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Nearing the end of the first half on Sunday Night, the Giants led the Cowboys 21-10. The Cowboys drove down to the Giants 45-yard line and spiked the ball, setting up a 3rd-and-3 at the edge of "Field Goal Range" with 18 seconds remaining. On the ensuing play, Romo was sacked - taking the Cowboys out of field goal range - and then fumbled, giving the ball to the Giants with 9 seconds left. In addition, Ronald Leary was called for unnecessary roughness, giving the Giants 15 free yards and putting them in "Field Goal Range."

Eli and company took over at the opposing 42-yard line, hoping to gain a few short yards to increase the probability of making a long field goal. Before being sacked, Eli spiked the ball for intentional grounding, moving them back 10 yards and out of field goal range with just 5 seconds left. 
How costly were these two plays? Each team had the opportunity to put three points on the board just before half time - even with low probability field goals - and each team squandered that opportunity with costly plays.


Before the sack on Romo, with team strength included, the Cowboys had a 26.8% chance to win the game. With a successful field goal, that would increase to 34.6% headed into the half (+7.8%).

After the sack, fumble, and penalty, that win probability dipped to 22.1% (the penalty cost the Cowboys an additional 1.1%).

Result: -4.7% WP


Getting the ball on the 42, a 59-yard field goal converts roughly 45.9% league-wide (not kicker specific, some kickers have the leg for it, some do not). The Giants had a 77.9% win probability before Eli's intentional grounding, which dropped their win probability to 76.9%. A successful field goal would have put the Giants up 14, getting the ball in the second half, giving them an 85.2% chance to win (+7.3%).

Result: -1.0% WP

In a game that was ultimately decided by three points and one that came down to the final drive, both represent significant losses in win probability.

To be clear, we are not suggesting that both teams should have just kicked the field goal on their first opportunity. That would have been roughly a 62-yarder for Dan Bailey (career long 56-yards) and a 59-yarder for Josh Brown (career long 58-yards). As has been shown numerous times on this blog, closer is always better

That being said, both plays need to be designed and executed with the situation in mind. Three-step drop, nothing there, throw it away (ideally in the vicinity of a receiver). The pocket collapsed quickly on Eli, and he clearly knew he could not take a sack, but the intentional grounding is just as bad in that situation.

Keith Goldner is the Chief Analyst at - The leading fantasy sports analytics platform - and creator of Drive-By Football.  Follow him on twitter @drivebyfootball or check out numberFire on Facebook. Check out numberFire's new iOS App in the app store now.