Monday, November 16, 2009

I don't second guess Belichick's fourth down call last night

Well, I did at first when they didn't convert.

Knowing how I trade, I would have definitely punted. But I wasn't able to look into the eyes of the defense, nor measure how far they were drifting from the defensive gameplan towards the end of the game, due to their exhaustion. Not having Ty Warren at all, and then losing Tully Banta-Cain in-game were material factors, as the Patriots ability to pressure Manning was increasingly questionable.

As a relative value trade, I would definitely value the {Pats offense vs. the Colts defense} at a higher spread or advantage than the {Pats defense vs. the Colts offense}. No disrespect to Peyton et al, but the Colts defense was already undermanned, and had given up 34 points in the game. Their average points allowed this season prior to this game was 13.5. Tom Brady was having his way with the Colts defense, and Sebastian Vollmer had bottled up Dwight Freeney all night.

I think that a lot of fans and 'experts' find the uncertainty of the last 2 minutes with a conventional call for a punt, a better alternative to Belichick's cold and calculated 'All In' with so much time left on the clock. Yet just like no one can question me on my Sharpe/Information ratios (which measure risk adjusted returns), I can't question Bill's risk-adjusted returns, either.

I just hope he retires before Tom Landry did, because Landry stayed on for too long and near the end would call for players whom he no longer had on his roster. Hopefully, Belichick won't be retiring for a long while.

UPDATE: Brian Burke runs some numbers:
The total win probability for the 4th-down conversion attempt would therefore be:

(0.60 * 1) + (0.40 * (1-0.53)) = 0.79 WP (WP stands for win probability)

A punt from the 28 typically nets 38 yards, starting the Colts at their 34. Teams historically get the TD 30 percent of the time in that situation. So the punt gives the Pats about a 0.70 WP.

UPDATE: More from Mike Reiss:
The result: .805 is greater than 0.79, so Expected Win Probability When Going For It is greater than Expected Win Probability When Punting.

UPDATE: More number crunching:
Here are three ways ZEUS breaks down the problem. In each scenario, an extended simulation is performed beginning with the exact circumstance on 4th-and-2 and finishing at the conclusion of the game.

Scenario 1: The custom case for the specific offensive and defensive features of the Colts and the Patriots.

Going for it: 77.3% (Probability of Winning for the Patriots)
Punting: 75.7%

Scenario 2: The case for two N.F.L. average and equal teams in every offensive and defensive category:

Going for it: 78.6% (Probability of Winning for the Patriots)
Punting: 76.4%

Scenario 3: The break-even point on the decision occurs when the team with the ball is about 5 percent weaker than N.F.L. average on offense and 5 percent better than N.F.L. average on defense, while the opposing team is 5 percent better than N.F.L. average on defense and 5 percent worse than average on offense.


If Belichick didn't trust his defense, didn't believe they could stop Indianapolis, then Harrison, of all people, ought to understand why. In Rodney [Harrison's] case, two words should serve as a reminder: David Tyree.--Jim Donaldson

UPDATE: And here is Merrill Hoge:

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