Review: San Diego Chargers on 4th down against the New York Giants

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

Last week we looked at how head coach Mike McCoy has been doing on 4th down. This week we are evaluating his decision from last week's blowout win against the New York Giants.

The Chargers enjoyed a low-stress blowout win against the New York Giants on Sunday. It is still good practice to keep up good processes even in that situation, so let's look at how Mike McCoy did in his decision making on 4th downs throughout the game. For this, we are using the New York Times 4th Down Bot to evaluate these decisions. The bot uses the data and analysis from the folks at Advanced NFL Stats and their 4th down calculator to make its decisions.

There are a few instances where penalties negated a 4th down play, so I went and included the decision data directly from the 4th down calculator in those instances.

Chargers 0, Giants 0 - 10:56 left in 1st quarter - 4th and 2 at 50

NYT 4th Down Bot Says: Go for it

Mike McCoy's decision: Punt

This has been a fairly consistent decision from Mike McCoy this season to punt the ball. Both 4th down analytics say to go for it.  The 4th down calculator shows that going for it and making the first down is about as beneficial as failing to convert, but there is a 60% chance of converting, suggesting that it is better to go for it.

Chargers 7, Giants 0 - 11:10 left in 2nd quarter - 4th and 7 at NYG 23

4th Down Calculator Says: Kick the field goal

Mike McCoy's decision: Kick the field goal

There was a defensive offsides penalty on this play, so the NYT 4th down bot didn't evaluate this one. I opted to include the play here despite the penalty, as Mike McCoy still had to decide whether to go for it regardless. The distance is a bit long to go for it with any effectiveness, although the 4th down calculator says it wouldn't be far off the decision to kick the field goal.

Chargers 7, Giants 0 - 11:05 left in 2nd quarter - 4th and 2 at NYG 18

NYT 4th Down Bot Says: Go for it

Mike McCoy's decision: Kick the field goal

After the penalty moved the ball five yards forward to a very makeable 4th and 2, Mike McCoy decided to kick the field goal again anyway. These are the early-game decisions that can cost the team the game later on, such as against the Titans in Week 3.

Chargers 31, Giants 14 - 7:35 left in 4th quarter - 4th and goal at NYG 4

4th Down Calculator Says: Go for it

Mike McCoy's decision: Kick the field goal

Once again there was a penalty on the field goal attempt, this time a false start by the Chargers. Again, I included the play due to the fact that McCoy had to make the decision here. Even on 4th and goal from the 4, the team should have gone for it if they thought they had a 35% or better chance of making it. The benefits are obvious: if the team makes it, they are up another touchdown. If they fail, the other team will have to drive 96 yards in order to get one of the three scores to mount a comeback.  If the team kicks a field goal, they are still only up three scores (albeit 3 touchdowns rather than 2 touchdowns and a field goal), and the other team will presumably have better field position after the kickoff.

The 4th down calculator says that kicking the field goal isn't a terrible decision, but just not the optimal one.

There is one reason why I personally agree with the decision to kick the field goal. This game is over already. It is extremely unlikely the Giants will mount anything resembling a comeback. A 4th and Goal in a close game is when you break out the plays you've been saving for when you need to give something the defense hadn't seen before. You don't want to waste that on a play that ultimately won't matter.

Chargers 31, Giants 14 - 7:35 left in 4th quarter - 4th and goal at NYG 9

NYT 4th Down Bot Says: Kick the field goal

Mike McCoy's decision: Kick the field goal

After a 5 yard penalty, the ball is moved back enough that making the touchdown isn't very likely, and the correct decision is to kick it.

Chargers 34, Giants 14 - 3:27 left in 4th quarter - 4th and 2 at NYG 24

NYT 4th Down Bot Says: Kick the field goal

Mike McCoy's decision: Kick the field goal

With the Chargers up 20 points and less than 4 minutes left, it really didn't matter what the Chargers did in this situation. Mike McCoy opted to kick the field goal, and I like it for the reasons listed before.

Final Take

Out of the 6 times Mike McCoy had to make a decision to go for it or kick/punt on 4th down, he made the optimal choice 3 times. This is about in line with the averages earlier in the season. He will need to bring his A game to Denver on Thursday, because the Chargers will likely need every advantage in order to beat the Broncos.

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