What causes this? (via static.nfl.com)
So, everyone's heard the crusty old quote - "The prevent defense/offense only prevents you from winning!" I personally think that we saw a perfect example of why that's true in this past game. Up by 13 with only a quarter to play, you saw the aggressive defense that had nearly completely shut down the Cardinals abandoned for a conservative, "stop the big play" defense that manifestly failed to do so. You also witnessed a conservative offense that was just trying to grind out the clock instead of trying to throw another set of nails in Arizona's coffin.
That last paragraph sounds fine, but it's really only an opinion without some kind of scientific fact to back it up. Isn't it better to be conservative when you have the lead? After all, you don't want to get aggressive and give up an INT return, or allow a big play on defense... I can't recommend this article highly enough for a scholarly, thorough statistical analysis of why this is exactly the wrong approach, and why it leads to losing games. The author gives a great statistical analysis of win probability by lead vs. time in game, and what it means (or should mean) to coaches. I'm not going to excerpt much of it, because it should be read in its entirety, but I will whet your appetite with this:
Something big happens right around the 4th quarter mark that changes the nature of the game. This seems to be the point where teams stop playing a conventional contest of point maximization, and they start maneuvering for the end game. Teams that are ahead would take fewer risks while teams that are behind would take greater risks. Both teams would start managing the clock, either jockeying for that extra possession or running down the clock.
Throughout much of the 2nd half, a team with the ball, down by 1 point, will probably win the game.
Effectively, this means that throughout much of the 4th quarter, teams on defense with a one point lead are already losing. They just don't know it yet.
Anyway, we all know how it ended - the Cardinals scored too quickly, which was our saving grace - if they had ground out two more minutes of clock, we're probably here discussing this very topic with much more fire instead of marveling at what a gamer #7 is...
Food for thought - what do all of you think?