Reasoning behind FG decision hard to get a day later

Reasoning behind FG decision hard to get a day later
December 2, 2013, 4:15 pm
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Bears coach Marc Trestman offered a look at his personal side on Monday, acknowledging that he second-guesses himself “a lot,” the goal being to improve on a previous action.

He did not include in those second-guesses his decision to have Robbie Gould try a 47-yard field goal in overtime of the Bears’ 23-20 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

But his reasons behind the decision, which were in some cases different Monday than after the game, became more difficult to understand rather than easier.

“Because the ball was in the middle of the field was really the biggest reason,” Trestman said of the decision to kick on second down rather than attempt to get Gould any closer. “The next rush could’ve put it on the hashmark, and you want to kick it on third down. That could’ve happened.”

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But had a Matt Forte run or pass to any of the Bears’ elite-level receiver group left the ball in a less favorable position, the Bears still had third down to re-position the ball with a short run if necessary.

The decision became more confusing when Trestman, who made a crucial late decision in the Baltimore Ravens game based on probabilities arrived at through analytics, said that analytics played no part in this decision.

“I didn’t do it from an analytics standpoint,” Trestman said. “I did it from having been around Robbie the entire year and knowing how he kicks the ball and watching him kick in practice.”

Which is as it should be, and Gould was automatic from 53 yards in pregame warmups.

But Trestman noted in his explanation of timeout usage in the Baltimore game that it was based on factoring in five years worth of possessions.

Using the five-year template for Sunday, the decision both to kick from 47 on second down and also to ignore analytics-style information when it is available is puzzling.

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Gould from 2008-12 attempted 40 field goals from 30-39 yards. He was successful on 92.5 percent of them.

Over that same period, Gould attempted 47 field goals from 40-47 yards. He made just 32 of those, or 68.1 percent. Gould actually was 7-for-7 from 40-49 vs. 5-for-6 from 30-39 this season, but the success rate over time has been dramatically better everywhere other than 40-47.

Yet Trestman seemed to eschew the information route, preferring instead to go with observation and feeling.

“I had no doubt that he was gonna make the kick,” Trestman said. “You could say that about any kick. But there wasn’t analytics involved as much as there was, ‘we’re clearly in his range.’

“We’re in the middle of the field. We don’t know what’s going to happen on the next play but it has a chance of not being in the middle of the field. I thought that was well worth the risk.”

Trestman mentioned immediately after the game that adverse things can happen if another play or two is run, like penalties to take your kicker out of range. He cited exactly that happening to the Vikings when a facemask penalty nullified a game-winner and kicker Blair Walsh missed the next try from farther out.

That caused more than one raised eyebrow because of its implication that Trestman had even a slight thought about another team’s problems and how they might be repeated by his own.

“We were clearly in range,” Trestman repeated. “It was that kind of game. And for a number of different reasons — you saw the game was unique on a number of levels. And I just felt that that was a good time and place. Clearly within range, in the middle of the field. Good operations. And we didn’t get it done.”