Posted by Andy Benoit
There were two unique clock-related issues that probably went unnoticed in early games Sunday. One was pointed out by Tom Kowalski on MLive.com. Kowalski explained that Lions defensive tackle Corey Williams’ costly offside penalty on third-and-one in the closing minutes with the Bucs in field goal range and the game tied actually, in the end, helped Detroit:
Williams gave the Bucs an easy first down and the Lions were forced to use all three of their timeouts while Tampa Bay ran the ball on all three downs. The Bucs kicked the potential game-winning field goal with 1:39 left in the game.
The Lions came back and tied the game on a 28-yard field goal as time expired, but consider this: If Williams had not jumped offside -- and the Bucs had converted a first down on third-and-1 -- the Lions would've had about 40 fewer seconds to try to tie the game.
After getting the first down, the Bucs would have let the clock run and, after their next three plays, the Lions would've had to let the entire play clock run because they wouldn't have enough timeouts. Because Williams committed the infraction after the official two-minute timeout, no time came off the clock.
The other clock-issue is far more subtle. With 0:12 remaining in the game and facing fourth-and-one at the New Orleans nine-yard-line, John Harbaugh elected to kick a field goal and extend Baltimore’s lead from three to six. The Saints, at this point were out of timeouts.
But think about this for a second: what does Harbaugh gain by extending a three-point lead to six? All he ensures is that New Orleans can’t kick a field goal to tie. But with such little time remaining – nine seconds after the field goal was kicked – and no timeouts for the Saints, there’s virtually no way New Orleans would have been able to attempt a field goal. Drew Brees would have to complete about a 55-yard throw to a receiver who would have to then get out of bounds…all in seven seconds or less (and likely five seconds or less).
The Ravens would have been better off snapping the ball to Joe Flacco and having him stand there for as long as possible before taking a knee and turning it over on downs. That would have left New Orleans with six or seven seconds and 90 yards to go.
Instead, the Ravens had to kickoff to Reggie Bush, and the Saints had more space in which to create a miraculous last play. They weren’t able to capitalize, of course, but that doesn’t factor in to the logistic of Harbaugh’s decision.
Harbaugh’s decision wasn’t wrong, per se. You could maybe even argue that he made the right call (it’s not completely black or white). But at the end of the day, a three-point lead is essentially the same as a six-point lead. So why risk having to cover a kickoff when you could force the Saints to try to go 90 yards on one play?
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