So do you think the punt on 4th and 1 was playing the better odds? Pat Y reports that ESPN has historical data that says otherwise:
Analytics: Rivera made wrong choice - NFC South Blog - ESPN
We’ll talk first about going for it on fourth down. Since 2001, the league average conversion percentage for teams that go for it on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter with the lead and the ball between the 40-yard lines is 71.9 percent. (With Cam Newton, Carolina is 4-for-5 in fourth-and-1 situations.) Using this number, ESPN Stats & Information said the Panthers had a 99.1 percent chance of winning if they converted the first down. If the Panthers went for the first down, but didn’t convert, their chance to win dropped to 42 percent. Just by going for it on fourth down, the Panthers had an 83.5 percent win possibility.
To calculate the win probability with the Panthers punting, ESPN Stats & Information used data since 2001 to get the net punt average of 31 yards for all punts between the 40- and 50-yard lines. This means the expected field position of the Falcons after the punt (and delay of game penalty) is their own 19-yard line. This situation (Falcons with first-and-10 from their 19, with 59 seconds left in the fourth quarter, etc.) would give the Panthers a win probability of 57.4 percent. By choosing to punt, the Panthers decreased their win probability by 26.1 percentage points.
In the end the Falcons were further down the field after one play then they would have been if they had stuffed the Panthers on 4th and 1. I admit its a hard call to make but as I've said since it happened, if you are going to lose make sure its with your strength. In 2012 that means running the football, not playing pass defense. Rivera's explanation for the decision centers on the now debunked odds of success:
Scott Says ...: 2 coaching mistakes by Rivera cost Panthers
Why? "Because if you don't get it right there, they only have to go 30 yards to try a field goal and that's why we decided to punt," Rivera said. The punt then was downed at the Atlanta 1, where the Falcons began with 59 seconds left and no timeouts.
I'm not so hot about the other coaching mistake regarding use of the clock before the half. I agree it was curious to say the least in the end it was more the play calling that didn't give the Panthers a chance to score before the half ended.
Though I agree the pass defense was hot garbage on that last drive I also have to agree the LBs were nonexistent most of the game and deserve this grade:
Carolina Panthers report card 09.30.12 - Panthers - NewsObserver.com
D LINEBACKERS: Jon Beason, playing with shoulder and knee injuries, had a couple of missed tackles and was beaten on a touchdown catch when Roddy White worked free between Beason and safety Haruki Nakamura. Luke Kuechly had five tackles – two for loss – and a pass breakup.
Many of those Michael Turner runs were right through the second level. I'm starting to join those who think Luke Kuechly is not on the field enough.
For some reason all I can think of when I read this quote from Nakamura is a Led Zeppelin tune:
Falcons erase 1-point deficit in 54 seconds, beat Panthers | CharlotteObserver.com
“It’s nobody else’s fault but mine,” Nakamura said. “There’s no responsibility on anyone else’s part. He got behind me. That’s my fault. “It’s very upsetting.”
Upsetting? Yeah that's an understatement. I crushed a beer can and had to vacuum up a bag of tostitos after that play. CB Captain Munnerlyn tries to rescue his teammate a bit but comes up short [pun intended]"
Munnerlyn empathized with his teammate. If there was one piece of advice he would have given to Nakamura, it was to not go for the interception. “I know you’re trying to finish the game, but knock it down,” Munnerlyn said. “Knock it down and make them drive the ball. They were on the 1. Let them go however many yards they need to go for a field goal. That’s the only advice I would give, but you got to keep your head up.”
He was trying to knock it down? That's a kind assessment. It looked like he was swatting at flies as he missed the ball by three feet.
One guy I hope learned from this is QB Cam Newton who played much better but is also guilty of losing his focus when it counted:
Cam Newton plays better, still apologizes to fellow Panthers after loss to Falcons | CharlotteObserver.com
“In this league, you have to protect the football,” Newton said. “That was a key focus going into this game. I fumbled. It’s a lot of guys that’s trusting the ball carrier, whoever it is in any case, and I was the ball carrier on that particular play to get the job done. I failed.
Two hands Cam...get two hands on that ball and its a ball game. Rivera said afterward this game could be a turning point for the Panthers. If so they will need to fix a few things in the secondary though the Seahawks #32 ranked passing game hardly scares me. Sitting at 1-3 they better turn things around or this season will be lost before the halfway point.