Situation: New Orleans trailing 0-14, 12:09 remaining in the 2nd quarter, 3rd and 1 from the NO 30
The Eagles made a critical decision early in the 2nd quarter that most people probably didn’t even think twice about, yet it changed the course of the entire Divisional Round game against the Saints. On 3rd and 1, while leading 14-0, Philadelphia stopped the Saints at the New Orleans 30-yard line, but there was an offensive holding penalty on the play. Eagles’ head coach Doug Pederson decided to decline the penalty, assuming that New Orleans would punt on 4th and 1.
A punt would have given the Saints a Game-Winning Chance (GWC) of 10.4%; however, going for it would give the Saints a GWC of 12.7%, a gain of 2.3%. Alternatively, if Pederson had accepted the penalty, the ball would have moved back ten yards and the Saints would have faced 3rd and 11 at their own 20-yard line. The resulting GWC would have been 11.1%, 1.6% less than on 4th and 1. The Saints had managed only 32 yards on 14 plays to this point, so Pederson should have had more trust in his defense. But, while the decision rests in Pederson’s confidence in his defense to make another stop, this time on 3rd and 11, it also rests in his confidence that the Saints would punt given a 4th and 1. He would have to be at least 69.5%* confident New Orleans would punt in order to justify declining the penalty.
Sean Payton took advantage and decided to play the numbers, perhaps unknowingly and called a fake punt in which do-it-all backup QB Taysom Hill took a direct snap and barreled forward for four yards. The Saints eventually capped off the drive with another 4th down call, a TD on 4th and goal to cut the deficit in half.
*GWC Difference (Accepted Penalty) / GWC Difference (Declined Penalty) – (12.7% – 11.1%) / (12.7% – 10.4%) = 1.6% / 2.3% = 69.5%
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