By Giving Jets the Ball and the Wind, the Patriots Blew It

Twitter followers seeing the pictured tweet (below) just after the game concluded understood the New England coin toss saga hours before the mainstream sports media, which asserted that the Patriots intended to receive the overtime kickoff against the Jets.

The tweet was confirmed later during an interview reflected in this Breitbart story, but the tweet was a quick summary of this process:

When a team wins a coin toss in overtime they can choose one of four things:

1. To receive

2. To kick (this is what the Patriots chose)

3. For their offense to go north to south (left to right on your TV, this is what the Patriots should have chosen and then tried to choose after selecting #2)

4. For their offense to go south to north

Once the team has picked one of those four, the opposing team can choose from the remaining options. So, once the Patriots chose No. 2 they could not also choose No. 3.

The reason the Patriots wanted Option 3 instead of Option 1 is that their offense scored one touchdown in nine drives while sustaining injuries and becoming less able to protect Brady. If they received, they needed a touchdown going into the wind from that offense to win on the opening drive—a longshot.

Or, they could entrust a defense that had scored a touchdown itself to get a turnover or give the Jets their third three-and-out in four possessions, forcing the Jets to throw and then punt into the wind—enabling the Patriots to win with just a first down or two and a game-winning field goal from the best kicker in the game.

The into the wind is where the Patriots “blew” it.

The Patriots wanted to kick the ball south to have the wind at their back the entire period. To do that, Matthew Slater had to simply point south and say, “We want to go that way,” and at that point the Jets would have most likely chosen to receive the ball and would have had to battle the wind while going right to left on your TV screen.

However, once Slater started his choice with “We’ll kick…” he had made the choice and the fact that he followed up by saying the team also wanted to go south was too late—with the choice to kick made the choice for direction went to the Jets and Brandon Marshall looked like a kid at Christmas time realizing he was already getting the ball and could now choose to also go with the wind.

When Slater started to question (“Don’t we get to choose since we won the toss?”) he was arguing for direction—not as Boomer Esiason and every other Post Game announcer kept insisting, for the ball.

If the Patriots Correctly Chose Direction, Would It Have Made Sense?

It looked like the strategy of starting on defense might still work when overtime began with the Patriots stopping Chris Ivory for only two yards on a sweep. However, Ryan Fitzpatrick then threw and innocent looking short pass to the left sideline to Quincy Enunwa, who made up for dropping a potential game-winning pass at the end of regulation by galloping along the left sideline for 48 yards. Fitzpatrick then hit the Jets dynamic duo of receivers in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker on consecutive plays to wrap up the win. And with the Steelers upset loss against the Ravens put the Jets one game away from the playoffs.

If the Jets were driving into the wind it likely would have had not effect on the pass to Enunwa to get into range for a long field goal. But it could have had some effect on the ability of Fitzpatrick getting the second pass sandwiched between double coverage to Marshall, or the touch needed to lob the final pass over last year’s Superbowl hero Malcolm Butler to Decker. If the wind had helped limit the Jets to a long field goal into the wind, and they had missed, New England would have only needed a first down or two to give Stephen Gostkowski, who has made 4 of 5 field goal attempts of 50 yards plus and 10 of 11 from 40-49 yards an almost sure shot to win the game—and then the Patriots would have been called geniuses for realizing an opening field goal would only be a winner if the Patriots had the ball second.

However, by accidentally also giving up the wind the Patriots received none of those advantages. In fact, the Jets actually dominated the game, getting 5.3 yards per rush and giving Fitzpatrick time to have a 109.4 passer rating while controlling the action on the defensive side as well with 2.9 yards allowed per rush and a very human 89.0 passer rating from a Tom Brady that was throwing the ball away to avoid sacks except for a couple of huge first down passes to Rob Gronkowski on their only touchdown drive of the day.

It was going to be a tough overtime either way. They just compounded it by giving up the wind.

Perhaps the worst math used to criticize the decision to kick the ball came from ESPN, which stated: “The raw numbers since 2012 appear to support the advantage for the receiving team, although the sample size isn’t big enough yet to be certain. Receiving teams have won 33 of the 65 overtime games that did not result in a tie, a 50.7 percent rate.”

A sample size of 65 has a margin of error of 13%, meaning that this sample indicates that the actual chance of winning an overtime game when receiving first is somewhere between 37.7% and 63.7%, so the statement that the numbers “appear to support” is absolutely false. The reason no games are considered before 2012 is that is the first time that the receiving win could not win simply by kicking a field. goal.

That same article states that the scoring for the game (20-20) was barely below the league average and therefore it did not offset the normal slight advantage of getting the ball first such as would be the case if the score was 9-9. But in fact the Patriots offensive scoring was closer to a 9-9 game than a 20-20 game, and the question was whether to give that offense the ball first. The Patriots scored one touchdown in nine offensive drives—way below average—so they had to believe the would score a touchdown for just the second time in ten drives. The Patriots had so little confidence in the banged up offense that they had basically killed the clock late in the first half and then kneeled at the end of regulation to not risk a turnover (and I am not counting that “10th” drive).

Hindsight is 20-20,but the Patriots defense scored as many touchdowns (1) as their offense Sunday.

The Patriots defense gives up one touchdown every six drives during the season and on the final five Jets drives in regulation runs a fumble back for a touchdown, gave up one field goal, and forced the opposition to punt three times. The decision to pick the wind and assume the Jets would choose to receive is defensible. It was the mistake in giving the Jets the ball and the wind that was the mistake. But in the end, it was big plays by the Jets that won the game.

Another tweet a week ago correctly noted that in the final two weeks the Jets needed only to win one more game that the Chiefs, Steelers, or Broncos. Other commentary indicated the Jets could only pass the Broncos if the Broncos lost their final two and the Jets won their final two.

Now if the Jets win at Buffalo next week they grab the playoff spot. If they lose then the Steelers could get in with a win. And if that happened then the Jets could only get in if the Broncos lost tomorrow night verses the Bengals and again in their final game.

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