After Further Review: Shanahan's Other Decision

After Further Review: Shanahan's Other Decision
November 1, 2010, 9:54 pm
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Monday, November 1, 2010 6:00 PM

By Rich Tandler
Redskins Blogger

What a terrible decision. Mike Shanahan is an experienced, veteran coach. How could he possibly do that? No, Im not talking about the Rex for Donovan thing. (More on that tomorrow.) Im talking about his decision a few minutes earlier, his decision regarding what turned out to be McNabbs last play. With 2:15 remaining, the Redskins trailed the Lions 28-25. They had two timeouts left and it was fourth and 10 at the Washington 28. Shanahan decided to leave his offense on the field and try to convert the fourth down. He did this rather than punting the ball and trusting that his defense could hold the Lions without a first down. With the two timeouts and the two-minute warning to go, the Lions could have been punting the ball back to the Redskins with just under two minutes left. Instead, McNabb was sacked and the Lions kicked a field goal. That triggered the decision to insert Grossman in the lineup, creating the firestorm of controversy were experiencing this week. Lets say that Hunter Smith gets off a punt that nets about 40 yards. That puts the Lions with a first down at their own 30. According to the website Advanced NFL Stats, before that fourth down play, the Redskins had 10 percent chance of winning the game. If the Lions have the ball at their own 30 with 2:10 left, the Redskins have a 9.9 percent chance of winning. So, if you look at that those odds, Shanahans decision very slightly increased the chances of the Redskins winning. But lets say the Redskins do hold the Lions three and out and use their timeouts and get the ball back on their own 30 with 1:50 to go. At that point, the Redskins have a 20 percent chance of winning. But lets go back to the win probability before the fourth down play. Those numbers are based on averages from all NFL games over past seasons. What they dont take into account is the fact that the Redskins had almost zero chance of converting that fourth down. In the past three games, the Redskins have faced 17 third down situations needing 10 or more yards for the first down. They have converted on two of them or 11.7 percent. Add in the fact that the offensive line was not having much success slowing down the Lions pass rush and you have a minuscule chance for success on the fourth down play. Not only that, but if the Lions do get a first down, Shanahan avoids the whole quarterback controversy because the Redskins dont get the ball back. Any scrutiny that the decision may have come under was washed aside by the quarterback switch. But neither quarterback was likely to bring the team down the field to score a touchdown. The uncalled Orakpo hold of the week Maybe someday the referees will start throwing flags on these plays, maybe they wont. Here is the situation: Lions have the ball with four and a half minutes to go. Its second and 10 at the Washington 37. Stafford is back to pass and if you look at the picture, you can see the left guard Rob Sims arm as he is grabbing Orakpos shoulder pad. Orkapo breaks through, as you can see in the second picture, but the hold gave Stafford just enough time sidestep and get the ball off to running back Kevin Smith for 13 yards and a first down. Four plays later, the Lions scored the touchdown to put them in the lead to stay. If the hold gets called, its second and 20. If Orakpo makes the sack its third and about 19. Certainly not impossible situations with Calvin Johnson on the field, but much more difficult than what the Lions ended up with. And, just to empty the box of officiating complaints, Trent Williams did not hold on the first down play on the next series, when the Redskins were down by three. And on third and 10 right before the fourth-down play discussed above, Anthony Armstrong either interfered with on McNabbs long pass to him or, at the very least, an illegal contact flag should have been thrown.You can reach Rich Tandler by email at and follow him on Twitter @RealRedskins.