Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Should Kubiak Have Kicked?

Last Sunday was an exciting day in the NFL. Sunday night wrapped up with a thrilling competition between AFC west rivals, Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs. It was a defensive battle for the most part with Von Miller and Justin Houston leading the charge for their respective teams. The Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill found himself in the history books next to Gale Sayers for his three touchdowns scored three different ways; one free kick return, one rushing, and a receiving touchdown with :12 left in regulation to set up the game tying 2-point conversion, and send the game to overtime. 

After a full four quarters of intense scheming from Andy Reid and Gary Kubiak, overtime just had more in store. Both teams converted field goals in their first possessions of overtime. So tied at 27 with 1:08 left in OT and the Broncos facing a 4th and 10 from the Kansas City 44 yard line, Coach Kubiak had a big decision to make. Let’s take a look at the options.

If Kubiak decides to punt the ball away, Denver concedes to a tie because there won’t be enough time to get the ball back. However, it does put the pressure on Kansas City to drive the length of the field with less than a minute (which they already did once). Despite being exhausted, the solid Denver defense probably could have held the Chiefs to secure yet another tie in the NFL this season.

Brandon McManus (8)
Field Goal
If you’re going to try a 62 yard field goal, Mile High Stadium is the place to do it. The venue has already seen Jason Elam hit a 63 yard attempt, and Matt Prater knock through a 64 yard field goal. Both being the two longest field goals in NFL history (Elam tied with Tom Dempsey). On the flip side, Brandon McManus’s career long is just 57 yards. A triumphant kick through the uprights makes Kubiac a genius and McManus a hero. A miss gives that tired Denver D a steep up hill battle to keep the Chiefs out of field goal range. But the choice shows faith in the kicker, defense, and gives the Broncos a chance to win the game.

Go For It
If I was wearing the headset, this would be my call. 4th and 10 from Kansas City's 44 yard line. A New York Times article from 2014 ran an analysis that suggested a punt would be appropriate. The analysis also suggested to go for it from the same point on the field if the first down marker was only seven yards away. Given the situation of the game, I would take my chances on the three extra yards. 

If the offense can convert it allows the drive to continue, runs more time off the clock, and gives McManus an easier shot at a game winner. The Chiefs already had a successful 4th and 10 play on their final drive in regulation. So we know it is possible. Not to mention that a failed attempt gives Kansas City the ball back at the original line of scrimmage, Kansas City's 44, rather than the spot of the kick, Denver's 48. So why not see what the offense can do?

Gary Kubiak ultimately decided to send his kicker out to try what would have been the longest game winning field goal in NFL history. McManus had the distance, but hooked it way left. It only took two completions and a penalty against the Broncos defense to set up the Chiefs kicker, Cairo Santos, for a 34-yard field goal that ricocheted off the left upright and just snuck in behind the right upright to win the game 30-27. Coach Kubiak might be kicking himself all week, but from a fan standpoint you couldn’t have asked for a more exciting finish. What a nail biter!  

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