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Quick Note: The Super Bowl, Tactics and Economics, Part I

February 11, 2012

Today’s first quick note will deal with gamesmanship, and game theory, at the Super Bowl. The Freakonomics.com blog post “(Almost) The Triumph of Game Theory at the Super Bowl” discusses the late-game tactics employed by both coaches to manage time and scoring opportunities in the closing moments of the game. Author Ian Ayres tells us “One of the amazing things about the Super Bowl game this past weekend was that both coaches understood that the Patriots would be better off if the Giants scored a touchdown late in the game and reportedly instructed their teams accordingly.” [these and all other italics are added by me, but the link is preserved from the original post]

Ayres applauds the situation in which the Patriots allowed the Giants to score a touchdown to preserve enough time to attempt to match the score. On the Giants’ part, Ahmad Bradshaw was apparently instructed to down the ball at the one yard line to allow a field goal attempt. He inadvertently fell into the end zone, scoring a touchdown and allowing New England one last possession.

Ayres spends most of the post discussing another decision, that of trying to burn clock time rather than scoring. This is a tougher call, and Ayres’ initial scenario suffered from a mis-application of the rules. He later corrected the article with an errata update at the end. However, his point is interesting and worth a quick read. Enjoy!

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