Last Sunday in the NFL, we had two games that came down to the two-minute drive for one team to win. In the drives prior to punting the ball, the leading team did all it could do to make sure its opponent used its timeouts or it got first downs. In the first game, the Bucs at the Falcons, the Bucs attempted to go for a 51-yard field goal, realizing that if they missed, they would give the Falcons the ball back on a short field but still needing a touchdown to beat them. Had they made the kick, a touchdown would have put them up seven points. So the fundamental question, if you’re Bucs coach Raheem Morris, is: Does he attempt the field goal or punt the ball and, at worse, make the Falcons go 80 yards to win the game without a timeout? Let’s break down all of Morris’ options:
1. Punt the ball and hope it lands inside the 20, making the Falcons travel a minimum of 80 yards.
2. Go for it on fourth and 4, even having the option to pass, since the clock will stop on a change of possession regardless of the outcome of the play if it’s not a first down.
3. Attempt a 51-yard field goal, indoors, under ideal conditions, understanding that if you miss the kick, the ball is moved seven yards closer to your goal line. If you make the kick, a touchdown can only send the game into overtime.
4. Attempt to get the Falcons to jump offside with a unique shift and hard count that you’ve practiced for this exact situation. If they don’t move, then they would probably accept the penalty for delay and force you to punt, but with more room to coffin corner the kick. If they decline the penalty, options 1-3 are still available.
I would use option No. 4 and make the Falcons have to make a decision. If they decline the penalty, then I would punt the ball and make them go 80 yards with a backup quarterback. I’m tempted to go for it on fourth and 4 — what does a one-win team have to lose? But in the interest of sound clock management, I would use No. 4 first, then No. 1. My last option is No. 3, as I would rather go for it, feeling my odds are more favorable to make a first down on fourth and 4 than make a 51 yarder and lose seven additional yards.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 6:38
1-10-TB 33 (6:38) D.Ward right tackle to TB 35 for 2 yards (C.Owens).
2-8-TB 35 (5:58) J.Freeman pass short right to A.Bryant pushed ob at TB 46 for 11 yards (C.Owens). P12
1-10-TB 46 (5:32) (Shotgun) D.Ward right end to TB 49 for 3 yards (J.Abraham).
Timeout #1 by TB at 04:46.
2-7-TB 49 (4:46) (Shotgun) PENALTY on TB-D.Ward, False Start, 5 yards, enforced at TB 49 – No Play.
2-12-TB 44 (4:46) (Shotgun) D.Ward up the middle to ATL 49 for 7 yards (C.Lofton).
3-5-ATL 49 (4:08) (Shotgun) J.Freeman pass short middle to S.Stroughter to ATL 39 for 10 yards (C.Lofton). P13
1-10-ATL 39 (3:25) D.Ward right end to ATL 37 for 2 yards (C.Owens).
Timeout #2 by ATL at 03:21.
2-8-ATL 37 (3:21) D.Ward up the middle to ATL 36 for 1 yard (J.Anderson).
Timeout #3 by ATL at 03:16.
3-7-ATL 36 (3:15) D.Ward right tackle to ATL 33 for 3 yards (K.Biermann, J.Anderson).
4-4-ATL 33 (2:34) C.Barth 51 yard field goal is No Good, Wide Right, Center-A.Economos, Holder-D.Johnson.
Atlanta Falcons at 2:30
1-10-ATL 41 (2:30) (Shotgun) C.Redman pass incomplete short right to T.Gonzalez.
2-10-ATL 41 (2:24) (Shotgun) C.Redman pass short right to T.Gonzalez to ATL 49 for 8 yards (G.Hayes).
3-2-ATL 49 (2:06) (Shotgun) C.Redman pass short left to E.Weems to TB 46 for 5 yards (T.Jackson). P16
1-10-TB 46 (2:00) (Shotgun) C.Redman pass incomplete deep right to M.Jenkins.
2-10-TB 46 (1:53) (Shotgun) C.Redman pass short right to T.Gonzalez to TB 35 for 11 yards (G.Hayes). P17
1-10-TB 35 (1:35) (Shotgun) C.Redman pass short left to M.Jenkins to TB 25 for 10 yards (D.Roberson). P18
1-10-TB 25 (1:20) C.Redman spiked the ball to stop the clock.
2-10-TB 25 (1:19) (Shotgun) C.Redman pass short right to T.Gonzalez to TB 16 for 9 yards (G.Hayes).
3-1-TB 16 (1:14) (Shotgun) C.Redman pass short middle to T.Gonzalez to TB 10 for 6 yards (G.Hayes). P19
1-10-TB 10 (:50) C.Redman spiked the ball to stop the clock.
2-10-TB 10 (:49) (Shotgun) C.Redman pass incomplete short middle to M.Booker.
Timeout #2 by TB at 00:40.
3-10-TB 10 (:40) (Shotgun) C.Redman pass incomplete short right to T.Gonzalez (S.Piscitelli).
PENALTY on TB-D.Roberson, Defensive Holding, 5 yards, enforced at TB 10 – No Play. X20
1-5-TB 5 (:36) (Shotgun) C.Redman pass incomplete short left to R.White.
2-5-TB 5 (:34) (Shotgun) C.Redman pass incomplete short right.
3-5-TB 5 (:30) (Shotgun) C.Redman pass incomplete short left to T.Gonzalez.
Timeout #3 by TB at 00:26.
4-5-TB 5 (:26) (Shotgun) C.Redman pass short left to R.White for 5 yards, TOUCHDOWN. P21
The Replay Assistant challenged the pass completion ruling, and the play was Upheld.
J.Elam extra point is GOOD, Center-B.Pittman, Holder-M.Koenen.
TB 17 ATL 20, 15 plays, 59 yards, 1 penalty, 2:07 drive, 14:37 elapsed
Arizona at Tennessee
The Cardinals did everything right with their play calls. Unfortunately for them, they were not able to execute well enough to get a first down. The Titans are one of the best clock-management teams in the NFL and they preserve timeouts in the second half as well as anyone.
What I find amazing about the Vince Young drive is the fact the Titans never had to call a timeout, and they had two of them until 17 seconds to go in the game. They moved the ball down the field, and had the Cards been able to keep the Titans inbounds at any point, they might have been able to win the game. The Cards’ biggest failure was not keeping the receivers inbounds at least three times during the drive.
The Cards had plenty of time to rest their defensive line and rotate them into the game, so there was no need for them to burn a timeout. Their only regret, I’m sure, is the fact that when the Titans came out on the second fourth-and-4, they might have called a timeout to get organized and help their defense prepare for the next play — but that’s not really a big deal. I hate when basketball coaches have to call a timeout with little time remaining to set up a play when in fact they should be prepared for the situation.
The Cards’ failure lies in their inability to make a play at the right time.
Arizona Cardinals at 4:37
1-10-ARZ 30 (4:37) T.Hightower left end to ARZ 37 for 7 yards (C.Finnegan).
PENALTY on ARZ-R.Wells, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at ARZ 30 – No Play.
1-20-ARZ 20 (4:29) T.Hightower right end to ARZ 22 for 2 yards (K.Bulluck, W.Hayes).
2-18-ARZ 22 (3:44) M.Leinart pass short right to T.Hightower to ARZ 25 for 3 yards (N.Harper, W.Hayes).
3-15-ARZ 25 (2:59) (Shotgun) M.Leinart pass short right to J.Wright to ARZ 35 for 10 yards (J.Ford, K.Vanden Bosch). TEN-W.Hayes was injured during the play. His return is Questionable.
Timeout #1 by TEN at 02:49.
4-5-ARZ 35 (2:49) (Punt formation) B.Graham punts 64 yards to TEN 1, Center-M.Leach, downed by ARZ-L.Stephens-Howling.
Tennessee Titans at 2:37
1-10-TEN 1 (2:37) V.Young pass short right to K.Britt to TEN 7 for 6 yards (D.Rodgers-Cromartie).
2-4-TEN 7 (2:05) V.Young pass incomplete short right to B.Scaife.
3-4-TEN 7 (2:00) (Shotgun) V.Young pass incomplete short right to K.Britt (D.Rodgers-Cromartie).
4-4-TEN 7 (1:56) (Shotgun) V.Young pass short left to K.Britt to TEN 17 for 10 yards (B.McFadden). P15
1-10-TEN 17 (1:36) (No Huddle, Shotgun) V.Young pass short middle to B.Scaife to TEN 36 for 19 yards (B.McFadden, A.Wilson). P16
1-10-TEN 36 (1:13) (No Huddle, Shotgun) V.Young pass short left to L.Hawkins pushed ob at TEN 38 for 2 yards (B.McFadden).
2-8-TEN 38 (1:09) (Shotgun) V.Young pass short left to J.Cook ran ob at 50 for 12 yards. P17
1-10-50 (1:03) (Shotgun) V.Young pass incomplete deep left to N.Washington.
2-10-50 (:57) (Shotgun) V.Young scrambles right end pushed ob at ARZ 44 for 6 yards (M.Adams).
3-4-ARZ 44 (:48) (Shotgun) V.Young pass incomplete short right to B.Scaife [D.Dockett].
4-4-ARZ 44 (:43) (Shotgun) V.Young pass short left to L.Hawkins pushed ob at ARZ 31 for 13 yards (M.Adams). P18
1-10-ARZ 31 (:37) (Shotgun) V.Young pass short left to B.Scaife ran ob at ARZ 26 for 5 yards.
2-5-ARZ 26 (:33) (Shotgun) V.Young pass incomplete deep left to N.Washington.
3-5-ARZ 26 (:28) (Shotgun) V.Young pass short middle to J.Cook pushed ob at ARZ 9 for 17 yards (R.Brown). P19
Timeout #1 by ARZ at 00:21.
1-9-ARZ 9 (:21) (Shotgun) V.Young pass incomplete short middle to B.Scaife.
2-9-ARZ 9 (:17) (Shotgun) V.Young sacked at ARZ 10 for -1 yards (sack split by C.Campbell and C.Haggans).
Timeout #2 by TEN at 00:11.
3-10-ARZ 10 (:11) (Shotgun) V.Young pass incomplete short middle to N.Washington.
Timeout #3 by TEN at 00:06.
Timeout #2 by ARZ at 00:06.
4-10-ARZ 10 (:06) (Shotgun) V.Young pass short middle to K.Britt for 10 yards, TOUCHDOWN. P20
R.Bironas extra point is GOOD, Center-K.Amato, Holder-B.Kern.
ARZ 17 TEN 20, 18 plays, 99 yards, 2:37 drive, 15:00 elapsed
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