The search for the saddest punt in the world | Chart Party
- Published: 20 February 2019
- To punt is to give up, and in the 21st century, NFL teams have given up nearly 50,000 times. Most of those punts were reasonable decisions. But a few were so cowardly, and in such defiance of all reason, that they must not be forgotten. In this episode of Chart Party, it’s our mission to find them.
3:43 - I misread this line. The rule was changed prior to the 2016 season.
6:08 - Fig. 2 lists 46,290 punts as opposed to the 46,377 punts claimed by the original chart -- a discrepancy of 87. The higher number was found through the Pro-Football-Reference.com Play Index, which is highly accurate but not completely perfect -- for example, it classified a few plays as punts that were actually passes. I manually removed as many as I could find, especially the outliers, but there are still a few hiding in there. The lower number was found by the listed NFL season totals. Since I also found the touchdowns, field goals, et al. in this manner, I decided to leave the punts total intact so as to keep the ratio consistent.
8:39 - Specifically at the opponent’s 25-yard line, you’ll notice that there’s a significant decline in the green “go for it” total. This data was found through Pro-Football-Reference’s Game Play Finder. Since this tool only returns 500 plays at a time, I had to pull the 46,000-plus punts through a series of smaller searches. This gave me just 39 “go for it”s at the opponent’s 25; however, if I ran the search in a different sequence, it gave me a more expected total of 111. For reasons I can’t explain, this discrepancy only shows up exactly at the opponent’s 25. Rather than patching in this total, I decided to leave the chart as is so as to preserve its consistency, but the actual total is likely closer to 111 than 39. The Game Play Finder is like an F1 car: it’s very powerful, but it has to be handled very carefully.
9:45 - This was Hekker’s gross punting average. I probably should have used his net punting average instead, which is closer to 40 than 45.8.
10:50 - A bit of a miscalculation on my part. In the 21st century overtimes have occurred once every 539 games, not once every 483 games.
12:00 - We believe there’s an error in the play-by-play report. This play likely occurred near the beginning of the fourth quarter, not the end of the third.
31:01 - The third Dolphins drive is slightly misplaced; it’s a few yards off from where it should be.
36:07 - These two field goal attempts are shown in the wrong order. The Steelers’ attempt should be on the left side of the screen, and the Falcons’ on the right.
36:19 - This chart title should read, “with five or fewer seconds left in the half or game.” Plays at the end of the second quarter were included in this sample. Additionally, hail marys as defined here are even more rare than I claimed: four plays found their way into the sample that were actually turnovers that resulted in touchdowns in the other direction. Hail mary touchdowns are actually 12-for-780 in this sample, not 16-for-780.
39:08 - I misspoke. These two punts came on fourth and 11, not fourth and 13.
40:31 - I can't believe I did this. The Bills are not Buffalo's only major pro sports team. I forgot about the NHL's own Buffalo Sabres. Sincere apologies.
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