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Do Mike McCoy’s 4th Downs Continue to Haunt the Chargers?

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A look into 4th down decisions, week 1 at Kansas City

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

In their 27-33 loss to the Chiefs, the Charger faced eight 4th-down opportunities. The first of which not coming until after Keenan Allen went down at the two minute warning of the first half. (I plan to explore the Allen effect in an upcoming post). The eight 4th down scenarios are as follows:

4th Downs Wk1

A lot of attention has been paid to the first punt, the "finish off the game" scenario. While as a fan I would want the team to go for it in that situation, I realize that not a lot of coaches go for it at that yard line/yards-to-go (and definitely don't expect McCoy to trying that, either).

What I want to draw attention to is 4th-down number 5. If you are familiar with my first BFTB post, about McCoy's 4th down aggressiveness, you'd know that a FG attempt from the 36 with 2 yards to go would be an uncommon decision (even among NFL coaches, who generally are conservative) -€” that going for a conversion is more common. After this missed FG the Chiefs went on to score 17 unanswered points, sending the game into over-time. A 54-yard FG is not exactly automatic, and the running game was much more efficient than it had been in 2015. Knowing that things would be more difficult through the air without your elite WR, the decision to gamble on a 54 yard FG (from a short-yard 4th down) is questionable at best.

Less than 5 minutes later, McCoy chose to fully commit to not-losing and punted on 4th & 3 from their own 44. Now you may say "according to that chart you linked to, coaches generally punt in that situation" -€” which is true. However, I would argue that given the circumstances (an improving KC offense within 10, missing your top receiver, only 7 minutes in the game) the risk outweighs the rewards. The fact that the first 2 punts had averaged 33 yards doesn't help the decision.

All it would take is a made (ie: shorter) FG in either of these scenarios to have likely won the game. A commitment to not-losing has once again resulted in...losing.