A model-based approach to football strategy.

November 5, 2007

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2007 Week 9 Strategy Review: New England at Indianapolis

When Wes Welker caught Tom Brady's pass to give the Patriots a first down with a little over two minutes remaining in the game between New England and Indianapolis, both teams believed that the outcome was decided. The Patriots led 24-20, and the Colts had no timeouts. The clock ran down to the two-minute warning, and the Patriots took a knee three times to end the game.

However, as we described in detail in a previous article and subsequent strategy reviews1, the Colts still have a slim chance following Welker's catch. There is 2:07 left when the official indicates that Welker went down inbounds and that the clock should continue running. The Colts must now commit a foul before the two-minute warning. Any foul will suffice. This stops the clock, and because the game is in the final five minutes, the clock doesn't re-start until the next snap. The Patriots cannot run out the clock by taking a knee, and cannot guarantee a win without another first down. If the Patriots fail to pick up another first down, then following a presumed New England field-goal attempt, the Colts get the ball back with around a half-minute remaining, trailing by at most a touchdown. (If New England's 2nd- or 3rd-down play terminates with an incomplete pass or a ballcarrier out of bounds, the Colts will have substantially more time left.)

The Colts have only a few seconds to act following the completion to Welker, but they had plenty of time to prepare for that contingency during the timeout that preceded the play.

1 See for example our 2004 Week 11 review and our 2004 Weeks 16 and 17 review.

Copyright © 2007 by William S. Krasker