Packers vs. Bears – Questionable play calling.

For those of you who read last year, you know that Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy is one of the worst clock management coaches in the league.  While the Packers did beat the Bears today 27-17, I thought some of his play calling in the 4th quarter was suspect, especially when they could’ve shortened the game by running the ball and burning the clock.  The first situation was with 9:33 left in the game.  The Packers had just got a first down on a 3rd and 5 pass for 25 yards and had the ball at midfield.  With a two score lead, at least one or two running plays would continue to burn the clock and then you could assess the down/yardage situation for the next play call.  On first down, QB Aaron Rodgers threw an interception (Brian Urlacher made a spectacular grab) and all of a sudden momentum was shifting towards the Bears.  The Bears went backwards on their series (they should’ve gone for it on 4th and 26 from their own 29 with 7:15 left because they have to score twice and realistically it’s not happening if they punt the ball) so the Packers got the ball back.

On this series, which started with 7:05 left in the game, the Packers throw for 5 yards on first down (clock running), incomplete pass on 2nd down (clock stops), completed pass for first down on 3rd down (clock running), run on first down (clock running), completed pass on 2nd down (Bears use timeout; it looked like the receiver went out of bounds but the officials called it inbounds), and incomplete pass on 3rd down and 15 from the GB 38 (clock stops with 4:09 left).  Again, a coach has to balance running off clock with trying to get a first down.  But I would say the first play at midfield on the other series and the last incomplete pass on this series could easily have been runs given the situation.

Finally, it has to be pointed out that Coach McCarthy was smart not to punt the ball to Devin Hester with 1:09 left in the game.  He just should’ve told his team.  What a great fake by Hester to pretend the ball was coming to him when it was on the other side of the field!  Not sure where the penalty happened but that would’ve been disastrous for those who bet on the Packers at -3.5 to -4.5 if the punt return had counted!

Falcons vs. Buccaneers – Go for it.

The Falcons were trailing the Bucs 16-10.  They had 4th and goal from the 15 yard line with 4:11 left in the game.  They had trouble all game against the Bucs defense.  In this situation, I say you have to go for it.  How many chances will you get that close to the goal line?  Yes, it is not ideal but you still have to try.  The Falcons took the “by the book” route and kicked the FG.  What happened?  Even though they had 3 timeouts left and the two minute warning to stop the clock, the Falcons never saw the ball again and lost 16-13.

Lions vs. Vikings – Call Timeout. Followed by know the situation.

Two things happened in the last 4 minutes of the Lions/Vikings game.  One “mistake” by each team.  First, the game was tied 23-23 and the Lions had the ball 1st and 10 at the Vikings 24 with 4:05 left.  Well within FG range so the Vikings knew they would need time on the clock to either tie the game or win the game.  On both 1st and 2nd down the clock continued to run as the Vikings did not use one of their 3 timeouts.  The clock did stop on 3rd down after an incomplete pass and the Lions kicked a FG with 2:35 left.  But the Vikings could have had over 60 more seconds to move the ball.  Now the Vikings did end up driving into FG range to tie the game with 1:16 left so you can say they didn’t need the clock but I still view it as a mistake.

Now the Lions get the ball back with 1:11 left in the game and have 1st and 10 at their own 20 yard line.  Certainly the way they had been moving the ball in the second half, I have no problem with them taking a crack at trying to win the game.  However, before they had snapped the ball for one play, they committed two 5 yard penalties and now had 1st and 20 at their own 10 yard line.  The Vikings had 2 timeouts left.  Basically, the Lions couldn’t run out the clock and thus the Vikings could have a shot at a game winning FG depending on the punt and the return.  If I was the Lions coach, I would’ve run the ball three straight plays, trying to take 5-7 seconds off per play plus the 40 seconds after the one play where the Vikings wouldn’t have a timeout plus the punt would leave less than 10 seconds left.  And not jeopardize losing yardage on any play.  Well on first down, the Lions tried to pass but were sacked at their 3 yard line.  The Vikings called timeout.  The Lions ran the ball on 2nd and 3rd downs with the Vikings using their final timeout on 2nd down.  But now the Lions had to punt the ball from their 3 yard line with 21 seconds.  The Vikings would’ve had the ball at the Lions 45 yard line with 11 seconds left but a stupid personal foul penalty on the Vikings pushed them back 15 yards and cost them a chance to win the game.  But the Lions not playing their last sequence right almost cost them a game they won in overtime.

49ers vs. Bengals – Call timeout!

I have a saying I like to use.  “40 seconds saved on defense is 40 seconds saved.”  Why do coaches like to save timeouts for the offense when they need to save as much time as possible and nothing saves 40 seconds like a timeout used on defense?   On offense, a team will get a play off in much quicker fashion than using the entire 40 second play clock, especially in the two-minute offense.  What makes this situation stranger is that the Bengals called timeout after 2nd down to stop the clock but not after 3rd down.  The Bengals were trailing the 49ers 10-6 with 3:54 left in the game.  The 49ers had 1st and 10 at the Bengals 32 after an interception.  On first down the 49ers ran the ball.  At 3:11, they ran it on second down and the Bengals used their 2nd timeout to stop the clock with 3:05 left.  On third down, the 49ers ran the ball again.  But the Bengals didn’t call timeout.  The 49ers finally called timeout with 2:21 left to setup a FG which gave them a 7 point lead.  Why didn’t the Bengals call timeout after 3rd down (there was an injury on the play but the game clock started after play resumed), especially since they called timeout after 2nd down?  I wonder what was going through Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis’ head.

Jaguars vs. Panthers (2) – Playing it by the book doesn’t get the win.

I understand what Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio did in the last 6:55 of the game with the Panthers.  He played it the way all coaches do.  And he lost.  With the kind of team that he has (not very good), I think he has to play to win and not play to not lose.  Here’s what I’m talking about.  First, the Jaguars had a 10-8 lead and had 4th and 1 at their own 29 yard line with 6:55 left.  OK, I get it.  If you go for it and don’t make the first down, the Panthers are in FG range (or need a few yards given the wet field conditions).  But also if you can make 1 yard, you can run more clock and control your destiny.  Anyway, the Jaguars punt.  And the Panthers score a TD and a 2-pt conversion in 5 plays and 2:24 to take a 16-10 lead.  So the Jaguars get the ball back and face 4th and 12 from their own 30 yard line after an incomplete pass with 2:57 left holding all 3 timeouts plus the 2 minute warning.  They do the standard thing and punt the ball.  I say you have to go for it.  Even if you hold the Panthers you still have to go a long way with no timeouts left which is much harder in the NFL than in college football because the clock doesn’t stop to move the chains after a first down.  Now the Jaguars did get the ball back with 1:02 left at their own 20 yard line.  80 yards in 62 seconds with no timeouts?  Not going to happen.  So by playing by the book, Del Rio fell into the “oh well, we lost but I didn’t do anything to look bad” excuse.

Jaguars vs. Panthers – Where’s the defense?

The Panthers had an awful defensive sequence right before the end of the first half.  The Panthers were ahead 5-3 and had just punted the ball to Jaguars who had 1st and 10 at their own 23 with :53.  A first down run for 2 yards kept the clock rolling.  The 2nd down play was snapped with :17 left and Maurice Jones-Drew ripped off a 39 yard run to the Panthers with :06 left after the Jaguars called timeout.  I should also point out that there was a rainstorm going on and passing the ball at this point wasn’t an option, especially with the time left in the half, the field position, and the fact they ran the ball on 1st down and didn’t call timeout.  So where was the defense?  Then with :06 left and the Jaguars holding one timeout, they completed a long pass down the middle of the field around the 5 yard line.  That’s ok so long as you tackle the receiver before he gets to the end zone because the clock had expired.  Instead, they don’t and Jacksonville scores a TD.  Just awful defense in the last 17 seconds.



Patriots vs. Bills – Nice job running out the clock.

The Bills and Patriots were tied 31-31 at the two minute warning.  Buffalo had 1st and 10 at the Patriots 39 yard line.  A short catch and long run by Fred Jackson was initially ruled a TD before being overturned and the ball placed at the 1 yard line.  What a break for the Bills.  If it had been a TD, the Patriots would have got the ball back with around 1:40 left in the game and two timeouts remaining.  Instead, the Bills smartly took a knee on multiple plays to run the clock down to :03 before kicking the game winning FG as time expired.  Once they got the break on the overturned call, they were smart to not score a TD and run out the clock.  Nobody wants to see the ball in Tom Brady’s hand in that situation.  Good job by Bills Head Coach Chan Gailey.

Week #2 – Loser of the Week

It was a pretty easy decision this week.  49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh is the loser of the week for not taking the 15 yard penalty to get a new set of downs with 11 minutes left in the game against the Cowboys.  His decision did cost the 49ers the game as running at least 2 more minutes off the clock before kicking a FG (and who knows maybe they would’ve got a TD) gave the Cowboys enough time to come back and tie the game.

Eagles vs. Falcons – Why are you punting to DeSean Jackson?

The Falcons have the ball 1st and 10 at their own 22 yard line with 1:41 left in the game.  The Eagles have one timeout left.  The Falcons take a knee on three straight plays and the Eagles use their one timeout so there is :15 left in the game when the Falcons line up to punt.  Now, first of all, they shouldn’t have taken a knee in this situation.  Or at least, taken a knee after a few seconds of hanging in the backfield.  But by running a play or delaying the knee, they could have used almost the entire game clock.  But then when you have to punt the ball, punt in out-of-bounds!  Why would you punt to one of the most dangerous punt returners in DeSean Jackson (remember Giants game last year)?  Bad end of game execution by the Falcons even though it didn’t cost them.