When Should a Defense Allow a Touchdown?

by Jason Epstein

In a late and close football game, when should a defense with their backs up against the goal line permit an offense to score a touchdown instead of attempting to force a field-goal attempt? (Think Super Bowls XXXII and XLVI.)

In the final entry of his multipart comprehensive and “counterintuitive” evaluation of the question, Brian Burke of Advanced NFL Stats reminds us what a coach must take into account

  • when the team on defense would get the ball back
  • the probability of failure on the FG attempt
  • the probability of responding to a made FG with a score
  • the probability of responding to an allowed TD with a TD

Burke’s earlier posts may be found here, here, here, and here.

Right Field

Brief chronicles of our sporting times.