NFC. Wild card round game. Ten seconds remain before the end of the match against Philadelphia, and the Bears are one point behind. Chicago kicker Cody Parkeys strikes a field goal. Parkey's kick is considered blocked — the ball hits the left post, then the crossbar and then falls out into the end zone, summing up the final result.
The so-called “double hit”, if you look closely at the numbers, was much more difficult than the usual 43 yards (39.32 m) attempt. Not only was the outcome of the match dependent on Cody's strike, but it was January and it was not the warmest city in the league, but also the strike was towards the north of Soldier Field, one of the most difficult areas for field goals in the NFL.
Since the 2000 season, Soldier Field has made just 63.2% of field goals north of 40-50 yards (45.72 m), the lowest stadium / heading ratio in the league. However, it is not only the direction that is to blame. At the same stadium and from the same distance, shots to the south are realized in 77.6% of cases, which barely reaches the league average.
At the moment, there are six stadiums in the league in which attempts to earn three points cause the greatest difficulties.
Aside from the Bears' home stadium, kickers south are far more comfortable hitting Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium and Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. The North Shots go better at the Oakland Coliseum, Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, and Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
The graph below shows the odds' ratio of a successful field goal for each stadium by destination. Penetration distance 35-60 yards (ca. 55 m). Northern strikes are marked in red, and southern strikes in blue.
Thus, for Cody Parkey, the chances of his attempt from 43 yards (39.32 m) were almost equal to the chance of achieving the same shot in the opposite direction, but from a distance of 49 yards (44.81 m).
Let's take a closer look at the features of each of the stadiums.
Soldier Field is located near Lake Michigan, known for its variable winds. Specifically over the Bears stadium, the south wind blows 67% less often than the north.
Arrowhead Stadium — The situation is similar to Chicago, besides the North and South stands are open. 62% of the time the north wind blows in the stadium. For this reason, the effectiveness of extra points also differs. Since 2015, 98% of attempts to have been made at the southern gate, and 92% at the northern gate.
Gillette Stadium. There is a lighthouse on the northern open stand of the stadium, which together creates more problems when breaking through strikes in this direction. After playing against the Buffalo Bills in December in 2018, Patriots coach Bill Belichick noted that it was the beacon in the open podium that caused the fourth down, not the field goal. Kick-offs are also indicative. Since the 2011 season, when the breakout point was moved to the 35-yard mark, 48% of hits southbound ended with a touch back, while 40% north.
Heinz Field has an open platform on the south that opens onto the Allegheny River. Strikes in this direction from 40 yards (36.58 m) or more are successful 57% of the time, in the opposite direction — 75%.
Raymond James Stadium. The north wind in Tampa blows a little more often than ever. As a result, field goals from 50 yards (45.72 m) or more south end up scoring 80% of the time, and northbound shots 88%. Wind gusts are sometimes so strong that the net entangles the struts. The last time this happened was in 2018.
Oakland Coliseum. The former Raiders Stadium is generally a mystical place. Despite the fact that the stadium is symmetrical and the wind 83% of the time blows from the east, that is, neither side gains obvious advantages, strikes in the south direction are 6.7% more likely to end in success than in the north. The stadium also hosts baseball games, and the infield's clay surface can be in different conditions, which additionally creates problems for kickers at the Colosseum.
Do coaches know about this?
Changes in coaching decisions when assigning rallies are not obvious, more indicative is the average distance of field goals in each direction. For example, if a coach understands the difficulty of hitting north shots in Chicago, the average field-goal distance is likely to be shorter than shooting south.
None of the six stadiums reviewed ranked in the top 15 in the league in terms of field goal difference for each side. In addition, the stadiums in Pittsburgh and Foxborough are at the very bottom of the list, for them the difference in distance between “north” and “south” strikes is less than 0.05 yards (4.57 cm). So if the coaches are aware of these statistics, they are not going to solve the problem by reducing the distance of strikes.
Adapted from: operations.nfl.com