When Mike Smith decided to go for fourth-and-inches from his own 29 in overtime against the Saints on Sunday, I figured that there weren’t a lot of people outside of Mike Smith who were thinking “That’s a good idea.”
But according to an ESPN.com poll on Sunday night, some 43 percent of people DID agree with Smith’s decision.
Huh? I knew there would be some people who agreed with the gamble, but I was more expecting to see Reagan-Mondale type numbers.
Think of it in terms of cost-benefit analysis.
Best-case scenario, the Falcons get a first down at their own 30. Great. You’re still 40 yards out of field goal range. You may have just picked up that first down to do nothing more than end up punting the ball four plays later.
If this game was some sort of crazy shootout, I could see being concerned about putting the ball back in Drew Brees’ hands in any circumstance. But the Falcons’ defense had forced the Saints into a three-and-out on the first possession of overtime, so it is not as if they were getting pushed all over the field.
On the other hand, if you don’t convert, you’ve just handed the game to New Orleans. I know Brees has led plenty of scoring drives from his own 29, but I’m guessing his percentage of failure starting on the opposing 29 is pretty low.
Basically, Smith placed a $100 bet that had a chance of a $10 payoff. What’s the point?
Bill Belichick tried a similar maneuver at Indianapolis a couple years back and had it fail just as miserably. Sure, I understand the theory that your team doesn’t deserve to win if it can’t gain 3 inches. But your players also deserve better than for you to hand the game to the opponent on a silver platter. And I can’t imagine I’d be very happy if I was an Atlanta defensive player who just saw my coach say “Eh, screw it, we’re not gonna stop ’em. Let’s go for it.”
But what do I know? I’m only part of the 57 percent.