Why Fox's numbers are wrong, and other musings about this dead horse.

So I had to wait till now to write a post, so it had some semblance of objectivity. I realize many are probably tired of thinking about this game, but I needed to put together a post for my own sanity.

The Infamous 3rd and 7

I won't debate whether we should have tried play action on 2nd down (I don't think we should have but the case could be made). Regarding the 3rd down call however, there are numerous posts around the web, and I've read a number of them, and I haven't read one that I thought had it quite right. Below is an excerpt credited to Coach Fox:

"Fox said he played the percentages on all the calls - nothing more, nothing less. According to his calculations: -There's a 38 to 40 percent chance of converting a third-and-7 into a first down."

This is a similar claim as other articles I've read. This may be the league average, I don't know. However, it isn't true if you're talking about the 2012 Denver Broncos. Consider the following data about our regular season results in this situation:

***When we attempt to throw on 3rd and 7, Manning completed 13/16 and successfully got a first 10 times or 63%.

***When we attempt to run on 3rd and 7, we were 0-3 during the regular season. In fact when running on 3rd and 5-8 to go, we went 0-6 during the regular season.

These are the real percentages we were dealing with here. We were choosing between a plan of action that historically resulted in a first down 63% of the time versus one that resulted in a first down 0% of the time. Period. This would indicate the excuse that we were "playing the percentages" is bullsh**. I guarantee you Belichick doesn't use the league average success rates to determine how he uses Tom Brady, and we shouldn't either.

I read one post where the author claimed few coaches would have called this differently. I can't prove that isn't true, but in both of our regular season losses this year, when our opponents had the ball late with a slim lead, both teams closed us out by throwing for a first down. Why might they not go the route we did against Baltimore? Because their defense wasn't holding us, and they didn't want to risk losing the way we did on Saturday. Maybe they had QBs that had a 3rd down success rate higher than the league average. BTW, these teams are still alive in the playoffs too.

1st-10, ATL20 3:18 M. Turner rushed to the left for 4 yard gain

2nd-6, ATL24 2:35 M. Turner rushed to the left for 1 yard gain

Denver 2nd Timeout

3rd-5, ATL25 2:28 M. Ryan passed to J. Jones to the right for 6 yard gain


1st-10, NE11 3:42 B. Bolden rushed to the left for 1 yard gain

Denver 2nd Timeout

2nd-9, NE12 3:37 B. Bolden rushed to the right for 6 yard gain

Denver 3rd Timeout

3rd-3, NE18 3:27 T. Brady passed to W. Welker down the middle for 9 yard gain

Both of these third downs were the final dagger for us. Some have suggested that we did what we did because it was cold. If that is the case, I am absolutely furious, because that is pathetic. Man up and play football, this isn't a nanny game. If PFM really can't throw outside of a dome, what in the sam hill are we doing with him on our team at 5000 feet?! I don't believe for a minute Manning's the kind of guy to fold because the sun went down and it was cold, but if he is, we won't go anywhere in the playoffs. Good grief this is a winter sport!

One example why I think McCoy isn't a very good OC: awful game plan regarding offensive pacing

We didn't use our home field advantage, namely the altitude factor at all against the Ravens compared to our home games during the regular season. The pacing was completely out of wack compared to what we did in our other home games. Our offense struggles when we aren't playing up tempo. When we played slow, we struggled to put together drives. One way to measure this, is the number of seconds between plays. I spent a bunch of time trying to quantify this, and this is what I came up with:

Time between plays on TD drives

Time between plays on

drives ending with Punt


24.6 sec.

33.0 sec


26.3 sec.

30.7 sec


20.4 sec.

28.4 sec

Baltimore Playoff

29.4 sec

29.9 sec

I'm sure there are a number of different ways of looking at this. First of all note, that just thinking about it, one would expect failed drives to take less time per play than successful ones, because incompletes stop the clock. However, late in games where we are leading, one would expect more time between plays, because we're naturally trying to use clock. This is illustrated in the "losses" row, where we were trying to get as many plays in as possible to catch up. This all makes sense. What's interesting to me though, is the differences between the two columns when comparing the "home" row and the "baltimore playoff" row. When playing at home, on average we played faster on our TD drives, and played much slower on our punt drives. We spent over 8 seconds more between each snap during failed drives at home. Is this happenstance? I don't think so. I think we were using the altitude and our pacing on offense to wear the opponent out, and since Manning is something of a rhythm QB, he naturally excels when we're playing up tempo. Heck he's the master of up tempo.So what the hell were we doing against Baltimore?! That game is an outlier compared to our home game average. We were playing outside of our comfort zone in terms of pacing on offense. This led directly to our loss, IMHO, because we never wore out the Baltimore defense. Consequently, we were scared we wouldn't get first downs late to ice it, so we played conservative, despite the fact that we have PFM and our defense was unreliable all game long.Good coaches don't change what worked during the regular season. That is why I think McCoy should be considered one of the goats of this game, and if Fox put him up to the slow tempo idea, then he's also a goat. As much as I hate the Patriots, they don't change what works. McCoy has before, and did on Saturday.

The other factor related to all this is the cold. I live in South Dakota, and I know what it is to work in bitter cold outside. This seems like common sense, but if you want to keep warm and active in the cold, you have to keep moving. We needed a fast pace offensively just to keep limber, much less exhaust that Ravens defense, and by playing slow and conservative, we failed on both accounts, and lost the game.

Reffing and Turnovers

The reffing sucked. I agree and am just as perturbed as everyone else. But that is the human element of the game and it's out of the players control. What is in our control is the turnover battle. I'm sorry, but Manning failed us on this. It's ok, he's human, but he didn't take care of the ball like he needed to. Turnovers lost us 3 of the 4 games we played this year. PM is 3-16 when turning the ball over 3 times. Most QBs are. Turnovers were our achilles heel this year, and they proved to be our downfall. Before you yell "Rahim Moore" at me, consider that in terms of points, Manning was only +4 in this game (3 TDs, -17 pts off turnovers). We cannot expect the defense to win games where the offense only scores a net 4 pts.

In conclusion, it was a team loss, but mostly because we didn't follow the formula we used in the regular season to win. Our defense was accustomed to being set up with an early lead, and a steady reliable quick-paced offense that demoralized the opponent so they could tee off on the opposing QB. None of that happened.

This is a Fan-Created Comment on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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