The state of Georgia has grappled with the idea of allowing in high-stakes casinos for the past few years now, but has averted the reward for the fear of the risk. The nearest gambling houses are a three to four hour drive into Biloxi, Mississippi or by jumping on a Casino Cruise in Brunswick, Georgia. The state’s lottery corporation has overseen operations for some 20 years now, taking in almost $1 billion annually, but by and large the “Peach State” tends to be fairly conservative by nature.
Monday night the Georgia Dome became the largest casino in Atlanta as Mike Smith “doubled down” with the Falcons fortune in his own version of “Craps” against Rex Ryan’s New York Jet defense. To say the “Dirty Birds” have been a disappointment in the NFC South would be an understatement and with Sean Payton’s New Orleans Saints winning 5 hands in a row, it was time for Smith to go ALL IN. Or was it?
Down 17-7 and only 7 seconds before half, Atlanta faced a 4th and goal from the Jets own 1. Conventional wisdom said to take the field goal and go into intermission down only 7 to the NFL’s 21st ranked scoring team. But Falcons head coach Mike Smith chose instead to go for the touchdown and put everything he had on “Black 2” (though the Falcons were wearing red). Matt Ryan tried to hit tight end Tony Gonzalez on a short pass to the right that fell incomplete with 1 second remaining on the clock. Jets hold!
Not so fast. The “Pink” penalty flag flew out and New York’s Demario Davis was charged with defensive pass interference; first and goal from the one, with one second to go. The Falcons’ Win Probability stood at just under 60% before the fourth down attempt. Behind by 10, all Atlanta needed to do was take the 3, cut the lead to a touchdown, regroup, and re-converge in the 2nd half.
Instead Smith chose to spin the wheel one more time and then effectively gained a “mulligan”. Now the Falcons were faced with the same scenario, 6 seconds less to work with, and a Win Probability of 30% (math is a funny thing). Perhaps it was the drastic drop of 28.4% that prodded Smith to go for it just one more time. “One more spin and we can win!”
This time he put his money on “Black 2” handing off to “32 Red” (Jacquizz Rodgers) straight into the teeth of Gang Green, and came up “Green 0”. End of half.
Prior to the Falcons final play of the first 30 minutes, Atlanta had rushed for 25 yards on 13 carries, 5 of which had gone for -2, 0, 0, -3, and -1. Over the course of the 2013 season, on all downs with a yard or less to go and Atlanta rushing the ball, the Falcons were 50/50 in converting. *One for three Monday night vs New York Jets
|Game Date||Quarter||Time||Down||Yard Line||Yards|
|2013-10-07||1||5:17||2nd and 1||OPP 29||3|
|2013-09-29||2||1:32||2nd and 1||OPP 24||0|
|2013-09-29||2||1:19||3rd and 1||OPP 24||3|
|2013-09-22||4||15:00||3rd and 1||OPP 29||3|
|2013-09-22||3||13:19||1st and 1||OPP 1||-1|
|2013-09-22||2||2:40||3rd and 1||OPP 2||0|
And so Mike Smith, like so many gamblers will do, took one more chance. One more shot at hitting the jackpot on a play that may have “crapped” away the entire season. Atlanta lost to New York on Nick Folk’s game ending 43 yard field goal . . . by two points.
Sometimes you just go with your gut and throw chance to the wind. “If you can’t gain one yard on the ground in the NFL, then you don’t belong.” But when you’re playing with borrowed money (Arthur Blank’s) and you get a second chance, you might want to consider the conservative route and cash it all in while you’re ahead.
Kick the field goal, too much was at stake.