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  • Writer's pictureChris Anderson

Vikes lose 34-28 to Eagles, 4 more turnovers. Let's talk MATH, PROBABILITIES, & 2 POINT CONV. #SKOL

Hello, Vikings fans.


I know most of us aren't feeling great about our favorite team starting 0-2. We knew that the first half of the season was going to be tough and now that Buccaneers loss is hurting even more after losing to the Eagles. We have had 7 turnovers in 2 games and I think if we had cut back on turnovers in both games, we probably beat the Bucs but still lose to the Eagles. The good news is we can still go 15-2! Okay, maybe that's TOO optimistic! The high number of turnovers and mental mistake penalties to start the season tells me that the Vikings are completely unprepared and undisciplined. One game like that can be a fluke, but a second game tells me there is a mental issue that is contagious to the entire team right now. Just like in baseball, a team can get hot or cold at any point; everybody striking out or everybody getting hits is contagious. I don't know how the Vikings are going to fix this situation, but here is a quote from Greg Olson in Week 1 that I thought was very powerful: "Sometimes the only way you can learn to win...is to win." Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.


I know most Vikings media outlets (blogs, podcasts, or radio shows) are going to be saying the same things for the next 10 days. The talking points are going to include the following:

  • The turnovers are killing us, if we don't commit those turnovers we are likely 2-0. (bs, we weren't going beat the Eagles. They gave us garbage time stats at the end.)

  • Stop turning the ball over and making mistakes, and we will be just fine. (nah, it's a bigger issue than that right now)

  • Our interior Offensive Line and interior Defensive Line are both horrible. You have to win in the trenches to be a good team.

  • We need to embrace the tank and have an intentional bad year. (This will not happen, not with the Vikings. We will finish with at least 7-8 wins.)

  • Consider trading Danielle Hunter and/or Cousins. (both have no trade clauses, Hunter may approve a trade but I don't see Cousins approving one mid-season)

These will be the talking points, but I am not going to focus this post on those points. I want to give you guys a different perspective that I think was a huge coaching mistake against the Eagles that many people never even considered in the moment. Before I go into this, I want to add that I think Kevin O'Connell is a fantastic Head Coach and I think he will eventually be the coach that leads us to our 1st Super Bowl victory. Now sit back, enjoy the article, and let me know your thoughts in the comments, TwitterX/Facebook, or call/text me! This article was super fun for me to write. I put a bunch of time into it and wanted to make it unique in the most creative way that I could think of! Whether you are a first time reader or weekly reader, I appreciate you so much. I do this for fun and want to share my thoughts through my writing and my joy of creating content :) SKOL.


PLAYING THE PROBABILITIES


Kevin O'Connell made a bad coaching decision that happened late in the game against the Eagles. It happened at a point in the game that, in my opinion, was imperative for us to make the correct decision, but chose the wrong decision... effectively creating a 5th turnover. I don't know if the coaching staff even considered a decision needing to be made! It wasn't the poor use of the timeout we used on 2nd & goal when the Eagles were going to QB sneak it into the end zone regardless and it wasn't the decision to punt the ball on 4th & 3 at midfield when we knew the Eagles were running the ball at will. This bad coaching decision has to do with math and probabilities and giving your team (the Vikings) the best chance to win when thinking ahead a couple of drives. After a few stalled drives by both teams around the end of the 3rd Quarter and start of the 4th Quarter, the Vikings were able to score a Touchdown with 7:41 left to play in the 4th Quarter, bringing the score to 20-27, Eagles. Now, I had told my friends a few drives earlier that if this scenario were to happen, that the Vikings would need to go for a 2-point conversion. They didn't understand my logic at that point either. I will explain the numbers and probabilities in written out form to help you understand the actual possibilities the Vikings had in 2 scenarios, which in turn each have 6 branched out scenarios coming from them. Think of them as alternate universes. I will also have a picture at the end that outlines my explanation to add visual context. After this, I will be going through and explaining another probability idea, which is somewhat controversial, but is the correct decision when considering percentages and probabilities. It is called the Monty Hall Problem. It is a theory and topic that was discussed in the movie "21." This will also have a picture at the end to help explain it visually.


KICKING THE EXTRA POINT WHEN DOWN 20-27 WITH 7:41 LEFT IN THE 4TH Q


Let's jump into the decision about going for an extra point vs a 2-point conversion when the Vikings scored the touchdown with 7:41 left in the 4th Quarter, to make the score 20-27. We will start with what they chose to do, kick the extra point. (Also the act of kicking the extra point vs going for 2 in the big picture is the main point. The result of making or missing won't change to probability in these scenarios, like the act of the decision will. Hopefully that makes sense.)

  • The Vikings and the coaching staff (without hesitation) went for the extra point to bring the score to 21-27. Now, knowing that the Eagles were currently running the ball at will, you have to think it is unlikely we are going to force them to go 3 & out or to eventually punt (there is that possibility, but it seemed unlikely due to the game flow).

  • You may also be saying, "Chris, kicking the extra point makes it a 6 point game so now a stop and a touchdown + extra point gives us the lead." Yes, that is also a fact, but it is irrelevant at this point in the game/topic. The Eagles were also moving the ball super efficiently.

  • Since we MADE the extra point, and now losing by 6 points, the only feasible opportunity the Vikings have to keep it a one-score game with 7 minutes left is to not allow the Eagles offense to score any points on their next drive (need a turnover or punt and we can win with a TD and extra point).

  • If the Eagles score a field goal, it becomes a 9-point game (2 scores down, game over).

  • If the Eagles score a touchdown, it becomes a 13-point game (2 scores down, game over).

  • Here is where the rest of the FIRST 6 branched out scenarios comes into place (above were the first 3 branches).

  • If we MISSED the extra point, we would now be down by 7 points (20-27), and again, the only possible opportunity the Vikings would have to keep it a one-score game is to not allow the Eagles offense to score any points on their next drive (need a turnover or punt and we can tie with a TD and extra point).

  • If the Eagles score a field goal, it becomes a 10-point game (2 scores down, game over).

  • If the Eagles score a touchdown, it becomes a 14-point game (2 scores down, game over).

  • That is the 1st scenario, with 6 branched off sectors coming from it. We theoretically gave ourselves a 33.3% (2/6) chance of success when factoring in what happens with the Eagles next possession following our 7:41 touchdown and decision to kick the extra point.


GOING FOR 2-PT CONVERSION WHEN DOWN 20-27 WITH 7:41 LEFT IN THE 4TH Q


Let's talk about the 2nd scenario and it's 6 branched off options coming out of it. If our coaching staff had made the correct decision to go for a 2-point conversion following the 7:41 4th Quarter touchdown, the Vikings probability of future success would have risen.

  • If we had SUCCESSFULLY CONVERTED the 2-point conversion, we would now be down by 5 points (22-27). In this scenario, the Vikings would have 2 ways to keep it a one-score game.

  • The Vikings could either get the Eagles offense to give the ball back to us without scoring (a punt or turnover) which would keep the lead at 5 points OR

  • Hold the Eagles to a field goal, creating an 8 point deficit (22-30).

  • Both of those options keep the Vikings within one score for a final drive.

  • If they were to allow the Eagles to score a touchdown, it would become a 12-point game at 22-34 as the Eagles would likely get the extra point since the little time remaining wouldn't call for a 2-point conversation, to keep things simple (2 scores down, game over).

  • If we MISSED the 2-point conversion, it would be the same as making or missing the extra point again...

  • we would now be down by 7 points (20-27), and again, the only feasible opportunity the Vikings would have to keep it a one-score game is to not allow the Eagles offense to score any points on their next drive (need a turnover or punt).

  • If the Eagles score a field goal, it becomes a 10-point game (2 scores down, game over).

  • If the Eagles score a touchdown, it becomes a 14-point game (2 scores down, game over).

  • That is the 2nd scenario, with 6 branched off sectors coming from it. Using this decision tree to go for 2, we theoretically gave ourselves a 50% (3/6) chance of success when factoring in what happens with the Eagles next possession following our 7:41 touchdown. That's 16.7% better odds for success!

I threw a lot at you and I get that description might have been confusing. Please take a look at my visual presentation of these scenarios, below. I know that the Eagles scoring a touchdown on the next possession made all of this irrelevant, but you have to consider the probabilities and the mental side of things from the Vikings defensive mindset. If the Vikings defense goes into the next Eagles offensive possession knowing they can give up a field goal and still keep it a one score game, the confidence and decision making on the drive is completely different than knowing you can't let the Eagles score any points or you lose.


MONTY HALL PROBLEM


Let's go through another (non-football) probability problem that the above decision reminded me of. It is called the Monty Hall Problem. The Monty Hall Problem is a counter intuitive statistics puzzle. The best way to explain it is in the form of a game show.

  • In this game show there are 3 closed doors to choose from and behind each door are 2 goats and 1 car.

  • The game show host knows which door the car is behind. He then asks you to choose 1 of the doors, let's call them A, B, and C.

  • You decide to choose door A, but before you open door A, the game show host opens one of the 2 other doors (we can say door C) to reveal a goat.

  • The game show host now asks if you would like to keep your door A decision, or switch your choice to door B. What do you choose?

  • You might be thinking, at this point, that it is now a 50-50% chance when choosing between doors A and B and you might decide to stay with door A. This is incorrect.

  • When you CHOSE door A, door A had a 33.3% chance of having the car, while doors B and C combined had 66.7% chance of having the car.

  • When the game show host revealed that door C had a goat, doors B and C still maintain a 66.7% chance of having the car. So, when factoring in probabilities and statistics, door A still has a 33.3% chance of being the car, while door B and C (but we know now that it isn't C) continues to have a 66.7% chance of being the car.

  • You should ALWAYS tell the game show host you want to switch over to door B. This isn't saying you will be guaranteed to win the car, but by switching, you now have a 66.7% chance of winning the car. If you run this simulation once, you might lose. But if you run this simulation 1,000 times, you should win the car roughly 667 times. I like those odds MUCH better.


Going back to the decision in the 4th Quarter, if Kevin O'Connell had decided to go for a 2 point conversion, it would have given the Vikings a 50% chance of keeping the game within one score based on how the next offensive possession would go for the Eagles...regardless if we made the 2-point conversion or not. Instead, going for the extra point in that scenario, regardless again if we made it or missed it, brought the Vikings chance of keeping it a one score game down to 33.3% based on how the next Eagles offensive possession would go. Make sense? :)


RECAP & FINAL VIKINGS THOUGHTS


I thought that this would be a more interesting way to recap the Vikings game, as opposed to following what every other media outlet would talk about...mainly the negatives. I hope you guys enjoyed it and were able to learn something from today's article. I will finish up with some general thoughts about the game and where this 0-2 start puts us for the rest of the season. I also figured that since our 0-2 start has put us in a strange spot at such an early point, and the fact that we now have 10 days until our next game..I will do the Chargers preview sometime next week. I will finish this up with a few bullet points of thoughts I had on the Vikings spanning from 2 drafts ago THROUGH the recent Eagles game. Here you go:

  • So far, Kwesi's first 2 drafts are objectively not going well. We are going to start hearing people complain about the little success HIS players are having very soon. He always says he is not a "football guy," but a numbers and analytics guy. We need to meld his perspectives with the eye test and traditional scouting. You still need to draft GOOD FOOTBALL PLAYERS. You can't just rely on analytical numbers, that doesn't tell the whole story about a person/player.

  • Through 2 weeks, the Vikings are clearly playing undisciplined, unprepared, and ugly football. The 7 turnovers and the horrendous penalties back up that statement. Something needs to change in the next 10 days.

  • Against the Eagles, the offense started moving the ball and scoring points once we were down 27-7...we've seen this before while Cousins has been QB. I am not blaming Cousins in this game, but whenever he is losing by 2 or more scores, that is his comfort zone to get his garbage time stats...when the defense plays back in prevent. I did like the fight to make the final score more respectable. Better than losing 34-14.

  • CONCERNING: The Vikings supposedly invested heavily in help for the run game. Signing the best blocking TE, Josh Oliver, and extending FB CJ Ham. I understand parting ways with Cook, but then go sign another Vet RB like Kareem Hunt! Alexander Mattison is not an RB1. We are averaging about 2 yards per carry in the first 2 weeks and have essentially gone away from the run game altogether. Mattison averaged 3.7 ypc over the years when backing up Cook. Change of pace back usually average much higher. For example, Toby Gerhart one season averaged over 7 ypc behind Adrian Peterson. This is usually true because they are a change of pace, defenses are tired from the starter, and they are usually expecting a pass when the backup RB comes into the game. Our current run game is nonexistent.

  • The defense is reverse of last year - last year we couldn't stop the pass but had a positive turnover ratio. This year we can't stop the run and have a negative turnover ratio.

  • At what point do we embrace the tank? This next draft is supposedly one of the best drafts for college QBs in recent years. Potentially 5-6 1st round talent QBs. Something to think about...

  • Weakest parts of our team are interior of both OL and DL. Neither has been addressed AT ALL since Kwesi was hired. Winning football teams ALWAYS start by winning consistently in the trenches and the Vikings are terrible on both sides of the ball in that area!

That's all I got folks! Thanks again, as always, for stopping by and reading! This was probably a top 5 enjoyable article for me to write. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did writing it! Love ya guys. Go Vikings! Just Stay Positive! #JSP



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