Game design, not analytics, the Ravens' doomed two-point attempt against Packers

Analytics didn't stop the Ravens from beating the Packers on Sunday night. A flawed game design set Tyler Huntley to fail outside of the numbers.

USA About: Ravens Publish: 12/21/2021 Edit: 12/21/2021 Author: Gardener


RavensYou've no doubt heard more about analytics in the NFL in the past week than you would like. After the Chargers' head coach Brandon Staley tried to convert fourth place to fourth last Thursday by converting two out of five attempts into a 34-28 overtime loss to the Chiefs, everyone was on either side of the Arguments loaded for the bear. Either the old school football cavemen didn't understand the analytical argument for fourth place, or new school nerds weren't familiar with the reality of the game. And on Sunday night against the Packers, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh wanted to prolong the debate by deciding to attempt a two-point conversion with backup quarterback Tyler Huntley. Baltimore were 31-30, 42 seconds behind, after scoring two unanswered touchdowns in the final five minutes of the game. They could have scored the extra point and gone into overtime, or they could have tried to win it right there. Huntley rolled to the right, trying to hit Mark Andrews at the end of the end zone, and the Packers prevailed. It was the second time in three games that Harbaugh tried a two-point late try, and it was the second time his team failed to convert. That resulted in losses for the Packers and the Steelers last night in a 20-19 heartbreaker in week 13. Harbaugh did not apologize afterwards. "Yeah, we were just trying to get the win right there," said Harbaugh of trying to steal the win from the Packers in regulation instead of giving Aaron Rodgers one more chance. “In extra time ... I think our chances of winning right there were a bit higher than in extra time, if you calculate it. I thought we had a good game. Again they made a really good game. Harbaugh was not wrong in the decision per se. The problem was the failed play call. Huntley completed 28 of 40 passes for 215 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, added 13 rushing attempts for 73 yards and two more touchdowns. And by an overwhelming majority, Huntley's best games came when he could stay in the pocket to scan the entire field, look at all of the defense, and play games from there. This applied to Huntley's two touchdown passes to Andrews. This also applied to Huntley in the two touchdown runs, which brought his team back into the game after falling 31:17 at the beginning of the fourth quarter. If you have a backup quarterback who can read the entire field, you'll want to take advantage of this. Huntley had already proven he could. But by rolling Hunley to the right in the crucial game, Huntley's coaches essentially narrowed his options down to Andrews and nothing else. "If I were on that sideline, absolutely," said Packers head coach Matt LaFleur after the two-point call game. As the coaching staff, we expected that if they scored a goal they would go in pairs. I thought for a second as they took the time off, that they were trying to burn our last time off so we wouldn't have time off if they kicked it. I thought they could run their PAT unit on the field, but they didn't. I think Savage caught a piece of that ball in that corner of the end zone and made a great game. ”Savage did, but Huntley's limited vision helped him. In the game, Andrews was broadly positioned as the first option for Huntley. There were no other targets on Huntley's front as he rolled to the right. With Huntley rolling to the right, it was Andrews or Broke, and the Packers could top up their cover accordingly. On the back of the game, Huntley would have had two more options if receiver Marquise Brown were way out in the slot and Rashod Bateman. Brown freed himself from Adrian Amos by making a sharp first cut on his intersection route, but Huntley never saw him because Huntley was already physically past where he could have been. This would likely have been a successful conversion if Huntley had been in his pocket or around to see Brown. Huntley said after the game that he never got Brown off. "Yeah, he had room for a moment," said Huntley of Andrews in game design. “The defense just did a good job of going under and they played a good game right there. But yeah, they made a good game. It's a good team. ”When Huntley watches the movie, he'll no doubt wonder what could have been. Last night, the Ravens became the first team in NFL history to attempt two-point conversions in multiple games in one season when they were one point behind in the fourth quarter. They missed both chances, they have now lost three games in a row with a total of four points, and if the season ended today they would be eighth seeded in the AFC - from the outside, from a postseason perspective. That doesn't mean the Ravens were wrong - it means the decisions were unsuccessful. And if you want to dig into the reasons, this is the more revealing method rather than defending or judging analytics. Not to mention, these decisions aren't all about analysis, as Harbaugh concluded after the game. The numbers will never be perfect. The numbers are part of it, but the numbers aren't the main decision. ”The main mistake in making that decision was the game design, and Harbaugh and his team just have to live with that.


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