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).