Questioning A 61 Yard FG?


It seems that it’s impossible to look at a Seattle sports page or Seahawks Blog today and not see someone questioning Carroll’s decision to try and kick the 61 yard field goal on 4th and 8 with 13 seconds left. It seems that the universal consensus is that Carroll should have tried for the first down instead of kicking the field goal. I’m not so sure I completely agree with that assessment, though there is merit to the argument.

When the team was lining up for the kick, I was disappointed. Not because I thought it was a bad choice, just that the offense couldn’t get closer. A 61 yard kick is an act of desperation. It’s like a hail mary pass. When you choose to kick that ball, you don’t expect to make it. You’d be ecstatic if it goes through, but I don’t think anyone expected it to be good.

Lots more, and a poll, after the jump.

With that in mind, it would be easy to criticize Carroll today. He have a time out, so there’s time to run a play, get a first down, and try a shorter kick. A first down means the longest kick possible would have been a 52 yarder. Hauschka is more likely to make a 52 yarder than a 61 yarder.

To me, the key to this side of the debate is the timeout. It allows the entire field to be used. Baldwin on a 9 yard crossing route, catch, get down, call the TO and get the kicking team on the field. It seems pretty simple. The offense was clicking, 9 yards in 1 play isn’t out of the question. Just be sure to keep a back in to help pass protect… Or that’s the idea anyways.

That would be the “safe” play. No one would question it, even if it failed. The idea of a 61 yard field yard field goal attempt wouldn’t even cross anyone’s mind. If some were to write an articles saying “well, I think he should have tried the field goal on 4th down.” We’d all simply disregard it as someone just trying to be confrontational.

I believe that, and I naturally think that’s the right choice. But then I thought “hey, lets give Carroll the benefit of the doubt. Lets look at the case for kicking the 61 Yard FG.” And it turns out there’s a pretty compelling case to be made for kicking the FG.

For starters, Hauschka regularly kicks 65-70 yard FGs in practice and in pre-game warm-ups. He has the leg. Carroll knows he has the leg. If he’s got the ability to hit it through at that range, the probability of him making the 61 yard FG wouldn’t be that much lower that hitting a 50-52 yard field goal. It would be lower, but not as much as you might think.

Speaking of probability, you have to take into account the probability of getting the first down and the probability of making the 50-ish yard field goal. Neither are givens. Both have probably close to a 50-50 chance of success, which mean that the probability of completing both plays (the pass for the first down and the 50 yard field goal) is around 25%

To me, thats not a high enough probability of success in my book to simply say that going for the first down was the right choice. It’s just not. I’d have to consider the other possibilities.

What’s the chances of Hauschka making a 61 yard FG? 40%? 33%? 25%? Honestly, I don’t know. What I do know is that my natural instinct was to assume it was likely in the 1 in 3 (33%) range. I’m not sure if that’s right, but when you compare that to the 25% chance of success for the other option, you can hopefully see why its my belief that Carroll’s choice to try the longer kick isn’t as completely crazy as everyone seems to think it is.

So lets put it to you. What do you think? What do you think was the right call at the end of the game?

Also, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to weigh in on the subject in the comments thread.