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Denver Loss a Result of Poor Coaching Decisions

By Dave Martin
Epoch Times Staff
Created: January 19, 2013 Last Updated: January 19, 2013
Related articles: Sports » NFL
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Denver coach John Fox is not alone in his approach to conservatively closing out a game, but it cost the Broncos against Baltimore. (Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Denver coach John Fox is not alone in his approach to conservatively closing out a game, but it cost the Broncos against Baltimore. (Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

There aren’t many feelings worse in sports than losing a game that should have been won. Denver is surely feeling the frustration of being the better team and playing the better game (for the first 58 minutes anyway), yet walking off the field while watching its opponent celebrate.

Baltimore should have celebrated. They rescued victory from the jaws of defeat and advanced to play New England for the right to go to the Super Bowl.

Fox is actually one of the better coaches in the business and his views on fourth-quarter play calls and clock management are shared by a number of his peers. But, with the benefit of hindsight, why plan to punt it away?

Denver, with the aid of possibly the greatest quarterback to ever play in the NFL in Peyton Manning, had the Ravens, and their vaunted defense, on the ropes as early as the second quarter. Yet Baltimore kept close on the scoreboard thanks to an interception return for a touchdown that could easily have been called pass interference, as well as two touchdown catches by Torrey Smith.

Smith inexplicably saved the offense in beating longtime great corner Champ Bailey for plays of 32 and 59 yards in the first half alone.

But it was the Broncos decisions in the fourth quarter that signaled their hesitancy and loss of aggressiveness.

First up: the decision to run on 3rd-and-7 with two minutes remaining.

Denver was up a touchdown and the Ravens were out of timeouts. But Denver was without running back Knowshon Moreno and while backup Ronnie Hillman looked good on some plays, his diminutive 185-pound stature made him an easier tackle in traffic.

With four-time MVP Manning under center, it didn’t seem a stretch for him to connect on a pass in the situation. But Denver played conservatively and ran the ball (Hillman) again for no gain—their fifth run play in a five-play drive—giving the ball back to Baltimore.

“I’d do that again,” Denver head coach John Fox said when asked about the play call, according to the Broncos website. “If I knew they were going to get a 70-yard touchdown, I might have gone for it on 3rd-and-7, but you know what they say about hindsight.

“The situation was, we were running the clock, make them use their timeouts, punt it away, they get the ball with 1:09 and they have to go 77 yards in 1:09. To make matters worse, we had them with 41 seconds and 70 [yards] to go.”

Fox is actually one of the better coaches in the business and his views on fourth-quarter play call and clock management are shared by a number of his peers. But, with the benefit of hindsight, why plan to punt it away? Why not plan to run out the clock on offense?

It was this mentality of switching from playing to win to playing not to lose that ultimately did in the Broncos.

What happened next was a clearly nervous defense that gave up an inexcusable 70-yard pass, behind the defense, to receiver Jacoby Jones to tie the game with 31 seconds left.

Next bad decision: kneeling the ball with 31 seconds left and two timeouts and taking their chances in overtime.

“When you’re a coach, you’re around the players for 20 games prior to that including preseason, you get a little bit of a better feel of where they’re at, the look in the eye, their feeling,” Fox said.

“It was pretty devastating. It just didn’t seem the right time. It didn’t look like the right look, understandably, to go for the jugular right about then.”

But the Broncos didn’t need the jugular at that time, they only needed to go roughly 40 yards for a field goal. Was that not possible with Manning directing the offense?

Besides, they have to gear up for overtime anyway, did the extra two minutes it took to start overtime give them enough time to put them in the right frame of mind?

“With 41 seconds left in regulation we watched a 70-yard bomb go over our head,” Fox explained. “There is a certain amount of shock value, a little bit like a prize fighter takes a right cross on the chin at the end of a round. We’re looking to get out of the round. That might not be the ideal time to go for a knockout punch.”

Even worse is them trying to get out of the round because up next is overtime, which isn’t a true round. If Baltimore wins the overtime toss and scores a touchdown, the game is over and the Broncos offense would have to wonder the entire offseason whether they could have got it together for one final end-of-regulation drive that never was.

That didn’t happen, but neither did a Denver scoring drive. They had already signaled defeat.

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