Print Edition: November 16, 2011
Head coaches in the NFL can easily make a name for themselves when calls they’ve made backfire and when they fail to make calls when they should. There is a time and place for all of those events to transpire. When a team is losing by a large margin, that would be an ideal time to call for a fake punt. When a team is losing with not much time left on the clock, that would be an ideal time to go for it on fourth down. However, when you’re inside your own 30-yard line in overtime and it’s fourth-down-and-inches, it is not the time to play hero and call a running back dive play to get the first down; just punt the ball and send out your defence.
Unfortunately for Falcons fans, head coach Mike Smith wanted to look like a hero. On Sunday afternoon, the Atlanta Falcons trailed the high-powered New Orleans Saints late in the fourth quarter. Down 23-20 with a minute left, Falcons quarterback (QB) Matt Ryan started at his own 10-yard line and drove down the field, aided by three key catches from Harry Douglas. Inside the Saints 30-yard line, the Falcons kicked the game tying field goal and sent it to overtime.
Overtime began with each team punting the ball once. On Atlanta’s second possession, they found themselves in a fourth-and-inches situation on their own 28-yard line. The clear and obvious decision most coaches would make is to punt the ball and send out a defence, which has, for the most part, been able to keep the Saints offence in check. Instead, the Falcons sent out their big players and their running back Michael Turner to try and get the first down. Falcon’s coach Mike Smith knew very well if they didn’t convert, the Saints would win because they’d get the ball in field goal range. Sure enough, Michael Turner was stuffed by the Saints defensive line and John Kasy kicked the game-winning field goal for the New Orleans club.
The decision to go for it will be criticized all week long by the media and fans around the world. QB Matt Ryan played outstanding all game for Atlanta, throwing for 351 yards and two touchdowns with only one interception. If the Falcons had just punted, there’s a good chance Ryan would have gotten the ball back with a better opportunity to put the club in a winning position.
In other news: The Philadelphia Eagles, the self-proclaimed Dream Team, lost to a sub-par Arizona Cardinals team who was playing with their backup quarterback John Skelton. The Cardinals starting QB Kevin Kolb was out with an undisclosed injury. John Skelton threw for 315 yards and three touchdowns against an Eagles secondary, which was supposedly the best secondary in the league. Philadelphia QB Michael Vick threw for just 128 yards and no touchdowns along with a game ending interception. The loss drops the Eagles to 3-6 with a very, very slim chance of making the playoffs.