and 14 times the team kicked a field goal (including last night). The two pass plays were incomplete passes from the 9 and 8 yard lines, with the latter being intercepted.
With 5 seconds left, teams kicked the field goal in all 21 cases.
I don’t know if “analytics” was on the side of kicking the field goal, but history certainly was. And while it’s hard to draw a sample size from a handful of pass plays, the two interceptions may be telling, too. At the time, I thought it was a poor decision to not at least try for a touchdown — particularly when your team has two great red zone targets in 6’6 Tyler Eifert and 6’4 A.J. Green. And given that the Bengals never got closer than the 11 yard line the rest of the game, it made the move feel even worse in hindsight. But at a minimum, Cincinnati didn’t do anything most other teams would have done. And it’s possible it was even the right move, if you think there was an increased risk of an interception. I still would have gone for it because 7 points is a lot better than 3 points, but this at least makes me rethink the issue.
What do you think?