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If we let the other team score, then The Terrorists will have won


That’s apparently as good an explanation as any for the strange behavior of NFL coaches at the end of games. For instance, tonight Minnesota gets to the New Orleans 14-yard-line in a tie game with 1:10 to go. The Saints have two time outs left, which means that if the Vikings run the ball three times Ryan Longwell will attempt a chip shot field goal with about fifteen seconds left. Longwell has made his last 43 attempts from under 45 yards. Plus this game is inside, so weather is no factor. So unless Minnesota fumbles or commits a dumb penalty New Orleans is looking at close to a 100% probability of fielding a kickoff down by three points with about ten seconds to go — a situation in which the trailing team’s chances of winning are nearly zero.

On the other hand, if they let Minnesota score on the first play of the series, they get the ball back with a minute to go and two time outs down by seven. Not a good situation, of course, but not nearly as bad as what they’ll get if they play it straight up.

And it’s not as if this is an unusual thing — similar situations come up almost every week in the NFL. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen an NFL coach decide to just let the other team score.

A more general problem here is that NFL kickers have gotten too good. As Longwell’s streak illustrates, it’s now to the point where anything under 45 yards is almost an extra point for a lot of these guys. Nate Kaeding has made 49 of 50 career attempts at home from under *50* yards. It’s much, much easier for an offense to get inside the 30 than it is to score a TD, yet getting inside the 30 is now practically equivalent to half a touchdown.

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