I was in the Indy press box last weekend, and there was laughter when Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels deferred the coin toss to the Colts. Most of the comments were, “Has he lost his mind? Why would he give the Colts a lead in the game?” My thought: It was brilliant and very perceptive, which is why McDaniels will win a Super Bowl in Denver.
So what made it so smart? First, understand that there are usually 12 possessions for each team in every game, so if one team scores on the opening drive, its opponent will have 12 chances to tie. No big deal. However, when dealing with the Colts and the great Peyton Manning, there’s a probability that he’ll score on the opening drive, which places the opponent in a slight hole. But if one possession can cause a team to lose, then it really never had a chance to win the game anyway.
What makes the decision to defer so smart is when the team playing the Colts might be down but in possession of the ball at the end of the half. A team might be able to run down the clock, score a touchdown and know they’ll get the ball to start the second half. Build momentum, build confidence and possibly gain 10 or 14 points in the game, all while Manning on the bench — defenseless.
Another example is that a team might go into halftime down 21-7, as the Broncos did Sunday. If Manning gets the ball to start the second half, he might make the game 28-7, and with only six possessions remaining, it will require a team to perform perfectly just to get back in the game. It’s very hard to overcome a 21-point deficit against the Colts in just one half. So deferring is the right call — for the end of the half and in the event a team has a bad first half.
McDaniels continues to understand game management and how to give his team the best chance to win.
When is the right time to kick a field goal?
Details are the major issues in Dallas — the Cowboys can’t seem to clean up the little things that help a team win games. For example, they were down 10 points to the Chargers on Sunday — clearly an onside kick game, requiring two scores to get back in it. So when do you kick the field goal? Here’s what Dallas did:
1st-10, SD40 0:35 T. Romo passed to P. Crayton to the left for 22 yard gain. Crayton out of bounds with 26 seconds…
RIGHT HERE IS WHERE THEY SHOULD HAVE KICKED A 35-YARDER WITH 26 SECONDS LEFT. INSTEAD, THE NEXT PLAY WAS A PASS TO MILES AUSTIN NEAR THE MIDDLE OF THE FIELD. HE TRIED TO SCORE AND WAS STOPPED INBOUNDS. THE COWBOYS RAN UP TO THE LINE, AND ROMO THREW AN INCOMPLETION WITH :07 LEFT. IF YOU DON’T KICK IT WITH 26 SECONDS REMAINING (GIVING YOURSELF TIME TO GET THE ONSIDE KICK AND HAVE 2-3 PLAYS TO GET A TD), THEN DON’T THROW IT TO AUSTIN WHERE HE CAN’T GET OUT OF BOUNDS.
1st-10, SD18 0:26 T. Romo passed to M. Austin to the left for 14 yard gain.
Austin stayed inbounds and the clock ran down to :07 on the next incompletion.
1st-4, SD4 0:26 T. Romo incomplete pass to the left
2nd-4, SD4 0:07 DAL committed 5 yard penalty
2nd-9, SD9 0:02 T. Romo passed to P. Crayton down the middle for 9 yard touchdown. N. Folk made PAT
Now, I know their field goal kicker is unreliable, but time was of the essence. And since Nick Folk is the only kicker on the team, a coach must manage the game accordingly. But what they did never gave the Cowboys a chance to win.
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To find out if this Colts team is the best that Peyton Manning has been on in his career, check out this article from Bleacher Report.