Unlike their brethren in other sports, NFL coaches have a week in most cases to prepare for one game.
It’s amazing, then, how many questionable coaching decisions are made week-in and week-out in the NFL.
Week 5 was no different.
Ron Rivera aiding Buccaneers’ winning drive by calling timeout
The Panthers’ chances of repeating as NFC champions look remote.
Ron Rivera’s chances of repeating as Coach of the Year look even more remote after Monday night’s 17-14 home loss to the Buccaneers dropped the Panthers to 1-4.
Ron Rivera’s now 18-19-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less.
— Darin Gantt (@daringantt) October 11, 2016
Panthers kicker Graham Gano missed a 43-yard field goal in the game, but Buccaneers’ kicker Roberto Aguayo missed two of his four attempts, including an extra-point distance miss from 33 yards. So from a kicking standpoint the Panthers would have had an advantage if the game went into overtime.
But Rivera tried a little too hard to win the game in regulation, calling a timeout after Jacquizz Rodgers gained six yards to make it third-and-4 at the Tampa Bay 34 with 1:09 left. This allowed the Bucs to regroup and keep their one remaining timeout in their pocket.
Jameis Winston completed his next three passes for 29 yards. Rodgers then picked up seven more yards and drew a facemask penalty to put Tampa Bay comfortably in field goal range, even for Aguayo.
Had the Buccaneers been forced to use their last timeout at some point, they wouldn’t have had the luxury of moving the ball to the right hash for Aguayo and working the clock down to three seconds to set up Aguayo’s game-winning 38-yard field goal.
Had the clock kept running on third-and-4 at the Tampa Bay 34, the Buccaneers (2-3) might not have been able to move close enough for the unreliable Aguayo to make the kick.
The Panthers’ six-game winning streak against the Buccaneers came to an end, and unlike two years ago a losing record won’t be good enough to win the NFC South this year.
Giants calling timeout instead of challenging completion
There was a time when the Giants were 2-0 this season, but that seems so long ago that they might as well have been playing at the Meadowlands.
The Giants (2-3) lost their third straight Sunday night, 23-16 at Green Bay. They narrowed their deficit to 23-16 on Eli Manning’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard with 2:54 left and still had two timeouts.
Ben McAdoo used the first of those timeouts after the Packers lost three yards. Then with 2:30 left, James Starks nearly coughed up an Aaron Rodgers pass. Starks dropped the ball and there was a scrum for possession. The Packers kept the ball for a gain of three yards, and McAdoo burned the Giants’ last timeout.
He should have challenged the play.
If the play was ruled an incomplete pass instead of a completion, the Packers would have had a third-and-13 instead of a third-and-10 and the Giants would have kept their timeout. Those three yards made a difference because Rodgers completed a 13-yard pass to Randall Cobb for first down on the next play and the Packers (3-1) only had to kneel down three times after the two-minute warning to close out the game.
The Giants would have lost their timeout if the challenge was unsuccessful, but at least by challenging they’d have had a chance to keep it.
It might seem like a rookie coaching mistake by McAdoo, but a lot of veteran coaches have made the same type of mistake.
Rams faking a punt at their own 23
Even if the Rams (3-2) rebound from Sunday’s 30-19 home loss to the Bills and contend for a playoff spot, Jeff Fisher will probably still make at least one dumb move per week.
Sunday’s was a doozy.
The Rams trailed 23-19 with 3:47 left and were looking at fourth-and-5 from their own 23. They had all their timeouts, but rather than turn it over to a defense that hadn’t allowed the Bills to score in the second half, Fisher called for a fake punt.
Wide receiver Bradley Marquez took the direct snap and was stopped short. With 2:37 left, Marquise Goodwin caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Tyrod Taylor. The Rams’ final possession ended with an interception.
Jeff Fisher is the type of guy to pay for 2 pizzas instead of using his buy one get one free coupon.
— The Fake ESPN (@TheFakeESPN) October 9, 2016
When asked about the fake punt after the game, Fisher blamed the fans.
You read that right.
Bills cornerback Ronald Darby was supposed to block on the punt, according to the Los Angeles Daily News, but instead tackled Marquez.
“He stopped coverage when he heard the crowd roar,” Fisher said. “So he came back and made the play.”
Of course it’s easy for Fisher to stand there on his cushy sideline and criticize the fans. Those fans have a tough job. They apparently have to sense when a fake punt is coming and stop cheering.
The fans never would have tipped off a fake punt in St. Louis.
Jets punting with 11-point deficit midway through fourth quarter
Two weeks ago, after a 24-3 loss at Kansas City, head coach Todd Bowles and the Jets had a “come to Jesus” meeting.
It didn’t work.
Since then the Jets (1-4) have lost two more games, including Sunday’s 31-13 defeat at Pittsburgh.
The Jets trailed the Steelers 24-13 and faced a fourth-and-2 at their own 46-yard line with 7:29 left. Instead of going for the first down, Bowles decided to punt and give the ball back to Ben Roethlisberger, who already had thrown three touchdown passes against them.
The Steelers (4-1) drained nearly six minutes off the clock and Roethlisberger threw his fourth touchdown pass, his second to Sammie Coates, with 1:46 left to secure the win for the Steelers.
Bowles has to go to Arizona to face his former boss, Bruce Arians, on Monday night.
Would Arians have gone for it on fourth-and-2 with 7:29 left?
That we don’t know.
But Jesus would have gone for it.
Ravens’ timeout usage
The Ravens fell to 3-2 with Sunday’s 16-10 home loss to the Redskins, but they might be tied with the Steelers atop the AFC North if John Harbaugh didn’t use timeouts as if he were using a hammer to tighten a screw.
Trailing 13-10 with 6:20 left in the third quarter, Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley intercepted Kirk Cousins deep in Redskins territory, but fumbled the ball out of the end zone to give the Redskins a touchback. With the clock stopped, the Ravens called timeout.
— Pete Medhurst (@PeteMedhurst) October 9, 2016
The Ravens were down 16-10 when they used their second timeout with 1:12 left in the game. Joe Flacco had just completed a 10-yard pass to Dennis Pitta for a first down at the Redskins’ 47. It wasn’t a long gain so it’s not like the Ravens were going to use a lot of time moving up the field to get to the line of scrimmage.
The clock wasn’t even running when the Ravens squandered their last timeout. On fourth-and-8 from the Redskins’ 21 with 20 seconds left, there seemed to be a problem getting the play call in. So the Ravens exhausted their timeouts. They were forced into a dubious move because they weren’t all on the same page. That falls on the coaching staff.