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How Doug Baldwin’s late touchdown actually cost the Seahawks a win

NFL: Washington Redskins at Seattle Seahawks Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Seahawks lost to Washington yesterday afternoon, that much you already know, but this morning ESPN’s Brian Burke wrote about how the Seahawks scoring a touchdown was a mistake. The key parts:

The TD put Seattle in excellent position to win the game -- even with the failed two-point try the Seahawks' win probability was a sterling 88.2 percent. As it happened, the Redskins rallied when Kirk Cousins led them on a four-play, 70-yard touchdown drive in just 35 seconds, handing Seattle a 17-14 loss.

Taking a knee rather than scoring the touchdown would have virtually assured Seattle victory rather than giving the Redskins an 11 or 12 percent chance to prevail. Instead, the door was left open for Washington to rally and cost the Seahawks a much-needed win that would have pulled them even with the NFC West-leading Rams.

This isn’t just hindsight bias as Burke tweeted out the following right after Doug Baldwin scored, before the subsequent Washington drive:

I was initially skeptical, but after seeing him lay out his argument, it’s hard to argue. Seattle had the game won and gave it away. Here is the moment in question:

Doug Baldwin scoring the TD

Let’s say Baldwin gives himself up and is touched down at 1:33 (93 seconds remaining). The Redskins have two timeouts left. It doesn’t matter when they use them, but let’s assume they do it after 1st and 2nd down.

  1. 1st down: 40 seconds run off the clock following the Baldwin catch. 53 seconds remain. Seattle snaps the ball and takes a knee, using 3 more seconds. Washington calls timeout with 50 seconds remaining.
  2. 2nd down: Seattle kneels again, taking 3 more seconds. Washington calls timeout with 47 seconds remaining.
  3. 3rd down: Seattle kneels again, taking 3 more seconds. 44 seconds remain.
  4. 4th down: Seattle lets 40 seconds run off and then calls timeout. 4 seconds remain.

There would now be 4 seconds left and Seattle would need to kick what was an extra point (20 yard field goal) before the NFL increased the distance of extra points. In the final year of the shorter extra point distance, 99.3% of extra points were made leaguewide. With the shorter extra point distance, Blair Walsh made 108 of 109 career extra point attempts (99.1%). In Blair Walsh’s entire career, he has never missed a field goal attempt when his team had the ball inside the opponent’s 5 yard line.

The Seahawks had the game (99.1 percent) won, but gave the ball back with over 1 minute and 30 seconds left to a team with two timeouts and a talented quarterback. It would have been a savvy move by Baldwin and potentially one he would have been criticized for — certainly “scoring touchdowns” is muscle memory at this point — but in the end scoring the touchdown cost them dearly.