There are times when it was beneficial for a football team to allow a touchdown in order to have a better chance to win. That was the case Sunday when Bill Belechick played the odds against the Giants, allowing New York to score and thereby giving Tom Brady 50-plus seconds to reverse a 21-17 deficit. As we’ve seen, dozens and dozens of NFL games have been won with marches in the final minute. In this case, New England failed.
If Belechick had let the clock run down, the Giants would have been able to win the game with a field goal from roughly extra point range where NFL teams have better than a 95-percent success rate. Several NFL kickers have consecutive streaks in excess of 200.
The Lou Tepper decision in 1996 at Minnesota was much more controversial. With Illinois ahead 21-17 and the clock under a minute, the Gophers had first down on the UI 6-inch line. A touchdown seemed inevitable, so Tepper chose to allow the TD in order for Illinois to have 46 seconds to counter with a field goal.
Illini players on the field weren’t happy. They wanted the opportunity to stop Minnesota on the goal line. It’s doubtful they would have been able to do so. So Tepper chose to gamble, and the Illini lost 23-21 when they failed to reach field goal range.
Another case involving this manner of strategy came in 1999 at Michigan when the Illini scored four consecutive second-half touchdowns to go ahead 35-27. But they didn’t need Rocky Harvey’s final 54-yard score. Ahead 28-27, all Illinois needed was a first down to run out the final minute. When Harvey went the distance, the Wolverines remained within eight points of a tie, and Tom Brady led them to the UI 16 where his pass was intercepted and fumbled into the end zone where Illini Muhammad Abdullah recovered for a safety.