Saturday, September 26, 2009

Deferring to the Second Half

After going to a few Ravens games I noticed a fairly frequent trend that the stadium seats were fairly empty as people were still buying food/drink or going to the bathroom or in general were meandering back to their seats.

This actually seems to me to be fairly important strategically in a game where the home team relies on the crowd to disrupt the opposition.

The Ravens definitely do, and I think most other NFL teams and certainly several college stadiums do as well. Baltimore used to refer to Memorial Stadium - back when they had the Colts - as "The World's Largest Outdoor Insane Asylum." Even today, the Ravens games frequently draw fervent crowds that are extremely loud. We pride ourselves on forcing offenses to take time-outs because of communication issues and causing false starts at times.

But the first drive in the second half is typically very quiet due to the stands being cleared out at half time. So how much does this typically factor into a team's decision on deferring the kick? I would think every team would want to defer the kick in these situations. Home teams want their offense on the field to allow time for the fans to come back into the seats before their defense gets back on the field. Away teams would want the prospect of a drive that's somewhat quiet to start the half.

I couldn't find statistics on how often teams (college or pro) choose to receive or defer. I only looked for about ten minutes, but Google seems to be unreliable at digging those up. If anyone can find any, I'd appreciate seeing them.


  1. It is very common in college. Has been for decades and is the default option for many teams. The option to defer is pretty new in the NFL and I don't think I really ever see pro teams defer. The only real reason to defer in that league is to get the wind for the 2nd and 4th quarters.

    But then they don't televise the coin flips any more so unless the viewer is paying close attention and the broadcast team mentions it, it would be easy to overlook.

  2. Yeah we don't get to see it on TV, but last year at the games I went to and this year vs. KC the Ravens were deferring. I don't know how many teams do it, but the Ravens seem to be.

    On occasion the announcers before the game will say "The [X] won the flip and elected to [receive/defer]" but it's pretty rare that they actually do. I tried to find stats on it but can't find anything with reliability, so I'm guessing it's not tracked.

  3. I don't think the decision to defer has anything to do with the crowd getting a beer or not at halftime.

    A caller on Harbaugh's show asked about it after week one. Harbaugh was all like "that's a great question" and then said that what went into the decision was their assessment of what was likely to give them the best field position. Which I guess means they thought that the defense would force the Chiefs to punt and the Ravens would get the ball around the 40, as opposed to returning the kickoff and getting the ball around the 25.

    I like getting the ball to start the 2nd, personally. Esp at home. Baseball columnist Thomas Boswell once proposed that all football teams should kick off to start the first (for courtesy) and receive the 2nd half kickoff (for drama). I liked that idea when I first read it.

    Later I saw things like Jeff Fisher doing everything possible to keep the potent Indy offense off the field; and similar things against the Imperfect Pats. Boswell's idea is a very "baseball" idea: there are certain football associations where you want desperately to be the team getting off to a good start. The "home team always kicks to open" idea probably would not fly in this sport. But the thought still comes back to me from time to time.


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