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Marvin Lewis defends his decision to punt in overtime

Marvin Lewis AP

In overtime on Thursday night, the Bengals faced a fourth down at the Dolphins’ 39-yard line, and coach Marvin Lewis had a decision: Send out kicker Mike Nugent to try to win the game with a 57-yard field goal, or punt? Lewis opted to punt.

The Bengals, of course, went on to lose the game on their next offensive possession when Andy Dalton was sacked in the end zone for a safety, and that led to Lewis being questioned about why he didn’t trust Nugent to try to win the game for him. Lewis, however, believes he made the right call, even in hindsight.

I don’t see many 58-yard field goals going through the uprights very often,” Lewis said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Lewis (who overstated by a yard the distance of the potentially game-winning field goal he eschewed) acknowledged that Nugent had just made a 54-yard field goal with room to spare, going in the same direction, late in the fourth quarter. But Lewis says there was a stronger wind at Nugent’s back at the time he made that field goal than there was in overtime.

“Earlier in the game the wind was a little stronger, later in the game the wind was different. You could tell by the depths of the kickoffs and so forth as the game went on,” Lewis said.

That explanation is odd, considering that Nugent kicked off twice after that 54-yard field goal, both in the same direction, with one of the kicks going five yards into the end zone and the other going eight yards into the end zone.

Still, Lewis may have had a point when he told reporters that they were only second-guessing him because his team lost.

“I don’t think you guys ask that question when we win the game, do you?” Lewis said.

For his part, Nugent said he understood why Lewis decided not to give him the chance to win the game.

“It’s tough for me because I look at it as me being the kicker, but if you look at it as a coach’s point of vie,w you have to be objective,” Nugent said. “As much as I wanted to be out there at the end of the day it’s probably the right decision because that’s a tough call for coach. That’s what makes being a head coach one of the hard parts right there.”

Getting second guessed on decisions like that comes with the territory for a head coach. In this case, it’s hard not to think that the second-guessers have a pretty good point.

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45 Responses to “Marvin Lewis defends his decision to punt in overtime”
  1. dprouse says: Nov 2, 2013 3:15 PM

    Marvin Lewis is a great coach on every day except game day. On game day, he has to be one of the worst tacticians ever. Poor use of timeouts, bad challenges, wimpy punting decisions – Marv has it all. The Bengals should really arrange to have him kidnapped every game day, and released just when the final whistle sounds…

  2. don2074978 says: Nov 2, 2013 3:20 PM

    I’d have punted too. FG over 45 require a lower trajectory making them more likely to be blocked. And at 58 yards everyone is coming since it’s sudden death.

  3. thestrategyexpert says: Nov 2, 2013 3:24 PM

    Yeah because every time he needs a 58 yarder he doesn’t try. But when Nugent kicks 54 yarders he routinely nails them with PLENTY of distance.

    It doesn’t have to be a guarantee Marvin, even if it was only 50% that’s more than enough because it’s a coin flip PLUS the odds that Miami can’t convert for whatever that extra percentage is worth.

    So if you can calculate what Miami’s odds were to score from a missed FG, then you can subtract that from 50% to know how likely Nugent is to make it before you know if you should try. The math seems clearly in favor to let him try to me.

  4. detectivejimmymcnulty says: Nov 2, 2013 3:26 PM

    Seriously? The second guessers have no point. It’s a 57 yarder..that’s a hell of a kick. Not to mention they lost the game on offense and not on defense after punting.

  5. bishopbengals says: Nov 2, 2013 3:27 PM

    This is ridiculous. If they had missed that field goal, the Dolphins would have a very short field and they would only need a field goal to win. His decision not to kick it was a good one, end of story.

    After all, they did force the Dolphins to punt on the ensuing possession.

  6. nmking26 says: Nov 2, 2013 3:29 PM

    Why would anyone be mad at him not choosing to kick a 57 yard field goal? That would just be stupid. Miss and the Dolphins get the ball at the 47 yard line. Why risk that when a 57 yarder is almost a sure miss?

    If anything, the controversy should be whether he should have gone for it on 4th down not whether he should have kicked.

  7. bsizemore68 says: Nov 2, 2013 3:30 PM

    He made the right call, because if they missed the FG, Miami would only need about 35 yards to take a try at it. I’m glad he made the right call, yes, I’m a Dolphins fan and we all know they need all the help they can get. Bill

  8. sowcrates says: Nov 2, 2013 3:32 PM

    Factors that made the decision for Lewis:
    -Added distance to the field goal
    -sudden death OT
    -Miami 3/14 on 3rd down for the evening
    -Chance to put Miami inside their own 20 yard line, giving you 40+ yards of cushion before they could kick a field goal
    -The Bengals hadn’t had a drive of less than 4 plays since Dalton’s 2nd quarter interception.

    Let’s not forget that Terrance Newman making a mistake and forced into a pass interference against Mike Wallace was the only first down the Dolphins managed in OT…and was the principle reason that Cincinnati was backed up to begin with

  9. realitypolice says: Nov 2, 2013 3:32 PM

    On average, NFL kickers make about 60% of field goals of 50+ yards. Nugent is 3 for 4.

    The risk is the Dolphins get the ball at around the 46. The reward is victory. The risk is NOT necessarily defeat.

    So, the percentages and the risk/reward say kick the field goal.

    Coaching scared = mediocrity. Is there anyone in the world who thinks Bellichick punts in that spot?

  10. 1972wasalongtimeago says: Nov 2, 2013 3:38 PM

    The Football Gods frown on wimpy coaches

  11. FinFan68 says: Nov 2, 2013 3:39 PM

    That was the right call. The odds were not good and you don’t want to hand the ball to your opponent on the 47 yard line in sudden death. The odds say if he kicked and missed, the safety would not have happened because the game would have likely been over. There are many calls to second guess. That is not one of them

  12. Deb says: Nov 2, 2013 3:43 PM

    It wasn’t a boneheaded decision. As don2074978, posted, you have to consider the trajectory of a 57-yard kick, the risk of it being blocked, and the fact that you’re looking at sudden death if it’s run back. Come on … do any of Marv’s critics honestly believe Nugent would have made that FG if he’d tried? Sure … Marv could have taken the chance, but it would have been a longshot. And if the kick had been blocked, he’d be fielding the same questions today about why he didn’t punt.

  13. dcapettini says: Nov 2, 2013 4:02 PM

    What I don’t understand is why everyone seems to concede that Marvin Lewis is a great coach. Granted, the only person that matters on this subject is the owner, but he has been around for a long time and has really achieved very little. They have and have had some great players, but in the end, it ends the same way as the Texans, except that Kubiak’s only 2 playoff wins came at the expense of Marvin Lewis.

    Every years the Texans and the bengals are projected high, but when push comes to shove, they just can’t do it. In any other NFL cities they both would have been gone a long time ago.

  14. PeterKingLovesCoqAVin says: Nov 2, 2013 4:04 PM

    Philbin made the same call on the next series and ended up winning.

  15. thestrategyexpert says: Nov 2, 2013 4:06 PM

    Ok so it’s clear now.

    50% of the people think it was clearly the wrong decision and 50% think it was clearly the right decision.

    That’s why you need to get the right Coach who knows how to represent the best interests of the team in a calculated and high level responsible way. Because football greatness isn’t achieved by running a poll and letting the masses vote on what to do. The best strategy is to find the best strategy person and let that person make the call.

    My post above is actually very limited in detailing the math completely as there are a lot of components to drawing it out, but if you really want to see the argument I would be happy to come onto TV and show you the full breakdown of all considerations so that you can see how it all adds up to proving that it’s clearly in favor to attempt the kick. You could spend hours on building the foundation for how to arrive at the calculations and probabilities that should be used if you truly wanted to get an exact calculation down to the tenth of a percentage point.

    And then once you have that model you can then choose to insert whatever odds you think for each variable to see how it computes, and you would have to have a very extreme difference of opinion on what each of those probabilities were in order to tilt the overall scales in favor of punting there.

  16. luckfan1 says: Nov 2, 2013 4:07 PM

    He shouldn’t have had a 58 yarder to even kick had they ran the ball or a short pass on 3rd down, instead of that ridiculous 30 yard pass on 3rd and 4 when all you need is a FG to win. Marvin Lewis should be fired for his terrible decisions year after year. No idea how this guys has kept his job so long.

  17. icanthelpitimabengalsfan says: Nov 2, 2013 4:11 PM

    Marvin made the right decision to punt.

    However, the prior play call on 3rd down should be the controversial subject…

    They threw a deep pass down the sideline…yes single coverage, but still not a high percentage play. I believe it was 3rd and 6 or so. Why not run it or throw a safe pass to perhaps pick it up and continue the drive but also likely make the 57 yarder turn into a 54 yarder which Marvin should have been comfortable attempting?

    Tough call even with it being 54 yards or so in that situation. I would have put Nugent in…he’s tough on those long FG’s and hardly ever has them blocked. This team was reeling with the short rest and Atkins injury….they needed to end the game.

  18. larryfinfan says: Nov 2, 2013 4:13 PM

    Yeah, well if he makes the decision to kick the FG and Nugent misses it, he gets lambasted as well…Given that he still had time (as opposed to late in the 4th qtr when he had Nugent kick the 54 yarder), he made the right decision. How often does a safety end an OT game ?? Three times ever ?? Good decision, it just didn’t work out for them…

  19. dgossett22 says: Nov 2, 2013 4:40 PM

    It would have been dumb to kick. He had faith in the defense to get the ball back which they did. On the 3rd down pass Dalton had AJ in man coverage for a short route and chose to throw deep. I’m just guessing but Marvin doesn’t call the offensive plays or choose which receiver to throw to.

  20. footballchic777 says: Nov 2, 2013 4:42 PM

    As a Bengal fan, I wanted the field goal attempt. His last kick could easily have made 60 yards, and our D was dropping like flies! In my opinion, he made the wrong choice.

  21. 69finfan says: Nov 2, 2013 4:51 PM

    What’s clear is that somebody has possibly taken one too many hits to the medula oblongata.

  22. truthfactory says: Nov 2, 2013 4:52 PM

    He needs to defend his decision to start Green-Ellis over Bernard. One averages 3 ypc and the other avgs 5. Why does he give the bulk of the carries to the plodding old RB and keeps it out of the young playmakers hands? Todd Haley did the same thing with Thomas Jones and Jamall Charles. Play the best players. Period.

  23. ravensfan8780 says: Nov 2, 2013 4:56 PM

    What I don’t understand is why everyone seems to concede that Marvin Lewis is a great coach. Granted, the only person that matters on this subject is the owner, but he has been around for a long time and has really achieved very little. They have and have had some great players, but in the end, it ends the same way as the Texans, except that Kubiak’s only 2 playoff wins came at the expense of Marvin Lewis.

    Every years the Texans and the bengals are projected high, but when push comes to shove, they just can’t do it. In any other NFL cities they both would have been gone a long time ago.

    ———————————-

    You do realize he’s the coach that turned them around, the Bengals probably be near the playoffs without Lewis, last year was the first time they made the playoffs in back to back years in 20 years and he looks like he has them on the verge again.

  24. outlawshark says: Nov 2, 2013 5:04 PM

    Lewis lost the game at the end of the 4th quarter when he decided to chuck it long instead of running the ball to force Miami to take their last time out. That time out saved Miami’s bacon on their last drive to tie the game. Easy decision and he simply couldn’t make it for some reason.

  25. misterdreamer119 says: Nov 2, 2013 5:20 PM

    Andy Dalton lost that game.

  26. bengalsfan20 says: Nov 2, 2013 5:21 PM

    It was absolutely the right call. If he would have missed it everyone would be ripping him. The 2nd guessing can go on and on.

  27. cmr73 says: Nov 2, 2013 5:55 PM

    It’s the wrong question. The right question is why on 3rd and 6 in regulation prior to the 54 yd field goal did the bengals opt to punt when Miami had only one time out left? If they run the ball they may pick up a few yards to make the field goal easier and they force Miami to burn their final time-out. Miami doesn’t kick the game tying FG without that timeout. The next right question is when they are on the 40 and they are staring at a 57 yd FG and it’s only 2 and 7 …. Why pass on 2 straight plays? Run the damn ball!!! Get 5 yards and kick a 52 yd FG. Punting wa the right decision … After they made multiple bad ones.

  28. vincentbojackson says: Nov 2, 2013 6:24 PM

    Why even question the brilliance of Marvin Lewis’?

    10 years as Bengals’ head coach
    2nd longest tenure in the NFL
    0 playoff wins

  29. icanthelpitimabengalsfan says: Nov 2, 2013 6:37 PM

    truthfactory says:
    Nov 2, 2013 4:52 PM
    He needs to defend his decision to start Green-Ellis over Bernard. One averages 3 ypc and the other avgs 5. Why does he give the bulk of the carries to the plodding old RB and keeps it out of the young playmakers hands? Todd Haley did the same thing with Thomas Jones and Jamall Charles. Play the best players. Period.

    HERE HERE….couldn’t have said it better myself!

  30. realitypolice says: Nov 2, 2013 7:22 PM

    bengalsfan20 says:
    Nov 2, 2013 5:21 PM
    It was absolutely the right call. If he would have missed it everyone would be ripping him. The 2nd guessing can go on and on.

    And this is exactly why coaches make gutless decisions that go directly against statistics and probability all the time.

    Forget that the league average for field goals over 50 yards is 60%. Forget that your own kickers’ percentage this year for kicks over 50 yards is 75%.

    Make the safe call and punt so you don’t have to worry about anyone “ripping on” you.

    And I love the people justifying it by saying Philbin did the same thing. It’s awesome that you aspire for your coach to be as great as the immortal Joe Philbin.

  31. crownofthehelmet says: Nov 2, 2013 7:33 PM

    I’d like to hear him try to defend his decision to draft Dalton.

  32. natijim235 says: Nov 2, 2013 7:35 PM

    marvin lewis better weatherman then head coach

  33. EJ says: Nov 2, 2013 7:48 PM

    9 of 10 coaches would have done the same thing in that exact situation. The only team in football that I could see kicking in that situation is the Raiders with Janikowski. Other than that, what he did was the right thing. Odds are much greater that the Bengals stop Miami’s sputtering offense over the full field rather than a short field, which they did. The game ended with the Bengals having the ball, nobody pictured Miami winning with a safety.

  34. realfootballfan says: Nov 2, 2013 7:49 PM

    It was the right call. If his QB wasn’t so mediocre, you’re not having this conversation because the defense got the ball back so the conversation is irrelevant as far as the filed goal goes. Believe me, if he tried a 58 yarder and missed, giving the Dolphins the ball at their own 40, you wouldn’t have heard the end of it. As it was, the Bengals had to hold Wallace on a bomb just to survive that series. If they are on the 40 and throw that play, they’re already in field goal range. That loss is on one person, Andy Dalton.

  35. realitypolice says: Nov 2, 2013 7:57 PM

    I love how most peoples’ defense of this decision is based upon how much flak he would have gotten if he had tried the field goal and failed.

    If I was an owner and I found out my coach was making decisions based on trite nonsense like this, I would fire him immediately.

  36. bigbenownsthenfl says: Nov 2, 2013 8:01 PM

    bad coach, choking team, and fair weather fans! welcome to the bungle!!!

  37. shaundolphinsfan23 says: Nov 2, 2013 8:57 PM

    It’s amazing how if the Bengals had won this game, everyone would be like “Oh my god… The Bengals are Superbowl bound!!!”, but they lost, and because of that people are more like “What did the Bengals do wrong?” The game wasn’t about what the Bengals did wrong, but what the Dolphins did right. Andy Dalton threw three interceptions, and two of those were not bad throws. The Dolphins took the ball away. It was sheer grit that gave the Dolphins the win. Let’s give the Dolphins some positive attention for a change…

  38. bigbenownsthenfl says: Nov 2, 2013 10:30 PM

    dolphins are a bad organization. team and constant losers! only thing ever good on Miami was dan marino. that’s it!!

  39. bigbenownsthenfl says: Nov 2, 2013 10:30 PM

    and I liked ray finkle too. he embodied what the dolphins are all about!!!

  40. hawkstradamus says: Nov 3, 2013 12:12 AM

    I don’t see why Marvin Lewis didn’t go for it. In the twenty years he has coached the bengals he has not been able to get fired, so why not take a chance.

  41. pistolpete0903 says: Nov 3, 2013 1:27 AM

    As someone wrote before, Marvin a good player’s coach. However, the other aspect of coaching involves x and O’s (which he is OK at) and play calling, game awareness (which he ain’t so OK at).

  42. coachbeck says: Nov 3, 2013 4:06 AM

    Lol yeah teams with dominate defenses kick 58 yard field goals in OT. Get real …. This isn’t Madden. Miami offense was terrible in the 2nd half.

  43. joetoronto says: Nov 3, 2013 4:23 AM

    It’s ironic that this play is picked to question Marvin Lewis’ decision making, when he made the right call this time, but made so many bad calls other times.

    The real blame goes to the noodle armed ginger, he was like a turnover machine.

  44. greeneblitz says: Nov 3, 2013 4:44 AM

    Someday, possibly, NFL coaches will learn that punting is the best way to lose games.

  45. wtgriffin says: Nov 3, 2013 7:59 PM

    I guess the Steeler and Ravens talk above was a bit premature. The Bengals biggest competition in AFCN this year is the Browns.

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