On the Bengals losing to the Ravens and not going for two

Marvin Lewis Signals to go for 1

Marvin Lewis signals for 1

Yesterday while I was enjoying the Browns bye week, I caught the end of the Bengals game including the hail Mary and eventual loss in overtime to the Ravens. I couldn’t help but hate the way that one ended for the Bengals even though their loss was what I needed to see as a Browns fan. Quite simply, I couldn’t stand the fact that Marvin Lewis’ Bengals decided to kick an extra point on the last play of the game to tie it at 17 and take it to overtime.

Andy Dalton was having an awful day for the most part. He finished the game 24 for 51 with two touchdowns and three interceptions. His QB rating was an abysmal 52.2. Can you imagine what his QB rating would have been if he hadn’t completed a 51 yard hail Mary TD to A.J. Green on the last play?1 So, why in the world, would you take your chances on taking your team into overtime where you have to drive the field to score, when you have an opportunity to win it from the two yard line?

The good news for Browns fans is that I think Rob Chudzinski is the kind of NFL head coach that would go for two in that scenario and it makes me happy. I can’t guarantee it, of course, but it seems to me that anyone who goes for it on fourth down as willingly as Chud seems to, would also understand the benefits of controlling your own destiny.

Bill Barnwell from Grantland is notorious for killing coaches who are too passive. It’s like these coaches make safe choices in order to keep themselves from getting into trouble. They make these “safe” choices that actually seem to defy statistics and then the moves that they deemed safe end up losing them games and ultimately getting them fired. Except for Marvin Lewis, of course. He seems to survive everything. Barnwell doesn’t appear to address the final play of the game, two-point conversion opportunity, but given the Bengals’ circumstances on the road in a game where their starting quarterback had thrown three interceptions, I would have gone for it. I don’t know what the advanced math says on it, but I’m guessing there aren’t a ton of examples in the sample, sadly.

Even if my team fails in that situation in three straight games, I would defend my head coach’s decision to try and win it there. I would take that chance as a fan almost every single time. Plus, think about this. The Bengals ended up going for it on fourth and two from the Ravens 33-yard line in overtime. Sure, the downside risk of that play wasn’t in instantaneous loss, but it still seems relevant. Why shouldn’t a team go for two on a chance to win the whole thing from the two-yard line in regulation on the road when the team’s offense hasn’t been playing well all game?

Am I on an island? Is anyone with me?

  1. Yes, I could figure it out, but I’m not going to. []

  • bupalos

    Personally I think 1 was the right call. I think the disappointment and fatigue that sets in when victimized by that kind of lucky crap is best exploited in continued play, rather than one shot. And just on game flow, cinci was moving and scoring better in the second half than the flying black rats. I was seriously impressed with the ex-browns rebounding from that.

  • On the road, go for the win. Period. With the new OT rules, the winner of the coin toss doesn’t win the vast majority of the time anymore. The 2-point conversion success rate is just under 50%. So you have to decide if that coin toss is going to win you the game or not. I’d go for 2, especially with how dismally my QB was playing at the time. But I might even go for it if he was playing well. Although the Ravens terrible offense might have come into consideration as well.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    Any coach who went for 2 should be fired? Even if it worked?
    You just broke through on the opponent with a big play. Follow it up with the back breaking win.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    I’m with you here. I’m a big fan of TMQ (though I don’t always agree with his viewpoints.) In this particular case, it seems like you know exactly how things are going looking at just a few key plays.

  • So, just to put the Barnwell speculation to rest, again, he basically called this a wash. The chance of conversion roughly equalled the chance of winning in overtime. He doesn’t like the version of the momentum argument that several of you argued here (namely that the Ravens were on their heals and dejected) – as Barnwell has argued many times, momentum means nothing in analyzing decision making. And, yes, as I cited in my comment, this is almost equal to the situation he talked about the previous week between San Diego and Washington. Personally, I like aggressive, but I don’t like reckless. I think the odds favored a Cincinnati win in overtime if only because they were actually playing better throughout the game. If not for an atrocious play call, and even worse luck (who loses 11 yards on any completed pass; that almost never happens – remember also that Cincinnati was moving into the wind, which is why they didn’t want to try a field goal), they might have won. It doesn’t change the math on the decision, which is to say that Lewis might as well have flipped a coin; we reached the point we are splitting fine hairs.

  • Jaker

    I’m with you. On the road, go for the win