Packers have the ball, 2nd and Goal, at the Steelers 7, and the Steelers have one timeout left. Short pass nets 2 yards, clock is running with about 3 minutes left. Inexplicably, the Steelers choose to let the clock run instead of using their last timeout. Let's take a closer look:
- The Packers could score
- The Packers could throw an incomplete pass, stopping the clock
- A bit more subtly, the Steelers having no timeouts left would add some incentive for the Packers to run the ball, an outcome which is much less likely to produce a game-ending touchdown.
[The Packers] opted for the easy FG to go up by 6. The Steelers would now need a touchdown, but often, forcing a team to go for the win rather than the tie can be counter-productive. This might be a little abstract, but by channeling your opponent into a more aggressive, and likely more optimal risk/reward posture, might not be smart. In other word, even if GB fails on the 4th down TD attempt, the Steelers are left at or inside their 5 yd-line and are "thinking FG."
From the 5, conversions are successful 37% of the time. A successful conversion puts GB up by 10 points, sealing the win with a 1.00 WP. A failed conversion gives PIT the ball at their own 5 with 2:10 to play, worth 0.87 WP to GB. On net, the go-for-it option is worth a 0.92 WP.
FGs from the 5 are good 97% of the time. Going up by 6 and kicking off is with worth 0.75 WP. A missed FG puts the ball on the 20, worth 0.83 WP. On net the FG option is worth 0.75 WP.
WAIT! Did I just say that missing the FG would be better than making it? Yes, that's exactly what I said, and historically, that's exactly the case. The reason is likely because teams down by 3 play for the FG in that situation, while teams down by 6 are forced to play for the win. Once inside FG range, they pull up and stop taking risks, accepting a long FG attempt that, even if successful, only buys them a tie--0.50 WP. I suspect Tomlin would be thinking differently, so the answer to whether the Packers should have gone for it isn't so clear. But based on league-baseline numbers, and some counter-intuitive thinking, going for it would have been the better decision by large margin, about 0.15 WP.