NFL Summary through the afternoon games.

There isn’t too much to write about today because we’ve had very few close games.  Of the 12 Sunday afternoon games, only three of them were one score games (Cardinals/Panthers, Titans/Jaguars, and Vikings/Chargers).  While we haven’t had any “major” mistakes, there are a few things I want to highlight.

–The Bears made a few bad play calls during the 4th quarter of their rout of the Falcons.  First the Bears were up 30-6 with 10:35 left and had 3rd and 4 at the Falcons 38.  A deflected pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown.  You are up by 3 and probably 4 scores.  Run the ball, keep the clock moving and kill another 40 seconds.  Then with the score 30-12 and the Bears having 3rd and 11 at their 27 yard line with 4:59 left, they throw an incomplete pass.  Again, run the ball and kill another 40 seconds.

–The Bengals are up on the Browns 20-17 with 3:10 left and 2nd and 7 at their own 36.  Cleveland has 2 timeouts left.  Cincinnati runs the ball (good) but Cedric Benson is forced out of bounds for no gain and the clock stops (bad).  Stay in bounds!  Don’t call a play that might take you out of bounds.

–The Jaguars faced a classic clock situation.  Two minutes left leading the Titans 16-14, Titans out of timeouts, and Jacksonville had 3rd and 5 at the Titans 47.  A run might not get the first down but will keep the clock running.  A pass if completed will most likely get the first down and ice the game.  The Jaguars throw an incomplete pass and the Titans get the ball back with 1:45 left instead of 1:05.  This is not a criticism of what the Jaguars did, just and observation of the decision that has to be made.

–The Lions are leading the Buccaneers 27-20.  The Lions have 3rd and 6 at the Tampa Bay 36 with 1:24 left.  The Bucs have just used their last timeout.  On 3rd down, the Lions run the ball to keep the clock moving (good) but then an unnecessary roughness penalty after the play is over (bad) stops the clock and now the Bucs get the ball back with 1:07 left instead of less than 30 seconds left.  The Lions still win but the penalty gave the Bucs a chance they shouldn’t have had.

–Good job by the Panthers calling timeout on defense with 1:08 left in the first half before a Cardinals field goal in order to give their offense enough time to get a touchdown before the end of the half.

–Bad – the Vikings get drawn offside on a 3rd and 2 with 2 minutes left giving the Chargers a first down and letting them run out the clock.

–I don’t think the Seahawks will find themselves in many clock management situations this year because they are going to get blown out most of the time.  But they made a couple of costly mistakes in the 4th quarter of their game with the 49ers.  With 8:14 left in the game, the 49ers kick a field goal to go up 19-10.  But a roughing the kicker penalty gives the 49ers a fresh set of downs and allows them to run off more clock and they kick a field goal with 5:54 left.  That’s penalty cost the Seahawks nearly 2 1/2 minutes at a point in the game where they need to score twice.  Just a killer penalty.   The other issue I have and this is typical of NFL coaches is that they give up rather than try to win (or keep alive the chance to win) the game.  After the Seahawks scored a touchdown to close the gap to 19-17, the 49ers return the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown to take the lead back to 9 points.  The Seahawks get the ball back and two incomplete passes and a sack leave them with 4th and 17 at their own 13 yard line with 3:05 left in the game.  YOU HAVE TO GO FOR IT FOR ANY CHANCE AT WINNING THE GAME.  Instead the Seahwaks and Head Coach Pete Carroll give up and punt the ball.  And what happens?  The 49ers return the punt for a touchdown!  So if the Seahawks punted the ball instead of not going for it so the 49ers wouldn’t get a short field for a touchdown, the plan backfired.  Serves them right.

Notre Dame vs. Michigan – No mistakes made.

Looking back at the last 2:16 of the ND-Michigan game (the time remaining when Michigan started its second-to-last drive of the game), in which three touchdowns were scored and the lead changed hands three times, you would think there might have been some really bad clock management decisions.  But actually there weren’t any.  It was just bad defense.  Michigan went 58 yards in 5 plays and 1:04.  Notre Dame then went 61 yards in 4 plays and :42.  Finally, Michigan went 80 yards in 3 plays and :28!  You could say that both Michigan and Notre Dame scored too fast but in reality do you really tell a guy not to score a touchdown, especially when Michigan’s was a 21 yard catch and run and Notre Dame’s was a 29 yard catch and run?

Mississippi State vs. Auburn – Timeouts and play calling: both were bad.

Mississippi State was trailing Auburn 41-34. MSU got the ball back with 2:52 left at their own 33 yard line and they had two timeouts left. MSU’s offense is run oriented which creates challenges in a two minute drill. However they ripped off some nice runs and had moved the ball down to the Auburn 35 yard line with 1:49 remaining. Now here’s where things start to go off the rails. On first down they ran the ball for 3 yards but now the clock is moving. They didn’t call timeout so the second down snap was at 1:22. The play was another run for 3 yards and again the clock is running after no timeout is called. So now the third down play is snapped at :51. Another run nets 16 yards and a first down at the Auburn 13 yard line with :31 left. While they are in decent shape, I think a time out was warranted after first or second down which would’ve given MSU at least 20 more seconds.
On first down they run it for 5 yards and call time out with :24 left. On second down they run it for 7 yards out of bounds to the one yard line and a first down with :18 left. Now here’s where two major mistakes happen. The first down play is a running play that loses one yard but MSU is slow to call a timeout so the clock runs down to :10 before MSU uses it’s last timeout. That is the first mistake because they may need to run three plays and now only have 10 seconds to do it. Now you would think with no timeouts left that MSU would throw the ball. They might have three shots at the end zone. Instead they run the ball and get stuffed and the game is over. Bad play calling. Head Coach Dan Mullen will be thinking about this one for awhile.

Saints vs. Packers – Spike the Ball!

Well it didn’t take long to have the first mistake of the NFL season. Saints are trailing the Packers 42-34 and have the ball with just over a minute left at their own 20 yard line. Four pass completions put the Saints at the Packers 19 yard line with about 20 seconds left and the clock running. The Saints are out of timeouts. Spike the ball! Stopping the clock should give the Saints four chances at the end zone. Instead Drew Brees runs another play that stays inbounds and keeps the clock moving. They finally spike the ball but with :03 left will only have one shot at the end zone. They end up with a second chance because of a dubious penalty call and still don’t score. Not spiking the ball with 20 seconds left cost the Saints a chance to tie the game. A horrible mistake by Head Coach Sean Payton and Quarterback Drew Brees.

Hurricanes vs. Terrapins – Call timeout!

Maryland is in FG range inside the Miami 20 and is facing 4th down trailing by 1.  The game clock shows 2:22 and is running.  Miami has two timeouts left.  Use one and save 40 seconds!  It’s a waste to save it for the offense because a timeout on offense never saves 40 seconds.  Instead Miami takes over with just over 90 seconds left in the game instead of over 2 minutes.  Also, a bad play call by Miami on the last drive – a run up the middle which gained little and forced them to use one of the timeouts.  On another note, Maryland could have run off another 15 seconds after a first down run on their last series but they snapped the ball too fast.  Why aren’t the coaches paying attention to these details?  In the end I guess it didn’t matter as Maryland intercepted a pass and returned it for a TD.

College Football Weekend Summary

Besides the TCU mistake noted in the previous post, there weren’t any other major mistakes from the opening weekend of college football.  That was partly due to so many blowout games because of all the bad scheduling by Division 1 schools (I refuse to call it FBS or FCS or whatever it is called).  They should not be allowed to play Division 1-AA schools.

However, there were a few things I wanted to point out from the weekend–both good and bad.

Bad – Even though Auburn won the game, they started a drive with 3:33 left in the game trailing by 10 points with a running play.  I can’t even comprehend why you would waste 20-30 seconds for a -1 yard loss!

Good – South Florida made a conscious effort to kill the clock in the fourth quarter, opting for eight straight running plays across two possessions to burn the clock.

Bad – Duke has the ball 1st and 10 at the Richmond 10 yard line with 4:04 left in the game trailing 23-21.  It looked like Duke was at least going to kick a chip shot FG to take the lead.  Richmond had two timeouts left so why not use them after two of the downs in order to give you offense as much time as possible to get the winning score?  They didn’t use any and Duke attempted the go ahead and potential game winning FG with 1:43 left.  They missed.  So Richmond wins.  But even in victory, a bad mistake is noted.

Good – Give credit to both coaches in the Northwestern/Boston College game for playing to win.  First, BC had 4th and 10 at their own 42 with 2:57 left in the game trailing 24-17.  Most coaches would just punt the ball and hope for the best.  BC decided to go for it and even though they didn’t make it, it’s the kind of decision that is not made often enough.  On the other side, NU had 4th and 1 at the BC 35 with 1:41 left.  They didn’t punt or attempt a long FG but went for the game clinching first down.  They didn’t make it but again kudos to Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald for playing to win.

Bad – Oregon State was tied with Sacramento State with 2:35 left in the game.  Sacramento State just had a go ahead FG blocked and the Beavers had 1st and 10 at their own 17 yard line.  On first down, they ran the ball for 3 yards and killed 35 seconds.  If they planned to run out the clock, then the run is fine.  But then they threw the ball after that run and proceeded to march down the field where they missed a short FG.  While it looks like they had enough time to get into FG range, a few more seconds might have helped them in the end.  The running play was a bad call.

TCU vs. Baylor – Where’s the timeout?

The TCU vs. Baylor game on Friday night was by far the best game of the opening weekend of college football.  It also featured the most glaring clock management mistake of the weekend by TCU’s Head Coach Gary Patterson. TCU had mounted a furious 4th quarter comeback scoring 25 unanswered points to take a 48-47 lead with 5:49 left in the game.  Baylor then marched the ball down field (like they had done all game) and had 1st and 10 at the TCU 26 with 2:42 left in the game.  At this point, it looked like Baylor was playing for a FG as they ran the ball on three straight plays.  TCU had two timeouts left so they couldn’t stop the clock after all three downs.  So, as expected after the 1st down play, the clock continued to run.  But after 2nd down, TCU did not call timeout!  They did call timeout after 3rd down but after the FG and ensuing kickoff, TCU had :59 left.  They could have had about 1:45 left if they had called timeout after 2nd down which could have helped them on their last minute drive as they did get to the Baylor 40 yard line with :12 left before throwing an interception.

Imagine what they could have done with the extra time to get in FG range.  Remember 45 seconds saved on defense is 45 seconds saved.  I put this in the category of a major mistake (game changing).  And oh by the way, they ended the game with that one timeout still left.  I’m sure Coach Patterson would like a do over on the last 3 minutes of this game.