Matt Nagy goes against analytics in Bears loss to Chargers

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When he opted to have quarterback Mitch Trubisky take a knee (and a one-yard loss) rather than try moving the football closer for a potential game-winning field goal, Matt Nagy may have been coaching defensively out of concern for what his offense could or couldn’t do in the closing seconds of Sunday’s 17-16 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

But he was also coaching in defiance of the numbers.

What Nagy chose to discount were the simple analytics that show the 40-yard line as something of a tipping point for kicking accuracy. Setting aside the fact that kicker Eddy Pineiro’s sole miss before Sunday had been from 44 yards, the fact is that the falloff in success rates for kickers is striking for the 40-49 ranges:

Range Successful
20-29 yards 98.1%
30-39 94.1%
40-49 76.2%
50+ 63.8%

Whether the aeronautics surrounding Pineiro’s kick were such that an additional few yards closer would’ve allowed the kick to slip inside the left upright can’t really be known. Soldier Field wind conditions are absolutely not as simple as just the way the wind appears to be blowing.

But the closer the kicker is to the goal posts, the better the chances for success. No question there, although Nagy effectively dismissed that fact in favor of minimizing risk.

And Pro Football Focus analyst Eric Eager, cited in Peter King’s “Football Morning in America” this morning, said, “An additional five yards leads to, on average, five percentage points in favor of making the kick and hence an additional five percentage points in favor of winning the football game outright.

“While there is always a chance of a turnover or a loss of yards, the chances the Chargers defense would either play conservatively so as not to give up a chunk play, or be willing to let the Bears score so that they could get the ball back with enough time to score themselves were probably higher. Given how close the field goal was to slipping through the left upright, every yard counted, and the Bears mistakenly decided to surrender them.”

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