Andy Reid and the Chiefs had a decision to make with about four minutes remaining in Sunday’s game.
Patrick Mahomes had just been sacked by the Bengals’ Joseph Ossai to set up a fourth-and-7 from the Bengals’ 37. Should Kansas City attempt a game-tying 55-yard field goal, or trust Mahomes and the offense to convert?
Reid opted to kick.
Harrison Butker pushed the attempt wide right and the Bengals took possession with 3:19 to play at their 45. The Chiefs’ offense would not see the ball again as Cincinnati ran out the clock.
Reid said after the game that he has made a similar decision in the past and the kick was within Butker’s range.
“We’ve got to get that combination, the snap a little higher and the kick a little stronger, and you’ve got a good thing going. But it didn’t happen,” Reid said.
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The distance certainly was in Butker’s range. He has made 7 of 8 attempts from 57 yards and beyond in his career, per Stathead. His career long is 62 yards against the Bills in Week 6 this season. His only miss from that range was from 57 in a 2021 Week 7 loss to the Titans.
“If I don’t think [Butker] can make it, then I’m not going to do it. It’s pretty simple that way,” Reid said. “I felt like he’s been a good place and we’ve just got to execute it better all the way around, and then, it really shouldn’t come down to that, too, but it did and we’ve got to make sure we do it if you’re going to be a good football team, all phases, you’ve got to be able to take care of business.”
That doesn’t mean it was the right decision. According to Ben Baldwin’s fourth-down decision bot, the recommended decision based on added win probability was to go for it, by a margin of 2.6 points. Per the numbers, making the field goal would have given the Chiefs a 47 percent chance of winning the game, while failing bumped it down to 19 percent. Going for the fourth-down try and succeeding would create a 59 percent win rate, while coming up short on fourth-down would create a win percentage of 21.
—> KC (24) @ CIN (27) <—
KC has 4th & 7 at the CIN 37
Recommendation (MEDIUM): 👉 Go for it (+2.6 WP)
Actual play: 👟🏈 H.Butker 55 yard field goal is No Good, Wide Right, Center-J.Winchester, Holder-T.Townsend. pic.twitter.com/duT3iXTi9f
— 4th down decision bot (@ben_bot_baldwin) December 5, 2022
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While Butker has had success kicking from that range, the Chiefs have found success going for it on long fourth downs Per Stathead, the Chiefs came into the game 4 for 8 on fourth-down tries with 7 or more yards to go since 2018, when Mahomes first took over as quarterback.
There was speculation that Mahomes’ health might have had something to do with the decision. Mahomes appeared to limp to the sideline after the sack by Ossai.
Mahomes limping after sack & Chiefs miss the field goal pic.twitter.com/i8AKOJmI6R
— alex (@highlghtheaven) December 5, 2022
Reid said after the game that Mahomes’ limp did not affect the decision to kick the field goal. Mahomes hurt his foot but would be all right, Reid also said.
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Mahomes said he was fine with whatever Reid decided to do and that the only way he can try to persuade the coaching staff to go for it on fourth down is to stay on the field.
“The persuasion is just you stay out there and hope that he calls it, get the fourth-down chance, but we had gone through a lot of fourth downs throughout the game and they were doing a good job, even when we had hard-fought ones, but we were converting them,” Mahomes said.
“But, I mean, we pay Butker and we have one of the best kickers in the league, so we’re trusting him in those moments and he’s made a lot of big kicks, so this one didn’t go our way. But if we’re in that moment again, I trust he’ll make it.”
The Chiefs are now 0-3 against the Bengals in the Mahomes vs. Joe Burrow era. If Kansas City faces Cincinnati again in 2022, Reid might consider keeping the ball in his quarterback’s hands.