Browns vs. Bengals – Kick the FG quickly when you need two scores.

The Browns trailed the Bengals by 10 points and get the ball back after a Bengals FG with just over two minutes left in the game.  The Browns get to the Bengals 21 yard line with 1:14 left.  Needing both a FG and a TD, kick the field goal first to give yourself enough time to also score the TD.  Instead the Browns run four more plays, none of them to the end zone, and gain 14 yards before settling for a FG with :20 left.  Even if they did recover the onside kick, there isn’t enough time to get the TD.

Cardinals vs. Patriots – Two major mistakes create a dramatic ending.

We finally had a game with a major coaching error but not only did we get one, we got two!  And I was very surprised that New England Head Coach Bill Belichick was one of the coaches who committed a mistake because he usually doesn’t think the same way as most NFL coaches which means he does the right thing.

The first mistake was made by Cardinals Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt.  The Cardinals were leading the Patriots 20-18.  The Patriots had just used their last timeout and the Cardinals had 3rd and 13 at their own 35 yard line with 1:10 left in the game.  Obviously, the Cardinals were not going to throw the ball.  And the likelihood of executing a running play for 13 yards with the Patriots expecting a running play was very small.  So why jeopardize a turnover with a running play?  Why not play it safe and take a knee and let the clock run down to about :26 and then punt the ball.  The Patriots would have had less than 20 seconds left and no timeouts to gain at least 40 yards  to attempt a game winning field goal.  So what happened?  The Cardinals ran the ball with Ryan Williams who was tackled behind the line of scrimmage and fumbled the ball which was recovered by the Patriots at the 30 yard line.  Uh oh.

But Coach Belichick let Coach Whisenhunt off the hook.  The Patriots had 1:01 and no timeouts.  The first play went for a touchdown but was nullified by a downfield holding penalty.  After a 12 yard gain and another penalty, the Patriots had 1st and 15 from the Cardinals 23 yard line with :46.  Instead of trying to gain some yards for a closer field goal attempt, Coach Belichick had quarterback Tom Brady basically take a knee to kill the clock and then spike the ball on the next play to set up the game winnning field goall attempt with :05 left.  The 42 yard kick was not even close.  Why do coaches think a field goal is almost automatic?  I would never want to leave it to a kick greater than 30 yards yet time and time again, coaches would rather play it safe and not risk a turnover or penalty than try to make it a shorter kick.  Sorry Coach Belichick, this doesn’t cut it in my book.

NFL Summary Week 1 – No end of game coaching mistakes.

With 15 NFL games completed in Week 1 and one to go, it’s been mostly an uneventful weekend.  There was one player gaffe in the Jaguars/Vikings game that caused the overtime, but the remaining mistakes were made at the end of the first half.  While more attention is focused on the end of the game, the end of the first half can be as critical especially when it causes a swing in momentum heading into the lockerroom.  Part of the uneventful weekend was due to seven of the 15 games being decided by a two score margin or greater.

Jaguars vs. Vikings – The mistake in this game came with the Vikings leading 20-15.  They had the ball 2nd down and 9 at their own 15 yard line with 1:46 left in the game and the Jaguars having one timeout remaining.  On the play, the Vikings were called for an illegal cut block and the penalty automatically stopped the clock.  The penalty was declined and after third down, the Jaguars used their last timeout to get the ball back at their own 24 yard line with 1:18 left in the game.  There is no way the Jaguars drive 76 yards to get the go ahead TD with only 40 seconds left in the game which is what they would’ve had to do if the penalty hadn’t happened.

By the way in that game, it was amazing the Vikings were able to execute two plays in 10 seconds and move 32 yards to kick a game tying field goal and send it into overtime.

There were four end of the first half mistakes with the first three being what I’d term major and the last one just something to point out because it still worked in the Saints’ favor.

Eagles vs. Browns – The game was tied 3-3 and Cleveland had 3rd down and 2 at their own 26 with one minute remaining in the half.  Philly had one timeout left.  Given how bad Cleveland’s offense had been, the likelihood of them scoring was small and running the ball to either get the first down or burn Philly’s last timeout would’ve been the smart play.  Instead, an incomplete pass stopped the clock and the Eagles got the ball back at their own 26 yard line with 49 seconds left and still holding the one timeout.  The Eagles then go 74 yards for the go ahead TD and use their one timeout along the way to help manage the clock.  Without the timeout, a 3-3 or at worse 6-3 deficit would’ve been the situation for the Browns.  They ended up losing 17-16.

49ers vs. Packers – The 49ers led 13-7 after kicking a field goal.  On the ensuing possession, the Packers had 1st and 10 at their own 20 yard line with :55 left in the half.  A penalty, incompletion, completed pass inbounds and a Packers called timeout left them with 3rd and 8 from their own 22 yard line with :39 left.  I know the Packers have an explosive offense but deep in your own territory against the best defense in the NFC it might have been better to get to halftime and regroup since the Packers also would get the ball to start the second half.  So, calling the timeout is questionable.  Now on third down, since they called timeout, they were likely going to pass the ball to get the first down.  But if they ran the ball, the 49ers would have to use their last timeout to stop the clock.  Instead, the Packers threw an incomplete pass and punted.  The 49ers got the ball with :18 left at their own 38 yard line and ran a quarterback draw for 17 yards with rookie Colin Kaepernick and then used their last timeout.  After a couple of incomplete passes, David Akers kicked a NFL record tying 63 yard field goal and the 49ers took a two score lead to the lockerroom.

Rams vs. Lions – After a Rams touchdown gave them a 13-7 lead, the Lions had the ball 1st down and 10 at their own 24 yard line with 1:24 left in the half.  They had all three timeouts left.  On the first play, Matthew Stafford completed a 51 yard pass to Calvin Johnson to the Rams 25 yard line.  But they didn’t call timeout and ended up running the next play with :43 left and it was a “wasted” play being a two yard run.  Now they called a timeout.  Two incomplete passes led to a field goal so at least they scored but they should’ve called timeout after that long completion to get the offense set.  And they ended up taking two timeouts to lockerroom!  Use them.

Redskins vs. Saints – Washington took over at their own 20 yard line after a Saints turnover with 1:46 left in the half.  The Saints had all three timeouts left.  The Redskins looked content to run out the clock with a first down run.  The Saints didn’t call timeout.  But after the Redskins ran the ball on both 2nd and 3rd down the Saints called timeout.  Why not after 1st down?  If your strategy is to stop the clock and get the ball back, why not give yourself 40 more seconds?  The Saints probably wanted to make sure the Redskins weren’t going to throw the ball and score another TD on them!  Anyway it worked out for the Saints as they blocked the punt for a TD.

The last things I wanted to mention are the two good things that happened at the end of the first half in two games.  First, kudos to Andrew Luck for executing a drive from his own 22 yard line to the Bears 19 yard line in 33 seconds only for Adam Vinatieri to miss the 37 yard field goal which would’ve cut the Bears lead to 24-17.  And great job by the Falcons to NOT call a timeout after they competed a 25 yard pass to the Chiefs 3 yard line with under two minutes left in the first half.  They had plenty of time so there was no need to call timeout and potentially give the other team the ball back with enough time to score.

So that’s it for Week 1 (wait, Norv Turner still has to coach a game).




Cowboys vs. Giants – Good decisions can happen as well!

It is easy to always highlight the bad decisions made by coaches and players.  They are incredibly frustrating to watch and are magnified when the team loses.  However, there are instances of good decisions.  And in fact, the Cowboys made two of them in the closing minutes of their game with the Giants.

The Cowboys had 3rd and 2 from their own 34 with 2:17 left in the game and the clock stopped after the last Giants timeout.  On the third down play, DeMarco Murray ran the ball around the left end and after he had enough yardage for the first down but before his momentum carried him out of bounds, he dropped to the ground.  Smart thinking by DeMarco on that play to not stop the clock.

That play was negated because of a holding penalty on the Cowboys so they now had 3rd and 10 from their 26 with 2:11 left.  If they ran the ball, the clock would stop at that the 2 minute warning.  And if they didn’t get a first down, the Giants would get the ball back with plenty of time left to tie the game.  So by playing it safe and running the ball, they would only burn 11 seconds off the clock.  Most coaches would play it safe and run the ball because that’s the prevailing philosophy of NFL coaches.  But the Cowboys decided to try and ice the game and they threw the ball.  They completed the pass for a first down.  Game over.  A great decision by the Jason Garrett.