Monday, 14 November 2011 15:40

Debate Over Mike Smith's Call In New Orleans Saints-Falcons Match

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statonFalcons coach Mike Smith is taking the heat -- and plenty of it --in Atlanta after the fourth-down play he called against the Saints.

Thanks to the Falcons media relations department, here's what Smith had to say after the Saints defeated the Falcons 26-23 in overtime:

Opening statement: I thought it was a heck of a game. I felt that our guys played extremely hard beyond 60 minutes. But the bottom line today was that we didn't make the plays that we needed to make and the Saints made more plays than we did. We are disappointed with the outcome of the game, without a doubt, But this is a very good football team. That is a very good football over there. Unfortunately, we didn't make the plays,

On the fourth-down decision: It was something that I take full  responsibility for. It is my decision and my decision solely. At first, we were going to punt the football. I had a change of heart and I wanted to go for it. I didn't want to give the ball back to the Saints. In previous games, in close games that we played them, we punted the ball and they've gotten the ball back with three minutes to go and we never saw it again and they ended up winning the ball game. That was the decision-making process that I went through.

On running a quarterback sneak on fourth down: We had talked about that as well. We'd gone through the process. This isn't something that you do just do hap-hazardly. These are the things that you talk about. You got fourth -and-inches calls. You've got fourth-and-one calls, you've got fourth-and-three calls. Seeing the way they'd lined up because they called timeout, we felt like at that point the best play for us was to run was the play that we ran. Unfortunately it did not work out.

ESPN Stats & Information, experts in NFL math, say Smith made the right call. ESPN columnist Pat Yasinskas checked with the NFL math experts and found out the Falcons made the right  fourth-and-inches call.

Here's what the probability tool had to say:

o Prior to the snap, the Falcons had a 48.5% chance to win based on their current situation (fourth-and-1, 10:52 left in OT, etc.). At this point, Atlanta had two choices:

o Outcome 1: They convert the first down.
o Outcome 2: They do not convert the first down.

Since 2001, the average conversion percentage for NFL teams that go for it on fourth-and-one is 66 per cent. Using this number, we can find the expected win probability for Atlanta if it chose this option.

o Atlanta win probability if it converts (first-and-10 from own 30-yard line): 67.1 per cent

o Atlanta win probability if it does not convert (Saints first-and-10 from Falcons' 29-yard line): 18  per cent.

Here's how the Atlanta columnists judged the Falcons taking the fourth-and-one gamble:

Mark Bradley, "I'd have gone for it. I'd go for it again.  I might call a different play the next time, but I find no fault with Mike Smith's reasoning. His choice was to keep possession by gaining inches or to rely on his defense to halt the great Drew Brees again. There's no choice at all."

Craig Schultz, ajc, columnist: "Let's put aside for now that the Falcons probably got jobbed by a replay official. And that the wrong play may have been called on the fourth down. And that, yes, no matter what the circumstances are, an offensive line and a 247-pound running back should be able to  bulldoze to a one-foot gain. Mike Smith picked a very strange time to get bold. The wrong time."

Reggie Bush rushed for 47 yards on 14 carries and caught four passes for four yards and two touchdowns in the Dolphins' 20-9 win over the Redskins on Sunday. "It's been a tough couple of years," the Dolphins new featured back told  the Miami Herald. "My past team, I wasn't able to run the ball as much. I wasn't given this amount of opportunities. I'm happy to show I can handle the feature back role."...

Over the past two seasons, the winner of the first Saints-Falcons game went on the win the division with 13-3 records. The NFC South now appears to be a two-team race after Tampa Bay dropped to 4-5 and Carolina to 2-7. The Saints are 3-1 in their division with wins over the Panthers, Bucs and Falcons and a loss to the Bucs. The Falcons are 1-2 with losses to the Saints and Bucs.  Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson said, "We can't afford to lose any more divisional games. We want to be a relevant  team in December. We don't want to lose any more games period".....Check it out: Teams that lose in Super Bowls don't have good following seasons....

by Ed Staton

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Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography. | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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