Against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football, New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur made a controversial call ... that shouldn’t be considered controversial at all. In the fourth quarter, Shurmur and the Giants went for a two-point conversion after scoring a touchdown when his team trailed by 14 points.
The attempt was a pass to Odell Beckham Jr., who was open enough to throw to, but the defender managed to get in and break it up at the last moment:
.@AtlantaFalcons D not giving up those two points pic.twitter.com/qPVsUxUTgH— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) October 23, 2018
The two-point conversion failed, and plenty of people — especially the Monday Night Football broadcast crew — piled on Shurmur for the decision:
I’ll say it again to hell with analytics when ur defense is busting their ass to keep u in the game and U score and u go for 2 because of %’s Bad coaching decision by Pat Shurmur.— Booger (@ESPNBooger) October 23, 2018
Others, though, pointed out exactly why it makes sense to go for two in that situation. You can reach this conclusion through a mystical art form known as “basic mathematics.”
Just a couple weeks ago, people were talking about Doug Pederson’s smart move by going for two against the Vikings. From that same decision, Football Perspective gave us some ... perspective on the matter.
Math is simple here. The move works 50% of the time, is neutral 25% (miss, then make) and backfires 25% of the time (miss, miss). https://t.co/XxGlCOsYKE— Football Perspective (@fbgchase) October 7, 2018
Or if you’re a more visual learner, you can see a nice chart here:
It's simple math guys, but still shocked Shumur did it. Other teams must have studied it after Pederson finally did it a couple weeks ago https://t.co/JsdzJumHdq pic.twitter.com/nVTj6Fy0eL— Kevin Cole (@Cole_Kev) October 23, 2018
“We’ve discussed, internally, the math on that,” Shurmur said after the game. “You increase your chances by 50 percent if you go for it and make it there. ... Because then if we score a touchdown, we just kick the extra point and win.”
“I felt like we had a good play. I liked our two-point play selections, and we just didn’t quite get it done.”
On the next drive, the Falcons gambled on a 56-yard field goal attempt by new kicker Giorgio Tavecchio. It paid off, making it a 23-12 game. If they hadn’t tried the field goal — or missed instead — the Giants would have had a chance to tie.
“But at the end there, you saw, had they not kicked the field goal, I felt good about our second two-point play, which we scored on,” Shurmur said.
The Giants scored a touchdown on their next drive and converted their second two-point conversion attempt, when they handed it to Saquon Barkley to make it a three-point game:
Final score 20-23 @Giants fail to the @AtlantaFalcons as @saquon punches in the two point conversion #NYGVSATL pic.twitter.com/Z6ziR2mTZV— Jared Wilder (@jwildog) October 23, 2018
This is all on top of the fact that the NFL is trending more and more toward high-powered offenses as the rules change.
”I felt like I wanted to be aggressive for our guys,” Shurmur said.
Odell Beckham agreed with the decision. “I like the call. I love being aggressive,” he said after the game. “I don’t know if I could be a coach. I’m going for it on fourth. We’re going for 2. That’s why I’m not a coach. I’m always going to ride with him. I just wish I could have come up with it”
The Giants wound up losing Monday’s game, 23-20. Despite the late touchdown and two-point conversion, they had just five seconds on the clock while trailing by three points. They then failed to convert the onside kick.
But make no mistake, they didn’t lose because Shurmur tried to go for two.