Steelers vs. Saints – Don’t understand the play calls.

The Saints are trailing the Steelers 3-0.  They have 2nd and 10 from the Steelers 20 with :26 left in the first half and the clock is stopped after an incomplete pass.  On 2nd down, the Saints run the ball for 7 yards but now they have to lose their last timeout.  OK, :16 left.  You have one shot at then end zone.  But on 3rd down, Drew Brees throws a short pass over the middle that luckily the receiver drops otherwise the clock would’ve run out before they could’ve attempted a field goal.  I question, 1) why run on 2nd down which forces you to use your last timeout and 2) why are you not taking a shot to the end zone on 3rd?  That was not the best thinking by Sean Payton but the Saints got lucky and it ended up ok for them.

Vikings vs. Patriots – Belichek doing something interesting.

The Patriots were up 21-18 and had a first and goal from the 1 yard line with 3:18 left in the game.  Rather than trying to score, he had Tom Brady basically do two non-advancing QB sneaks on 1st and 2nd down to run the clock down to the 2 minute warning.  They did score a TD on 3rd down which made the strategy pay off but if they hadn’t scored on 3rd down, Bill Belichek would have faced a lot of criticism.  It ended up working out to perfection.  He is always forward thinking when it comes to clock management issues.

Bills vs. Chiefs – One mistake followed by another.

I always had my suspicion’s about Buffalo Head Coach Chan Gailey and today just confirmed it.  The Chiefs and Bills were tied 10-10.  Buffalo had 3rd and 1 at the KC 43 with 1:00 left and the clock stopped by a Bills timeout.  The Bills still had 2 timeouts left.  On third down, they ran the ball for 2 yards for a first down.  No problem with that call.  But now the Bills don’t use a timeout and don’t snap the next play until :32 are left.  Why are they saving their timeout?  Instead they waste time and then call a pass play which is way overthrown and is intercepted.  If they had called timeout, they could have regrouped and not been so rushed and saved a lot of time.  Now they are going to overtime.

Redskins vs. Lions – Same thing, different game.

As noted in the Dolphins/Bengals game below, the Lions committed the same mistake as the Bengals.  After a Redskins FG, the Lions got the ball back with 1:04 left and 1st and 10 at their own 20.  A first down pass for nine yards kept the clock rolling but two incomplete passes forced them to punt and with a great punt return, Washington with 1 timeout left had 1st and 10 at the Lions 49 with :16 left.  They were able to get in position to kick a FG.  If Detroit had run the ball (to get 1 yard for a 1st down), they wouldn’t have given up the 3.  I know they were trying to score and I can’t fault them for that but after the 2nd down incompletion, either burning the last Redskins timeout or getting the first down should have taken priority.

Dolphins vs. Bengals – Giving away easy points.

In my opinion Cincinnati gave Miami a cheap 3 points before halftime.  The Dolphins just kicked off and the Bengals had first and 10 at their own 26 with :49 left.  The Dolphins had all 3 timeouts remaining.  Two incomplete passes sandwiched around a run and a timeout forced the Bengals to punt to the Dolphins and with a nice return had 1st and 10 at the Bengals 49 with :21 left and two timeouts.  Now, if the Bengals had run three times, they would have forced the Dolphins to burn all their timeouts and most likely wouldn’t have gotten in position to kick another field goal because they wouldn’t have been able to stop the clock.  Instead the Dolphins were able to get a few yards and kick a FG.  One side note on the Dolphins drive, why do they run the ball with :21 left on 1st down?  Just a dumb play that gains 4 yards and forces them to use a timeout.

Tulsa vs. Notre Dame – Questionable play call.

This isn’t so much a clock management decision as it was a play calling decision.  Notre Dame was trailing Tulsa 28-27 and had 2nd and 9 at the Tulsa 21 with :42 and the clock stopped after a Tulsa timeout.  They were in field goal range although it was a windy day and it was not an automatic make.  After running on first down, ND decided to throw on 2nd down and the pass was intercepted in the end zone as it was underthrown to the receiver.  I thought a safer play call to gain a few more yards would have been a better call than this throw.  They did have timeouts left.  Or throw it too long rather than too short.

College Update

With so many college games taking place, you would think there would be more clock management situations.  However, the problem is there are so many blowouts in college football.  This week, there were 34 games involving at least one team from one of the six automatic qualifier BCS conferences as well as Boise State, TCU and Utah.  Only 13 of those games were one score games (8 points or less) and of those 13, probably only half of them had potential last minute clock implications.

Patriots vs. Chargers – Use Your Timeouts on Defense.

First, I have to actually acknowledge something that Norv Turner did right which isn’t very often.  After the Chargers had scored a TD to close the deficit against the Patriots to 23-13 with 7:25 left in the game, Norv had them try an onside kick which they recovered!  Nice job by Norv recognizing two scores with that much time left would be challenging.

Now after the Chargers scored on that possession to close the gap to 23-20 they didn’t try an onside kick again because there was 4:04 left in the game and they had all 3 timeouts and the 2 minute warning.  Before he realized Bill Belichek would go for it on 4th down, Norv had to assume they would get the ball deep in their own territory.  Therefore, I don’t understand why on any down he did not use a timeout to stop the clock and give his offense more time.  Again, 40 seconds saved on defense is the same as 40 seconds saved on offense!  And actually, when you are on offense, if you are efficient in your two minute drill, you won’t run off 40 seconds between plays so you aren’t saving 40 seconds. On 1st down, the Patriots completed an 8 yard pass over the middle.  The clock kept moving.  On second down they had a run stuffed up the middle.  The clock kept moving.  On third down, Wes Welker caught a pass streaking across the field and came up short of the first down (he was ruled down in bounds).  The clock kept moving.  Eventually it stopped at the two minute warning.  Now if the Patriots had punted, the Chargers would’ve had the ball at their 20 yard line or worse.  Why not use at least one timeout (especially after 2nd down) to save 40 seconds?  Of course, the Chargers got lucky with the Patriots going for it on 4th down and then stopping them as well to have great field position.  But still not a smart use of timeouts for the Chargers.