Sports Reference Blog

Onside Kicks Updated in Play Finder

Posted by Mike on December 7, 2012

Since there's been talk lately of eliminating kickoffs altogether and moving to a "4th and 15"-style play I've updated the Play Finder tool to include onside kick success and percentage in the kicker table. For instance, from 2000-2012 we show 757 onside kicks, with 149 of those recovered by the kicking team for a 19.7% success rate. Contrast that to all 4th and 15 plays since 2000, where we show 21 out of 93 plays converted to either first downs or touchdowns at a 22.6% success rate. Since 4th and 15 attempts are generally a desperation situation against a team that may be playing in a prevent defense (and thus willing to give up the 15 yards in order to keep the offense out of the end zone at all costs), let's look at conversion rates on 3rd and 15: we show a 15.7% success rate in converting those.

Of course one of the primary benefits of the onside kick is the "surprise" onside kick. Broadly defining that as any onside kick NOT in the 4th quarter we see those recovered by the kicking team at a 47.5% rate (though only attempted 158 times in 3381 total games, roughly once every 21.4 games).

3 Responses to “Onside Kicks Updated in Play Finder”

  1. Jason Winter Says:

    I think that using 3rd-and-15 data is also a little misleading, since teams on offense will often "settle" for less than 15 yards, so as not to do anything truly disastrous, like a turnover. Teams on 4th-and-15 are *always* trying to gain the full 15 yards (or more). I think the defense's "attitude" is less important than the offense's.

  2. Mike Says:

    That is true, it's hard to make a true comparison since a lot of teams will just run a draw on 3rd & 15. Hard to decide which teams are truly trying for it vs. being conservative.

  3. James Says:

    Any chance we could get a range on the field position instead of an inside/outside option? For instance, I'd like to be able to only look at plays between the 40s, or from the opponent's 10 to the 30 yardline, but I can't do that the way it is set up now!