ATLANTA — New York Giants coach Pat Shurmur had no regrets about his decision to go for a two-point conversion down eight points late in Monday night’s 23-20 loss to the Atlanta Falcons or two straight failed quarterback sneak calls that cost them valuable seconds in the final minute.
The decision to go for two was a situation Shurmur said they discussed internally prior to the game. He went with the same approach used by Doug Pederson and the Philadelphia Eagles two weeks ago against the Minnesota Vikings.
“I just felt like, we’d discussed internally the math on that,” Shurmur said. “I felt like we had a good play, and I liked our two-point play selections, and we just didn’t quite get it done.”
Shurmur came into his postgame news conference ready to defend his decision. Pederson was also criticized after the Eagles lost to the Vikings but said the decision was backed by analytics.
The math backs up Pat Shurmur’s decision to go for two down eight points with less than five minutes to go. Going for it then gives Shurmur an informational advantage. If the Giants convert, then on their next touchdown they know they only need to kick a PAT to take the lead (assuming no other scores). If they fail, which they did, they have an opportunity to go for it again to tie. The long and short of it: converting once is much more likely than failing twice.
The Giants ended up failing on the first two-point conversation attempt and converting the second. It proved irrelevant because the Falcons kicked a field goal in between.
“I think it’s an aggressive approach,” Shurmur said. “I’m going to take myself back to the one game where we didn’t use timeouts before the halftime. I told you I’d never do that again and I think from a head coaching perspective I want to be aggressive for our guys.”
That’s what the players seemed to like. They had no problem with the decision.
Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dropped the difficult two-point conversion catch with 4:52 remaining.
“I like the call. I love being aggressive,” Beckham said. “I don’t know if I can be a coach because I’m going for it on fourth. We’re going for two. That’s why I’m not a coach. I like the call. I’m always going to ride with him. Wish I could’ve came up with it.”
There are analytics that backed up Shurmur’s decision.
“You increase your chances by 50 percent if you go for it and make it there, so that’s what you do,” Shurmur said. “Because then if you score a touchdown, we just kick the extra point and win. I felt good about the two-point play. You guys saw that, I think we got the ball in there, right? And we just didn’t connect on it.”
Maybe the more costly late-game decisions came with less than a minute left to play. Down 23-12, they had the ball at the Atlanta 1-yard line with 45 seconds remaining. That’s when Eli Manning ran a quarterback sneak and was stuffed on first down. Second down was a repeat as valuable time ticked off the clock.
The Giants were finally forced to throw on third down, when Manning connected with Odell Beckham for a touchdown with five seconds remaining. They converted the two-point conversion to make it 23-20, but without much time left.
“We got to get them in, right? We got to sneak it from the 1,” Shurmur said. “I don’t … again I just saw a mush pile there, so I don’t know why it didn’t work. But from the 1-yard line there, we got to get it in.”
Shurmur wouldn’t have preferred a pass in that situation to protect from getting stuffed and the clock ticking.
“No, that’s a defeatist deal,” he said. “You should be able to convert on a sneak. We’ve all seen him do that, and for whatever reasons we didn’t get it done.”
After years of not being asked to do quarterback sneaks under Tom Coughlin and Ben McAdoo, that has been a staple of the Giants’ offense this season. And they have been generally successful.
Manning was on board with the calls.
“We’ve been pretty good with the sneaks all year and, in that scenario just try to surprise them and just get that one yard with the sneak,” he said. “Obviously we just didn’t have success with it.”