On 4th and inches
Smart coach makes aggressive call
Life spits in his face
In overtime against the New Orleans Saints, the Atlanta Falcons faced a 4th and inches from their own 29 yard line. Atlanta coach Mike Smith decided to go for it, which backfired when running back Michael Turner gets stuffed for no gain. (See 3:25 of these highlights from the game.) New Orleans promptly drove down the field and kicked a game winning field goal. The media has showered Smith with the acidic criticism. It’s almost like ESPN’s Trey Wingo has coached in the NFL and won more than two of every three games. From an analytic perspective, Brian Burke at Advanced NFL Stats explained that going for it was the right call. Mike Smith probably doesn’t read those types of blogs or know that going for it gave him a 47% chance to win the game while punting left the Falcons a 42% chance. But Smith may have known that the New Orleans defense ranks last in the NFL in rush yards per attempt. And he certainly knows that our football obsessed culture loves the aggressive, down hill running game that characterizes many successful NFL offenses. So why don’t people appreciate the same aggression in play calling? No matter what the numbers say, if a team can’t make a 4th and inches against the worst rush defense in the league, it doesn’t deserve to win the game.