Critical Section

the ten yard line

Tuesday,  09/23/08  07:38 PM

Okay, I'm going way far from my usual subject matter here, but I want to discuss something of importance.  Everyone thinks the most important line in football is the goal line.  They are wrong.  The most important line in football is the ten-yard line.  Stay with me, like I said, this is important.

Last night I watched Sunday's Green Bay vs Dallas game.  Did you watch it?  Good game, matching two good teams.  So Dallas won, and there was a key play in the middle of third quarter which pretty much decided the game.  At the time nobody paid any attention, but shortly thereafter John Madden was talking about how you make cottage cheese, because the game was over.  (I am not making this up.)  Here's a recap of the game, see if you can spot the crucial play.  I'll wait.

Donald Driver makes an acrobatic move against DallasDid you spot it?  So here's the description from the recap:

With Green Bay trailing 13-6, Rodgers connected with Donald Driver on a 50-yard pass early in the third quarter -- but the Packers settled for a field goal.

That's it!  What really happened is that Driver got free, made a nice catch on a good throw, and ran down to about the thirteen yard line.  At that point he encountered a Dallas safety, leaped into the air, and made an acrobatic move to gain five more yards.  Leaving Green Bay first and goal at the eight.  The announcers praised Driver for his extra effort, and later when Green Bay had to settle for a field goal, they didn't refer back to this play at all.  (That's Driver celebrating at right; little did he know, he screwed up...)

Now consider, what if Driver knew the truth, that the ten yard line is the most important line in football?  Suppose he had just run out of bounds at the thirteen?  Now Green Bay has first and ten on the thirteen.  A whole different situation from first and goal at the eight.  Now they can make a first down inside the five.  If they don't, okay, they kick a field goal.  But their chances of advancing the ball from the thirteen to the three are a heck of a lot better than their chances of scoring from the eight.  And once they're inside the three, they're chances of scoring are pretty high.  In fact, they can take a shot at the endzone from the thirteen, too, it is easier to score with twenty-three yards of field to work with than eighteen.  See, this is the thing; when a team gets the ball between the fifteen and the ten, they score more often than when they get the ball between the ten and the five.  You can look it up.  I'll wait.

Consider what would have happened if Driver runs out of bounds on the thirteen, and Green Bay subsequently scores, either with or without getting a first down inside the three.  Now the game is tied, and Green Bay has momentum.  It isn't clear they would have won, but they would have had a much better chance of winning.

This is why the ten yard line is so important.  When a receiver or running back has the ball, and they are approaching the ten, they have to make a decision.  If they can score, great, do it.  But if they can't score, they should just run out of bounds on the thirteen, lie down on the field, whatever.  Seriously.  It goes against testosterone, but it is the right thing to do, statistically.

Thanks for reading.  I told you it was important!


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