Situational Football Strikes Again

“There was a lot of great situational football.”
– Bill Belichick, in the post game press conference following Super Bowl LI

Here we are. The third consecutive Superb Owl decided by situational football. Lots of writers are making excusing and blaming other things. But the Falcons made a few huge mistakes, and are going to be laughed at the rest of their lives for them.

1. The Falcons NOT running the play clock down while the game clock was running.

This is the most unforgivable, as any coach in any game where his team has a lead of more than 16 should do. You’re up three possessions (at one point they were up four possessions), the only way you can lose is to leave enough time for your opponent to score.

2. The Falcons getting a first down at the 22 yard line with under 5 minutes to play, leading by 8, and not getting any points.

The Patriots had shown they weren’t going to stop fighting, and they’d made it a one-score game. The only thing that could kill them is it going back to a two-score game. After two great pass plays (not called while in FG range), it was time to be smart. Three runs and a FG, probably getting all the Patriots timeouts in return.
Instead, it’s a run, a pass play sack (first Patriots timeout), holding penalty, incompletion) and a punt from the 45 yard line.

3. Much like the Seahawks in XLIX, the Falcons had wasted their first two timeouts of the second half. They used the first with 12:57 in the 3rd quarter, and the other with 0:59 in the 3rd quarter. They spent the third challenging Julian Edelman’s catch. So when they got the ball with the game tied and 0:57 remaining, just needing to get into FG range, they had zero timeouts.

4. With under 9 minutes to go, up 28-12, the Falcons expected Devonta Freeman to block Dont’a Hightower. An inexplicable call in which Freeman seemed to think he was releasing into a route, then thought “maybe I’m blocking that guy?”, then getting pushed aside by Hightower, who then caused Matt Ryan to fumble. The Patriots recovered at the Falcons 25 and scored a quick touchdown. Without this turnover, the Patriots probably don’t have time to come all the way back. Note: On this play, the ball was stupidly snapped with 14 seconds on the play clock.

Honorable mention: The Falcons calling so much man coverage that their defenders were gassed in the second half, leaving holes in the zone coverage that they started calling in the 4th quarter.

So, yet again, Bill Belichick did his job, the other coach didn’t, and it was beautiful.

People Still Don’t Understand SB XLIX

Bill Barnwell, who seemed to know things about football a few years ago with a decent football podcast at Grantland with Robert Mays, and now works at ESPN and does a fucking Bachelor podcast, wrote this today about the end of Super Bowl XLIX:
“Belichick’s somewhat erratic timeout usage…Some will claim in hindsight that Belichick was a genius to let the clock run against the Seahawks…it took a small miracle to stop Seattle…Arguments to the contrary are drven by hindsight and dubious.”

No. It wasn’t “somewhat erratic”, it was disciplined. What’s dubious is Barnwell believing that the end of every game is the same and should be managed as such. Belichick wasn’t being a genius. It doesn’t take a genius to see that IF Belichick calls a timeout, the Seahawks will insert Jumbo personnel and run into the end zone, but that if he doesn’t they might be stupid enough to throw while the Patriots have the personnel advantage. It doesn’t take a genius to remember that Pete Carroll gets “too hormonal” at the end of games, as proven by the USC vs Texas game (a bad and predictable call), and that Darrell Bevell loves to throw the ball, as proven by Brett Favre’s INT in the Vikings vs Saints NFC Championship game (a bad and predictable call).

It’s not about hindsight. It’s about a better chance on THAT play. 2 years later, people still don’t understand basic coaching decisions.

And it’s not about “a small miracle.” Football is not miracles and football gods and all the other garbage most current writers go on and on about. It’s about 22 players, and a myriad of possibilities. If there were miracles on football fields, nobody would ever be paralyzed or die out there. It was about wildly erratic timeout usage by Pete Carroll, which had left him with only one, which he decided to misuse by “wasting a play”, a play call which according to Russell Wilson he wasn’t allowed to audible out of, a predictable route combo against the most physical CB in the NFL and a well-prepared defense.

And yes, Belichick did the same thing 2016 Week 1. He didn’t call a timeout just because Bill Barnwell and other morons would, he waited to make sure he wouldn’t be helping his opponent. That’s his fucking job. Sadly, he’s the only decent coach we have.

2016 Week 1 Situational Football

 

You’d think with the ending of Super Bowl 49 being so fascinating that coaches and players would have started to pay attention. But Situational football is only getting worse. Here are some examples from yesterday. I didn’t see all the games, so I’m sure there are many more examples.

Chargers @ Chiefs

Philip Rivers blew all 3 first half timeouts, the 3rd with 14:10 left in the 2nd qtr.

Rivers blew the 1st 2nd half timeout in the 3rd qtr.

With a chance to win the game after the Chargers defense allowed a comeback, the Chargers only had 1 timeout and the drive went nowhere. In overtime, they never got the ball, as the Chiefs TD on the opening drive ended the game. 

Packers @ Jaguars

Down 7, Bortles blows last timeout with 7:29 left in the 4th qtr.

Raiders @ Saints

The Saints kept throwing, leaving enough time on the clock for Derek Carr to beat them.

After going up 35-34 on a 2 point conversion with :47 left, Crabtree insists on celebrating so much he gets a penalty. Sebastian Janikowski and the Raiders special teams bail him out, putting the Saints at the 20. Raiders rush 3 and play prevent, Brees completes 23 yd pass. Spike. Raiders rush 3 and play prevent, Brees completes 15 yd pass. Spike. Raiders rush 3 and play prevent, incomplete. 61 yd FG missed. And Del Rio gets celebrated. 

The 2 point conversion call was correct, but earlier in the game Del Rio had DJ Hayden play press man against Brandon Cooks. The result was an easy 98 yard touchdown pass to Cooks. So let’s not celebrate Jack Del Rio too much. He’s still an idiot.

Lions @ Colts

Down 34-28, with the ball at the opponent’s 12 yd line, Colts HC Chuck Pagano calls timeout with 1:15 to go instead of running the play clock down to 1 and calling timeout with about :45 left. The Lions use the time Pagano left on the clock to win the game with a FG.

When asked about it, Pagano said he did it to get the personnel right, which has nothing to do with the point, as he could change personnel after running the clock down some more. He not only screwed up, he didn’t understand how or why he screwed up, so he’ll do it again. 

Giants @ Cowboys

The Cowboys had :12 on the clock and no timeouts, and needed to get some yardage for a game-winning FG attempt. The pass was complete to Terrance Williams. Instead of running out of bounds, he turned around and ran up field, getting tackled, and the clock ran out.

 

 

Situational Football Strikes Again

Everyone’s killing Cam Newton for not diving for the ball. But one year after situational football cost the Seahawks the Super Bowl, it cost the Panthers the Super Bowl. Cam Newton explained that he didn’t dive for the football because he didn’t want to get hurt. This is the correct decision, as Drew Brees career was nearly ended by diving for a ball. RG3’s 2015 season was ended by the same thing. BUT! In the fourth quarter of a one-score Super Bowl, the uniqueness and importance of the situation outweighs the risk. In the Super Bowl, down 16-10, you dive for that ball. Cam’s failure isn’t “not wanting it,” as ignorant Broncos players said, it’s not understanding situational football. But Cam’s coach Ron Rivera is to blame. After Rivera wasted both challenges in the first half, and mismanaged the clock at the end of the first half, how can his player(s) be blamed for also not understanding things? It’s Rivera’s job to teach them.

So Cam, who insists he wins his way, lost the Rivera way.

Obituary: Riverboat Ron, d. Feb 7 2016

We lost a bad man yesterday. Riverboat Ron, preferred name Analytical Ron, showed his incompetence on the largest stage. Wasting both of his two challenges on small gains in the first half, mismanaging the clock at the end of the first half, and punting repeatedly when he should have gone for it.

Say what you will about their game plan and play calling, Riverboat Ron put the nails in his own coffin.

Punting on 4th and 1. Punting on 4th and 4. Punting on 4th and 3.

And again near the end, in the play by play it looks like this:

4th and 24 at CAR 6
(1:57 – 4th) B.Nortman punts 57 yards to DEN 37, Center-J.Jansen, downed by CAR-K.Coleman

That’s right. Down by two touchdowns, with a Super Bowl on the line, Riverboat Ron only offered a meek punt instead of trying to win.

Those paid to pay attention held their criticism for another time. “Ron Rivera says this gives me a better chance to get it,” remarked the often-wrong Phil Simms. Once Simms was corrected by his hack but correct partner, Jim Nantz, who pointed out there were less than two minutes remaining after the punt, the Panthers only had two timeouts, and they were down by 14, Simms could only offer silence.

He will be mourned by few, and I’m not in that number, because he never was very good. But Super Bowl 50 was a fitting way to go. Visitation is in Charlotte, the casket will be closed. He is survived by no one, as we are in this world alone.

Further Adventures in Pick Slants

It’s still crazy that Pete Carroll risked a Super Bowl on one, but here’s a successful Pick Slant, proving that a better QB against a worse coverage can make it work…

Colts at Texans, Week 5 (Thursday)

11 Personnel (same as Seahawks in SB49) with a stack

At the snap:

pickslantINDHOU1

CB on LOS not aggressive enough fighting the pick route:

pickslantINDHOU2

It’s already too late….

pickslantINDHOU3

At the moment of the catch:

pickslantINDHOU4

Touchdown!

pickslantINDHOU5