After further review, Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy opted to make a more conventional choice.
For the second straight week, McCarthy’s team scored a touchdown while down 15 points in the second half, cutting the margin to nine. Last week, with 4:57 to play in the game, he went for two. This week, with 5:47 to go in the third quarter, he went for one.
Last week, McCarthy explained that he went for two so that he’d know then, and not later, whether he’d need another possession if the two-pointer failed.
The more time left in the game, the more sense it makes to not go for two when down by nine. With only 4:57 left in the game, it would seem to make much more sense to cut the lead to seven then and there. With 5:47 left in the third quarter, it made more sense to wait.
The challenge comes from identifying the ideal cutoff point between going for one or two when down nine. Arguably, there’s no ideal cutoff point, and no team ever should go for two when down by nine.
McCarthy’s decision from Sunday shows that, wherever the line resides as to going for two when down nine, 5:47 left in the third quarter is on the wrong side of it.
The reality remains that, when it comes to many of the analytics concepts based on probabilities arising from thousands of games and specific situations that have played out in the past, most coaches don’t have the benefit of allowing the situation to play out enough times to justify the trend. For most coaches, the consistent adherence to an unconventional approach may result in enough failures to get a guy fired long before the statistical payoff arrives.