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Seahawks Replay, Week 11: The many plays that were more important than the fake FG

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

There is a lot to absorb in the aftermath of Monday’s Seahawks-Falcons game, but one of the major points of discussion has been Pete Carroll’s decision to try a fake field goal at the end of the first half. I will spend the first part of this piece discussing the EPA ramifications of that play before moving into the top 10 plays. Due to the holiday week I’m not going to wait for coaches film to come out.

For an overview of EPA and this series, see my intro article here. Onto the plays.

A long diversion into the fake FG

#21. Q2 4-1 ATL 17: (:07) (Field Goal formation) Jon Ryan pass short middle to Luke Willson to ATL 21 for -4 yards (Grady Jarrett).

EPA:1.88 [note: I think this is wrong; discussion below]. Score before play: SEA17, ATL24. SEA WP change: 36-> 29. TD% before: 8. TD% after: 0

Right after the game ended, I ran the model that outputs EPA, tweeted this out, and then went to bed:

After investigating further, the expected points from below the play is too low and my tweet was misleading (if anyone cares, I think it has to do with the difficulty of teaching a computer how to estimate what teams will do at the very end of halves). With 7 seconds left, most teams opt to kick a high-percentage, short FG:

So let’s call the FG conversion rate 90% and give Seattle 2.7 expected points for kicking a field goal (3 * 0.9), and say the failed fake cost them 2.7 EPA. 2.7 expected points would place this as the 10th most important EPA play from the game instead of 21st. Here are the 10th most important plays from some recent games:

  • #10. Q2 4-9 SEA 38: (:52) (Shotgun) Drew Stanton pass incomplete deep left to J.J. Nelson.
  • #10. Q4 2-4 WAS 10: (11:53) Russell Wilson pass short left to L.Willson for 10 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
  • #10. Q4 2-11 SEA 38: (10:16) (Shotgun) Deshaun Watson pass deep right to Will Fuller V ran ob at SEA 2 for 36 yards.
  • #10. Q3 2-9 NYG 32: (1:54) Eli Manning pass short middle to Evan Engram ran ob at SEA 43 for 25 yards (Richard Sherman).
  • #10. Q1 3-8 LA 23: (2:28) (Shotgun) Jared Goff pass short middle to Tyler Higbee to LA 35 for 12 yards (Kam Chancellor).

These are important plays, but they are not game-defining plays. If you think losing out on 3 points in the first half in order to take a risk to try to score a touchdown is the reason the Seahawks lost the game, then you have a very low view of this Seahawks team. And I’m with Ben Gretch here — the game would not have played out the same way in the second half had Seattle kicked the FG in the first half:

Converting 3rd downs

#10. Q1 3-8 ATL 25: (1:32) (Shotgun) Matt Ryan pass short middle to Mohamed Sanu to ATL 36 for 11 yards (J.Lane; E.Thomas).

EPA:2.56. Score before play: ATL14, SEA7. SEA WP change: 31-> 23. TD% before: 26. TD% after: 40

#7. Q4 3-6 ATL 42: (7:39) (Shotgun) M.Ryan pass deep right to Julio Jones pushed ob at SEA 29 for 29 yards (Jeremy Lane).

EPA:2.76. Score before play: ATL31, SEA23. SEA WP change: 19-> 11. TD% before: 29. TD% after: 48

#6. Q2 3-11 ATL 12: (7:25) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short middle to Jimmy Graham to ATL 1 for 11 yards.

EPA:3.09. Score before play: SEA10, ATL21. SEA WP change: 28-> 39. TD% before: 30. TD% after: 90

Returning kicks

#9. Q1 -0 ATL 35: Matthew Bosher kicks 62 yards from ATL 35 to SEA 3. Tyler Lockett pushed ob at ATL 40 for 57 yards.

EPA:2.71. Score before play: SEA0, ATL7. SEA WP change: 29-> 38. TD% before: 34. TD% after: 49

#4. Q2 -0 SEA 35: Blair Walsh kicks 50 yards from SEA 35 to ATL 15. Andre Roberts MUFFS catch, RECOVERED by SEA- Tedric Thompson at ATL 11.

EPA:3.59. Score before play: ATL21, SEA10. SEA WP change: 17-> 31. ATL TD% before: 29. ATL TD% after: 3

The touchdowns

#8. Q3 1-10 SEA 25: (7:33) M.Ryan pass deep left to Levine Toilolo for 25 yards, TOUCHDOWN. PENALTY on SEA- Earl Thomas, Unnecessary Roughness, 15 yards, enforced between downs.

EPA:2.73. Score before play: ATL24, SEA20. SEA WP change: 26-> 18. TD% before: 53. TD% after: 100

#5. Q2 4-1 ATL 1: (5:25) R.Wilson right end for 1 yard, TOUCHDOWN.

EPA:3.57. Score before play: SEA10, ATL21. SEA WP change: 30-> 43. TD% before: 32. TD% after: 100

#3. Q4 2-10 ATL 29: (3:06) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass deep middle to Doug Baldwin for 29 yards, TOUCHDOWN. Penalty on ATL- Takkarist McKinley, Defensive Offside, declined.

EPA:4.02. Score before play: SEA23, ATL33. SEA WP change: 13-> 32. TD% before: 36. TD% after: 100

#2. Q2 2-13 SEA 20: (14:13) (Shotgun) R.Wilson sacked at SEA 11 for -9 yards (T.McKinley). FUMBLES (T.McKinley) [T.McKinley], RECOVERED by ATL-A.Clayborn at SEA 10. A.Clayborn for 10 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

EPA:6.72. Score before play: SEA7, ATL14. SEA WP change: 24-> 14. TD% before: 26. TD% after: 0

The mistake

#1. Q1 2-1 ATL 31: (11:16) R.Wilson pass short middle intended for T.Lockett INTERCEPTED by Desmond Trufant at ATL 22. D.Trufant to SEA 38 for 40 yards.

EPA:8.14. Score before play: SEA0, ATL7. SEA WP change: 41-> 18. TD% before: 55. TD% after: 8

This one hurts. Lockett had lots of free space to run into once he caught the ball but Wilson badly misfired.

Going forward

The Redskins and Falcons are good teams. Seattle had ample opportunities to beat both at home but came up short. Some of the blame lies with the coaching staff (like the inexplicable timeout to prevent a delay of game and the ill-fated challenge), some lies with the players (Baldwin dropping a 3rd down pass and then telling Carroll to challenge), and some is just bad luck (it’s football, stuff happens).

After traveling to somewhere in the general region of San Francisco to take on the 49ers, the Seahawks then play against three consecutive division leaders who have a combined record of 23-7 (Eagles, Jaguars, Rams). The good news is that two of these games are at home, but the bad news is that Seattle hasn’t look particularly great at home this year.