Morning Links: Kicking FG the wrong call

In his weekly column called “Thank You For Not Coaching,” Bill Barnwell of Grantland put San Diego head coach Mike McCoy on blast for his decision to kick a 50-yard field goal to put his team up 19-9 at the end of Monday night’s win over Indianapolis, calling it one of three worst coaching decisions of Week 6, even though Nick Novak made the kick.

When asked about the decision, McCoy said he had no second thoughts, and had told his special teams coach, Kevin Spencer, they were going to kick the field goal if they didn’t win the challenge on Antonio Gates’ spot on third down.

“It was easy,” McCoy said. “No question at all. It was just the situation of the game and where we were in field position. Unfortunately we didn’t get the first down when we threw the ball to Antonio Gates, but we had said before the play we’re kicking it if we don’t get it.”

Here’s what Barnwell had to say about the call:

Congratulations to kicker Nick Novak for hitting a long kick under pressure to wrap up San Diego’s impressive victory over Indianapolis. But he never should have had the opportunity.

Why did Mike McCoy send his field goal unit out to even attempt this kick? It doesn’t follow. Punting shouldn’t be an option. You give the Colts good field position with a stuff, but you give them even better field position with the extra eight yards provided by a missed field goal attempt. Even ignoring that, there’s one simple question to consider here: Is it easier to convert on fourth-and–1 foot than it is to kick a 50-yard field goal?

Of course it is! On third- or fourth-and-1 over the past five years, teams have converted 68.8 percent of the time. That’s almost surely a conservative estimate, since the Chargers didn’t need the full yard and had been gashing Indy on the ground all night. The Chargers probably convert on a Philip Rivers sneak or a Le’Ron McClain handoff about 75 percent of the time in that spot. Kickers have hit field goals between 50 and 52 yards over that same time frame 64.7 percent of the time. Novak had been 6-for-12 on kicks of 50 yards or more, but he was playing in calm conditions at home, so maybe 65 percent is the estimate. The move worked out for McCoy, who has done a great job with the San Diego offense this year, but it wasn’t the right call.

Ben Stockwell of Pro Football Focus breaks down the Chargers-Colts game.

Scott Kaplan and Billy Ray Smith of The Mighty 1090 AM Radio in San Diego talk with ESPN Insider and former NFL Scout Louis Riddick about San Diego’s impressive performance against the Colts in this audio link. Good stuff.

Tom Krasovic of U-T San Diego offers some nuggets from the Chargers' win over the Colts, including tough, physical play from nickel cornerback Johnny Patrick.

Ricky Henne of Chargers.com offers five things he learned from San Diego’s Monday night win.

In this ESPN Insider piece, Peter Keating uses statistical analysis to find those diamond-in-the-rough receivers that still might be available to help your struggling fantasy football team. Keating: How can you find them? Here's a simple formula that creates a freak-show stat -- one that yields a list of the most incredible athletes in the NFL: Multiply a receiver's height by his weight and divide by his 40-yard-dash time squared. Half a dozen players who rank in the league's top 15, according to this calculation, will head to Honolulu, if not Canton: [Calvin] Johnson, Vincent Jackson, Julio Jones, Brandon Marshall, Thomas and Marques Colston. But here are three more: the Jets' Stephen Hill, a deep threat longing for a halfway decent QB; Jon Baldwin of the 49ers, a team desperate for a No. 2 receiver; and Marcus Easley, who's fighting to work his way into returning kicks for the Bills.”

ESPN’s DJ Gallo gives us the best punch lines for all 32 teams this week. On San Diego: “Philip Rivers still has the ability to throw out a good football joke/comically awful pass at any moment, but this team will likely never again reach the comedic heights of the Norv Turner era. Too bad.”