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What the numbers say about Nathaniel Hackett's decision to attempt a 64-yard kick and let Russ do the cooking

In March, the Denver Broncos traded two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and three others for Russell Wilson. They then reaffirmed their commitment to Wilson earlier this month, extending his $245 million contract for five years.

These are massive investments you make in a quarterback that just keep the ball out of your hands during the game.

Rather than allow Wilson to try to convert 4-and-5 in Seattle on Monday night, Denver’s new head coach Nathaniel Hackett gave strong-footed kicker Brandon McManus a 64-yard field goal to bring the game into play. called to win. McManus’ kick went wide left and the Broncos suffered his 17–16 loss in the season opener, undermining Wilson’s attempts to brag about rights against his former team and leaving Hackett a late-game curiosity. He faced a storm of criticism for his hearty decision.

In 2021, the NFL offense will have 47 attacks in the 4th and 5th, converting 23 of them to first downs. This is his nearly 50% success rate. By contrast, only two NFL kickers have scored a field goal of 64 or more yards in a single game: Matt Plater in Denver’s twilight in 2013 and Justin Tucker in Detroit’s Dome Stadium last October. rice field.

There are several reasons why NFL analysts have had difficulty quantifying exactly how much Hackett’s decision to attempt a field goal affected Denver’s chances of winning. Not only do win-probability models struggle to provide accurate predictions for his final minute of the game, estimating the odds of taking a kick of 60 yards or more just adds to the guesswork. continue.

Aaron Schatz, pioneer of advanced NFL statistics and creator of Football Outsiders, described Hackett’s choice to kick the field goal as “a staggering decision”. With 20 seconds remaining, it suggests a 36.1% chance of winning if the Broncos make a field goal attempt compared to 7.4% if fourth and fifth.

“If the field goal was from 58 or 59 yards, our model would be like a coin toss decision,” Schatz told Yahoo Sports. “But six to seven yards is a big difference. They make him really difficult after 60. There’s a reason he’s only had two field goals over 64 yards so far. I have.”

Economist and football data scientist Ben Baldwin is a little more optimistic about Hackett’s situational decision-making. He speculates that McManus has a 20% chance of scoring his goal on his 64-yard field, so in his model Denver’s winning percentage with 20 seconds remaining is 34%. , with an 18% chance of winning when attempting a kick.

Michael Lopez, the NFL’s senior director of football data and analytics, believes Hackett’s decision to attempt the field goal is the most justified. Mostly because Lopez gave McManus the best chance to make his 64-yarder.

NFL kickers have 2-of-41 successes from 64+ yards, but many of those attempts are a thing of a bygone era. Today’s kickers are more powerful and accurate. Not only are they better athletes, but they often specialize in kicks since middle school and benefit from increased access to kick coaches, private his lessons, and educational camps.

Denver Broncos placekicker Brandon McManus (8) attempts a field goal and Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Al Woods (99) attempts a block in the second half. The kick goes wide and the Seahawks win 17-16 . (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

There have been 20 field goals from 61 yards or more in NFL history. 16 people have come in the last 10 years. 10 times since 2017.

McManus has scored only one field goal from more than 60 yards in eight NFL seasons, but the fact that he attempted a kick at 70-yard range says a lot to Lopez.

“His coaches obviously trust him to kick,” Lopez told Yahoo Sports. “It gives us more information about what he’s really doing and how far they think he can kick.”

During Monday night’s postgame press conference, Hackett told reporters that the Broncos were in a “weird place” on the edge of McManus’ range when they advanced to Seattle’s 46-yard line. He said the attacks were intensifying and he was confident in McManus.

“We just made the decision that we want to shoot there,” Hackett said.

McManus Tweeted Monday night that the 46-yard line is his “line to reach”.

“They got it,” he wrote. “I need to kick.”

While there is widespread opinion about Hackett’s decision to attempt a 64-yard field goal, there is little debate about his disastrous watch management that preceded the play. After setting up the fateful 4 and 5 from , Hackett called the first of Denver’s three timeouts with 20 seconds remaining after allowing over 40 seconds.

Hackett’s decision would have left Seattle minimal time to respond had McManus scored a go-ahead field goal, but Denver also had no outs. With all three timeouts remaining and the game clock just over his one minute, the Broncos could have quickly run his play down four. If that worked, McManus had time to set up a chip shot field goal. Even if that failed, the defense would stop quickly and give Wilson another chance to give him one more possession.

“An epic failure of situational coaching and game management” Tweet by Warren Sharp of SharpFootballAnalysis.com.

Hackett’s late-game decision was embarrassing, but it’s no exaggeration to say that it wasn’t the only reason the Broncos suffered an upset loss. Denver could have taken a two-point lead in the final minute had they converted their last red zone chance.

One of the more promising second-half drives ended 4–1 with Melvin Gordon fumbling at the goal line. The other ended with Williams coughing up the football inside the 5.3rd only yielding a field goal, despite the Broncos having their first goal out of the Seattle 3 at one point. rice field.

Despite these failures, the Broncos had the ball in Wilson’s hands late in the fourth quarter and had a chance to win.

During his illustrious NFL career, Wilson engineered 32 winning drives and 24 4th quarter comebacks. When he returned to Seattle Monday night, his new coach chose to let the ball go out of his hands rather than try to add him to those tallies.

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