The annotated Winning Percentage Graph for Ravens Divisional Round playoff win against the Houston Texans is shown above. The graph is taken from NFL Advanced Stats, while the annotations are ours. The graph shows each team’s chance of winning the game given historical data calculated from previous NFL games. For more details on Winning Percentage graphs please see our Reader’s Guide.
The biggest play in terms of Winning Percentage for the game came after the Ravens went 3 and out on their opening drive and punted to Jacoby Jones. Jones attempted to field the bouncing punt at his 13-yard line. As shown in the picture below provided by the Associated Press, Cary Williams launched into Jones, Jones lost the ball and it was recovered by Ravens first round pick Jimmy Smith at the Texans’ 2. Ravens and Texans fans alike appear to be baffled by Jones’ decision. Here, we’ll explore that decision and try to determine if it was reasonable, or not.
Clearly Jones’ considered the decision to field the punt to be a calculated risk: he could field the punt so that the Texans could start their drive at the 13 yard-line or let it bounce and potentially start at the 3 yard-line. So, did Jones’ make a rational decision? Is the risk of bobbling the catch worth the reward of starting at the 13 yard line? We answer this question and look into another bizarre decision by the Texans after the jump.
Several different expectations, in terms of points, for the Houston Texans drive following Jones’ punt return are shown in the table below. Each of these statistics assume that the team fielding the punt is up 3 – 0 with 11:30 remaining in the first quarter. These statistics are provided by NFL Advanced Stats.
|Drive Starting Position||Own 3||Own 13|
|Win Probability||Texans win 60% of time||Texans win 60% of time|
|Expected Points||-0.47 points expected for Texans||-0.04 points expected for Texans|
|First Down Probability||Texans get a 1st down 67% of time||Texans get a 1st down 67% of time|
|Probability of TD||Texans drive ends in TD 11% of time||Texans drive ends in TD 14% of time|
|Probability of FG||Texans drive ends in FG 5% of time||Texans drive ends in FG 8% of time|
The only thing that one can say in Jones’ defense is that he was attempting to ensure that Texans upcoming drive would not end in negative points. If he had successfully fielded the punt he would have essentially erased this possibility since drives starting at 13 end on -0.04 points on average and drives starting at the 3 end in -0.47 points on average. However, winning percentage is the most important statistic here and it clearly shows that Jones’ made an awful decision. As the table shows there was no difference in the Texans overall chances of winning the game if Jones had not fielded the punt. However, by deciding to field it and bobbling the ball, Jones took the Texans from a 60% chance of winning the game to a 41% chance. Everyone in Baltimore should send Jacoby Jones a thank-you card. His inability to operate as a rational football player was one of the biggest factors in the Ravens’ chances of winning the game (19 percentage points added to the Ravens probability of winning the game added)!
The Ravens were also significantly aided by the Texans’ decision to attempt a 50-yard field goal on 4th and 6 with 5:59 to play in the 3rd quarter. Field goal kicks are affected by the same factors as anything else flying through the air: wind, temperature and altitude. Here, we’ll specifically consider temperature. At kickoff it was a balmy 31 degrees at M & T Bank. The chances of making a 50-yd field goal plummets once the temperature reaches the low 30s. Essentially, 50-yd field goal attempts in 30-degree weather become 57-yd attempts at room temperature. Ultimately, the decision took the Texans from a 37% chance of winning to a 28% chance, as it gave the Ravens great field position and the opportunity to make the game a two-score game. It is also worth noting the Cundiff’s field goals and kickoffs should be viewed as significantly more impressive given the air temperature at game time. Welcome back, Billy!
The Ravens success wasn’t entirely due to the Texans gaffes. Ladarius Webb’s two INTs also greatly affected the Ravens odds of winning the game. Webb’s first and forth quarter INTs bookended a great game by Baltimore’s corner that saw him add 23 percentage points throughout the game to the Ravens chances of winning. He was only eclipsed by the immortal Ed Reed, whose defense on deep pass plays and game-ending INT added 30 percentage points to the Ravens chances of winning. Note: The above picture of Ed Reed is provided by the Associated Press.
However, the Ravens, especially on offense, did not play particularly well in this game. In particular, Owen Daniels and Kevin Walter ran open several times underneath the Ravens secondary but TJ Yates was incapable of getting them ball. Obviously, the Ravens won’t have the luxury of relying on poor coaching decisions and QB play in the AFC Championship game against the Patriots. Later this week, we’ll brainstorm a number of different strategies to enable the Ravens to slow down the Patriots offense, while putting up some offense of their own.