Would the Bengals have been better off if the extra point had been ruled no good?

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens
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When Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow scored a game-tying touchdown with 1:58 to play and kicker Evan McPherson barely made the extra point to go ahead by one, here’s a question that some may have asked themselves.

Would the Bengals have been better off if they’d missed the extra point?

Although the Ravens got down the field fairly easily and positioned themselves for a walk-off game winner by future Hall of Famer Justin Tucker, they had a score-or-else, win-or-lose mindset, thanks to the fact that they trailed by a point. Their mindset would have been very different if the game had been tied.

If the game had been tied, failure to score would have resulted in overtime, not a loss. The entire field wouldn’t have been four-down territory. While it never got to fourth down for the Ravens during the eventual game-winning drive, that’s the mindset that would have pervaded the entire effort.

It’s one of the most common counterpoints to overtime rules that guarantee possession after a score. The team that has the ball first is in three-down mindset. The team trailing in the game has a four-down attitude.

A decade ago, many of the analytics-driven realities of today’s NFL would have seemed like utter madness. (To some, they still do; people paid to announce pro and college games routinely respond to a team that goes for two when scoring a touchdown while behind by 14 points like Estelle Costanza reacting to her first taste of Merlot.) Would it be crazy for a team to deliberately take a knee after scoring a touchdown to tie a game late in order to remove the incentive of the other team to cut it loose in an effort to secure the win?

Currently, the possibility would be regarded as nutty. As batshit crazy as it seemed in the mid-1990s when Cowboys coach Barry Switzer went for it on fourth and one from his 29 late in a tie game at Philadelphia. (Said Eagles coach Ray Rhodes at the time, “I don’t think my gonads are that big.”) But it’s fair to ask whether there’s a sweet spot between, say, two minutes to play and two seconds left where it makes mathematical sense to give the ball back to the opponent without putting them in a four-down mindset, and rolling the dice on overtime.

Maybe no such sweet spot exists. In hindsight, however, it’s fair to wonder whether things would have ended differently if the Ravens had gotten the ball back late in a tie game. Which would have happened if McPherson’s kick that went over the top of the goal post had been determined to be no good. Which makes the scenario something worth plugging into a fancy-schmancy Ivy League algorithm in order to decide whether it ever makes sense to score a game-tying touchdown and simply take a knee for the try.

15 responses to “Would the Bengals have been better off if the extra point had been ruled no good?

  1. I don’t know about that. Letting the quarterback rush for 40 yards on the final drive makes me think there’s some bad coaching to blame. Kind of weird to say “hey, maybe the kicker should have missed the XP that put us in a position to win the game.”

    Good for Lamar. People will continue to doubt him, and some of the criticism is fair, but he plays hard and wants to win. 4,000 rushing yards at age 25 is nothing to scoff at. I know running QBs historically don’t last long in the league but he’s fun to watch.

  2. The problem is that they scored too quickly. NFL teams can’t leave 30 seconds on the clock. The Bengals left almost two minutes (that’s the first problem). Then they forgot to stay focused on the glory hog. When defenders go for the fake instead of Jackson himself, that’s the second problem. It’s about as obvious as watching a 5 year old try to do a magic trick.

  3. Given Justin Tucker’s leg, it was always going to be difficult for the Bengals to hold onto that lead. Perhaps the bigger issue of mindsets is that of the Bengals after scoring the tying touchdown with the assumption of taking the lead after the extra point. They were celebrating as though something meaningful had been accomplished. That leads to the soft defense and the easy march down the field for the Ravens.

  4. This is severely overthinking the matter. Bengals had just driven through the Ravens D to go ahead. If Bengals won the OT coin toss, no reason to think they could not have done the same thing all over again in OT and kept the Ravens from even having a chance to win. You take the lead at that point in the game, always.

    In fact I believe it would have been a higher percentage strategy for the Bengals, once Ravens got to midfield with about a minute to play, to let them score a TD so you still get the ball back with a minute left plus TOs, to try for a tying or winning (with 2PT) TD. Counting on Tucker to miss is not a strategy.

  5. Fans might go crazy at a team avoiding a point that would give them the lead, but it would be fascinating to see it tried.

    Even if the other team knew full well what was going on, they would still be in a state where they no longer had nothing to lose – where they had options. That could very well create an opportunity.

    But if the other team ended up winning, it would be awfully hard for the coach to explain why he gave up a guaranteed lead, at any point. Would take a coach very secure in his position to try it.

  6. What a bizarre take. -Don’t- take the lead with 2 minutes left in the game because you don’t want the other team trying too hard to win the game? Push it to overtime and try to win there instead of trying to win in regulation? If you lose in OT after that maneuver, expect to get called into the owner’s office the next morning (and bring your playbook with you).

  7. Can the defense challenge whether a player scored when the officials say no touchdown? Once it was that close, the Ravens should want the Bengals to score quick and leave more clock. Teams have been know to let the other team score for that reason. I thought the RB made it. Did not make a difference as the Bengals scored on the next play, but it made me wonder whether it would ever make sense for the defense to challenge to change a no TD to a TD call.

  8. Ahhh, they did miss the extra point… It’s the refs that called it good. If it were reviewable it wouldn’t have counted.

  9. Ridiculous to even that of that strategy. Sounds like something Hackett the Broncos HC would think of.

  10. Let’s not try to be cute. Take the lead and then stop them, That’s the way football has been played since the beginning of time and the way it should continue to be played. As the great philosopher Herm Edwards once said, “You play to WIN the game”

  11. Let’s play that out. Bengals take a knee. Game is tied. Tucker misses a field goal. The game goes to overtime and the Bengals lose in overtime. Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure someone is losing their job. And if I were a season ticket holder, I’d demand a refund on the spot.

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