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NFL.com: Kirwan: The myth of the halftime adjustment


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The myth of the halftime adjustment

By Pat Kirwan

NFL.com wire reports

(Dec. 12, 2005) -- The NFL, or any level of football for that matter, operates on some assumptions that I like to check in on from time to time just to see if they stand up to the presumptions we all make.


Listen to any NFL broadcast as teams close in on halftime, and you are sure to hear about what adjustments need to be made at halftime by the teams that are losing. I would like to think that good coaches could go into a locker room and "fix" things so their team could come out and turn their fortunes around. The question is just how often do teams come out in the second half and reverse the score? I went back and looked at the last five weeks of NFL games to see just how well "halftime adjustments" were going.

In the past 91 games, a couple of interesting things surfaced. One, there were only three games that were tied at halftime -- which seemed a lot lower than I would have guessed. But for the sake of this observation, I did get a chance to look at 88 games where those adjustments, if there were any that worked at all, were implemented. The results will not encourage the fan who is hoping his favorite team went inside and came up with a new and better plan.

Joe Gibbs is not telling his troops they have a 23 percent chance of winning.

Of the 88 games observed, 68 of the teams that went in at halftime with the lead went back to the locker room at the end of the game with the lead and the win. That's right 77 percent of the time if a team had a lead at halftime, it won the game. Only 20 times in the past five weeks did a team go in at intermission, change a blocking scheme, change an audible or catch enough breaks to win the game it was losing. I can't imagine any coach standing in front of his team down at the break and saying, "Come on men, we have a 23 percent chance of winning this one!" But those are the facts, which only really point to how important it is to get off to a fast start in an NFL game and play with a lead.

I took one further look at those 88 games and looked at teams that went in down less than seven points to see what the outcome was then. Things were a little better if down six or less at halftime, but I would have thought teams would be doing better than they actually do when they are within a touchdown or less of their opponent. It turns out that teams within a score at intermission still lose 65 percent of the time.

Knowing what I knew headed into the Week 14 games, I was very impressed to see four teams down at halftime come back and win their games. Cincinnati was at home and only behind by one point, and really should never have even been in that situation. The Titans were also at home battling the Texans down seven at halftime, but the Texans find ways to lose lately. I do tip my cap to the Redskins and Dolphins on the road in making those famous adjustments that happen a lot less than we may think they occur to pull out a win from the jaws of defeat. Washington was down seven and was in the 23 percent chance to win category, and the Redskins beat the Cardinals. The Fish were down four and were in the 35 percent probability group, but playing a much tougher Chargers team, and they got the job done.

If nothing else, for the rest of the season when your team heads to the locker room and you head to the concession stand for a hot dog, you know what your team's chances are, whether they have the lead or they are behind.


I like to say that for the most part, the NFL is a pass-to-set-up-the-run league, and when it gets into the playoffs, I believe that will ring true -- but right now there are an awful lot of teams throwing for under 200 yards a game and still getting some "W"s.

Week 14 drove home the point that an NFL team this time of year can throw for under 200 yards and still win a game. We all know the story of Kyle Orton in Chicago winning eight games and throwing for under 200 yards in all eight wins. In fact, Chicago won two of those games despite him throwing for 67 and 68 yards. Last Sunday, he threw for 207 yards and his Bears lost to the Steelers. What was interesting was the fact that Ben Roethlisberger got the win and he only threw for 173 yards. He was not alone in a sub-200 yard passing day that claimed victory.

During Week 14 (excluding MNF), there were 14 quarterbacks who were credited with a sub-200 yard passing day, and seven of them notched a victory. The concept of a passing league took a big hit this past weekend!

Throwing for under 200 yards and winning: Week 14

Name Team Passing Yards Outcome

Carson Palmer Bengals 93 Win

Brooks Bollinger Jets 119 Win

Mark Brunell Redskins 122 Win

Chris Simms Buccaneers 138 Win

Brad Johnson Vikings 146 Win

Brett Favre Packers 170 Win

Ben Roethlisberger Steelers 173 Win

I can't remember a weekend where this many quarterbacks had these kinds of passing totals and won. I never thought I would say seven guys would average 137 yards passing and go undefeated, but it happened, and for now I have to be careful about saying things like "if you're not throwing, you're not goin' to win."


This article is quite possibly his worst ever. Does he not realize that the majority of the time, teams that are better end up leading at halftime AND the end?

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