Week 12 NFL Takeaways: Big W for team analytics

Chargers and Jaguars go for two and win big on Sunday

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Trevor Lawrence had quite a day on Sunday.
Trevor Lawrence had quite a day on Sunday.
Image: Getty Images

You remember that silly cheer from high school, “Be aggressive, B.E. aggressive?” In football, that only applies to the players. Please defensive end, bull rush right through the offensive tackle’s heart. But for the coaches the rules are different.

For so long, coaches have played it safe at all times, and often it does nothing to improve a chance at victory. Instead, it simply extends the game, or keeps a team competitive for a longer period of time. It makes complete sense to go for two if you score a touchdown in the fourth quarter while down 14 points. It’s going to take 15 points to win, so go for it early and get a clearer idea of how many possessions it will take to win.

What the Jacksonville Jaguars and Los Angeles Chargers did yesterday, actually neither hurt nor harmed their chances at winning the game. Both teams scored touchdowns with less than 20 seconds remaining in regulation. A successful extra point would have likely sent both games to overtime, but instead, the Jaguars and Chargers elected to attempt a 2-point conversion to take the lead. ESPN’s sports analytics writer, Seth Walder, tweeted that neither decision presented more of an advantage.

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Doug Pederson and Brandon Staley decided to go for it all on one play. They both went for the game-winning two-point conversion, and unlike Tom Osbourne in the 1985 Orange Bowl, the move paid off.

Admit it, you were waiting to pounce on Brandon Staley

He takes most of the arrows for his aggressive decisions. The main reason for that? When he comes up short, it can be argued that if he played more conservatively the Chargers would have won more games last season.

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Surely his critics had their bows drawn back when the Chargers lined up for that two-point conversion attempt. The Chargers desperately needed a win to stay in good position in the AFC playoff race as the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals both won during the early slate of games. The New England Patriots lost on Thanksgiving which knocked them out of the last playoff spot, but not behind the Chargers.

If the Chargers had dropped to .500 it’s very unlikely that they would be able to climb into a wild-card spot. So when Justin Herbert led them down the field, of course, the easy choice would’ve been to kick the field goal and go to overtime.

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But Brandon Staley told us over the summer that he was going to keep the foot on the gas pedal this season. They lined up for a do-or-die play, and Herbert dropped a quick pass right into Gerald Everett’s arms. Take a bow Brandon Staley.

Good for Trevor

There wasn’t much question as to who was going to be the first quarterback selected in the 2021 NFL Draft. Trevor Lawrence was the No. 1 overall player in his class after becoming Clemson’s starting quarterback his freshman year, and was every bit as good as advertised.

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Then he got drafted by Urban Meyer who somehow managed to become even more disliked than he already was in less than one season as an NFL head coach. Last season was a disaster, and probably set Lawrence back in his early development

Lawrence has continued to struggle this season, but he looked like he was wearing Clemson orange on Sunday. He was 29-for-37 for 321 yards and three touchdowns against a strong Ravens defense. Then, after Ravens QB Lamar Jackson took the Ravens down the field for a late fourth-quarter touchdown, Lawrence marched his squad in a wonderfully executed two-minute drill. Then with Jackson and Justin Tucker waiting on the sidelines, Pederson decided that overtime was not the way to go. They went for the 2-point conversion and were successful on a Lawrence pass to Zay Jones.

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Now, if the Ravens were a little crisper on their final drive perhaps Tucker attempts a 60-yard field goal for the win instead of a 67 — which I swore he nailed when I first saw the ball take flight. But Lawrence did his part, and maybe this is the game that gets him back on the star path.