from the [not]-everything-works-in-[game]-theory dept.
Justin Wolfers writes in the New York Times that Seahawks coach Pete Carroll's reasoning behind the play that led to the Patriots' interception that clinched Super Bowl XLIX is defensible in terms of game theory. The key insight of game theory for an NFL coach is that when you think about what choice you should make, you need to also consider the response from the opposing coach, understanding that he is also thinking strategically. There is no play that cannot be stopped if the defence knows it is coming. If the Seahawks were to sign a blood oath promising to have Mr Lynch run the ball, the Patriots could simply throw all 11 defenders at him and stop him in his tracks.
“This line of thinking suggests that you should not necessarily call a run play, even if you’re blessed with a great running back. Likewise, it’s not clear that you should definitely pass,” writes Wolfers. “Rather, your choice should be somewhat random — a choice that game theorists call a ‘mixed strategy.’” The logic is that if you always choose to run in this situation, then you make the opposing coach’s job too easy, as he will set a defensive formation aimed at stopping your running back. Instead, you need to keep your opponents guessing, and the only way to do this is to be unpredictable — essentially playing the football equivalent of Rock-Paper-Scissors. According to Wolfers this leads to the intriguing possibility that if that fateful final play were to be run in a dozen parallel universes, with each coach continuing to play the same mixed strategy, the actual plays called would differ, as would their outcomes. “And so the same teams pursuing the same strategies under the same circumstances might have yielded a different Super Bowl champion.” The only reason Carroll is being raked over the coals is because the play happened to end in an exceedingly improbable interception. Not one of the previous 106 passing plays that NFL teams launched from the one-yard line in 2014 was picked off.
(Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04 2015, @03:38AM
comment theory says fist post.
(Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04 2015, @03:55AM
Here were the problems:
- New England's defensive secondary is highly experienced and well-coached, among the very best in the league (as is Seattle's).
- There is very little margin for error at the goal line, simply because the entire defense is stacked up within a few yards of the line of scrimmage, and there's not much room to run behind them. And not enough time to loft a skyball into the corner of the endzone for your tall wide receiver, the pretty throw that teams like to do from about 20 yards out. Funny things can happen when the ball is thrown in that cramped space. Even if Malcom Butler hadn't jumped in front of the receiver, the ball could've been deflected, batted around, and been essentially a jump ball.
- Seattle QB Russell Wilson, while likely destined for a long career in the NFL and perhaps the Hall of Fame, is relatively inexperienced. In his previous playoff game against the Green Bay Packers, he threw four interceptions. So he's made that play in practice, maybe in a game, before but he wasn't familiar with all the things that can turn up in a game with everything on the line.
- New England hadn't been able to stop "Beast Mode" Lynch all day. On the previous play, he took it from the five down to the 1 1/2. And had he been stopped short of the goal line, Seattle still had a time out, enough time to throw a pass AND (if that didn't work) give it back to Lynch, for a total of three plays (instead of one).
So yeah, it was a bad call. Now if it worked, it would've been a great call, but it was a longer shot than Seattle had available.
(Score: 4, Insightful) by gnuman on Wednesday February 04 2015, @04:09AM
So yeah, it was a bad call.
I don't think it was a bad call. It's just that someone was going to win. So the other team had to lose.
In the end, it was hell of a game and I hope that players understand that they are purely entertainment. And in this both teams delivered.
(Score: 2) by fadrian on Wednesday February 04 2015, @03:33PM
Yeah. It was definitely one of the better Super Bowls as far as the football went. Not a blowout. Pretty exciting at the ends of the halfs, in between? Well, not so much - the two teams are so good defensively that you didn't have a lot of action at other times. So it was a pretty good game - OK football with an exciting ending, relatively competent half-time show with no power outages. Not amazing, but compared with other Super Bowls, not too bad.
That is all.
(Score: 2) by frojack on Wednesday February 04 2015, @06:29AM
New England hadn't been able to stop "Beast Mode" Lynch all day.
That's not true. Review the game recording and you will see several instances where Beast Mode was stopped for zero gain, and actually for a loss behind the line of scrimmage. They stopped him when ever they seriously needed to.
On the fatal last play, Lynch ran to the left side goal line and was pretty much lightly covered. He was a decoy, but the Pats weren't buying it. Wilson never looked in that direction, because he was so focused on the up the gut pass that he was told to do. The one time he should have used the read option, he didn't. He probably didn't have time.
No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
(Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04 2015, @07:07AM
- Seattle QB Russell Wilson, while likely destined for a long career in the NFL and perhaps the Hall of Fame, is relatively inexperienced.
Malcolm Butler [rotoworld.com] was an un-drafted free agent and has very little experience, even when compared with Russell Wilson. His biggest headline prior to his game-saving interception in the Super Bowl was being named a starter in the third preseason game back in September.
(Score: 3, Informative) by GungnirSniper on Wednesday February 04 2015, @04:09AM
The play prior, Jermaine Kearse's lucky kick-catch, I thought was going to be the end for the Patriots. They had lost a Super Bowl to the Giants thanks to a similar improbable helmet-catch. Fortunately, Malcolm Butler read Russell Wilson's look to the right before the start of the play. [masslive.com]
Tips for better submissions to help our site grow. [soylentnews.org]
(Score: 2) by GungnirSniper on Wednesday February 04 2015, @04:13AM
Oops, the kick-catch wasn't the immediate prior play, but one before that. The Seahawks ran a good short run play, then the interception.
Tips for better submissions to help our site grow. [soylentnews.org]
(Score: 4, Insightful) by gman003 on Wednesday February 04 2015, @04:20AM
On Monday, everyone and their dog was complaining about that play - that given the situation, the only reasonable call was to run.
I pointed out that, for the defense, if the blindingly obvious strategy was to run, then you would set up to block that. Given that they had two plays to make it a single yard, a strategy of "try a passing play to try to catch them by surprise, if that fails, run it and hope they're off-balance enough that they don't 100% commit to a running defense" makes quite a bit of sense, and is defensible as long as you aren't looking at it in hindsight, knowing that it would be intercepted. It arguably makes more sense than trying to run the ball twice in a row, which is apparently what all the football fans think they should have done.
(Score: 3, Insightful) by wantkitteh on Wednesday February 04 2015, @01:33PM
Some people will jump all over any decision with no rationale at all, mainly because they just don't realise what they're saying is horsecrap. If something came down to a one-on-one dice throw, highest wins, someone would still mouth off at the loser for choosing the wrong colour die.
(Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04 2015, @04:44AM
What the fuck is this, straight news for heterocuntfuckers?
(Score: 2) by unitron on Wednesday February 04 2015, @05:38AM
...of that call is here [vox.com]
something something Slashcott something something Beta something something
(Score: 3, Insightful) by wonkey_monkey on Wednesday February 04 2015, @08:23AM
The only reason Carroll is being raked over the coals is because
everybody needs someone to blame.
systemd is Roko's Basilisk
(Score: 2) by wantkitteh on Wednesday February 04 2015, @01:04PM
Precisely. In this kind of situation it's human nature for the losing team to be blamed for losing, not the winners for winning.
(Score: 5, Insightful) by GlennC on Wednesday February 04 2015, @02:10PM
To me, a pass play in that instance was a good choice.
However, that particular play was NOT a good choice. If it were me, I would have gone more for a fade route in the corner of the end zone, as that would have had less of a chance for the interception. The key is that if the receiver doesn't get the ball, nobody should.
If the second down pass doesn't work, then you can hand off to Lynch on third and fourth if you need to.
Sorry folks...the world is bigger and more varied than you want it to be. Deal with it.
(Score: 3, Insightful) by Bill, Shooter Of Bul on Wednesday February 04 2015, @04:10PM
EXACTLY! The typical NFL playbook has probably a dozen or two endzone pass plays, and probably twice that number of run plays. The particular pass play they ran had a high likely hood for an adverse outcome. Fade would have been a good call, I myself would have called the famous super bowl winning play ; Sprint Option Right. Perfect for a superb running quarterback like Wilson.
(Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 05 2015, @05:11AM
Unexpected is good; but it has to be safe and unexpected. I like a QB sneak, or a roll-out to the side to look for something. How often does anybody pass into the bloody pile on the goal line? Not often. There's a reason. It's unexpected because it's unsafe. An unexpected yet relatively safe play would have been much better.