The Saints, The Odds, And Good Play-Calling

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on February 8, 2010

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Congratulations to the New Orleans Saints, who played an excellent game yesterday, and deserved to win the Super Bowl. Indeed, both teams played very well, and it was a shame that someone had to lose; the game was one of the best Super Bowls I had seen.

I have to confess that I was shocked that Sean Payton had the Saints go for a touchdown in the second quarter, on his fourth-and-goal call. But this analysis from Nate Silver makes a good case for why the call was a good one regardless. I should note, however, that since the Colts showed they could mount a long drive for a touchdown–one of their touchdown drives went 96 yards. The Payton gambit could have easily failed, and while it turned out to be a good decision–the Colts ended up punting the ball away, and the Saints scored a field goal–not many coaches are going to want to take the risk that Payton did, even though there is some good statistical support for that risk.

The onside kick, on the other hand, turned out to be an unequivocally good decision, given that it was a surprise kick, and that as a consequence, the Colts did not have their good-hands team on the field to recover it.

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