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Tavern talk: How Falcons gave away points

Crucial call at end of half proves costly. Michael Lombardi

Print This November 03, 2009, 05:29 PM EST

At the end of the half, teams must be very careful about giving away points. Monday night was a prime example. The Falcons allowed the Saints to score right before the half to make it 21-14. Then they get the ball back with three timeouts and the ball at their own 33-yard line. The No. 1 objective here is to score points but also to make sure you don’t give the ball back to the Saints so they have a chance to extend their lead. The fact the Falcons had three timeouts left allowed them to run or pass, which would help them reduce the game and keep the Saints off balance. If the Falcons could score a touchdown or even kick a field goal with no time left, that would be great. But they do not want the Saints to get the ball back or make a mistake to make it a 10-to-14 point halftime lead. Here’s what happened:

ATL 14 NO 21, 6 plays, 80 yards, 1:41 drive, 13:55 elapsed

T.Morstead kicks 70 yards from NO 30 to ATL 0. E.Weems to ATL 33 for 33 yards (P.Prioleau).

Atlanta Falcons at 1:05, (1st play from scrimmage 1:00)

1-10-ATL 33 (1:00) (Shotgun) M.Ryan pass short left to V.Haynes to ATL 39 for 6 yards (T.Porter). Pass -3, Catch 9
Timeout #1 by ATL at 00:52.

2-4-ATL 39 (:52) (Shotgun) M.Ryan pass short right intended for R.White INTERCEPTED by J.Greer at ATL 48. J.Greer for 48 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

New Orleans Saints at 0:42

J.Carney extra point is GOOD, Center-J.Kyle, Holder-M.Brunell.

ATL 14 NO 28, 0 plays, 48 yards, 0:00 drive , 14:18 elapsed

Clearly, the Falcons didn’t want to make a mistake, but the reality here was that they needed to be more patient. Being careful is not being conservative — it’s just being smart. The Falcons should have gotten one first down, then started being aggressive. Get the clock to work in your favor before you become overly aggressive. The second-down call is not the problem; the first-down call is what concerns me. Have a run called to start the two-minute drill and have another played called right away so you don’t burn a timeout. This allows you to keep the clock moving in your favor. Getting the clock working in your favor is a huge requirement for the two-minute end of the half situation.

I understand the Saints have the ball to start the second half and the Falcons are trying to keep pace. However, they cannot fall into the trap of trying to keep up with the Saints offensively. No one can. Play your game, manage it the right way and go into halftime down seven at the most. Then make the right adjustments.

Giving up that score forced the Falcons to have to gain two possessions to stay even, and had they just gone into the half with a more conservative approach, they might have been in better shape to start the half. It’s not the second-down call or the interception I’m second guessing -- that stuff happens in the NFL. But the approach in the two-minute really bothers me. Know your opponent, know the game is a four-quarter game and do not give away points.

Rex Ryan: experience needed

I love Rex Ryan’s cocky attitude and his leadership ability, but he really needs to have someone in his ear on game day to advise him with game management issues. He is one step late and too often does nothing when he should be proactive -- which is ironic because he’s very proactive on defense but passive with his approach to game management.

Someone once told me that they don’t expect a new coach to have the experience of managing a game because it takes game experience to really understand what needs to be done. So if I were Ryan, I would assign someone in the building to go over every play-by-play each week and quiz me on what I would do in each instance. He needs reps, but getting reps on Sunday is not the best time or place to become prepared. Preparing for game management situations is no different than preparing for third-down calls. It takes time and emphasis.

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