With the Pittsburgh Steelers off this past weekend, I was able to watch several of the other games around the NFL live instead having to wait to watch them all on Game Rewind. One of the games I watched was the game between the Atlanta Falcons and Cleveland Browns and the final few minutes was tough to stomach.
The game really got maddening with 1:03 left in the game when Falcons head coach Mike Smith decided to call a timeout following a completed second down pass from Matt Ryan to wide receiver Harry Douglas. The completion set up a third and two play from the Browns 35 yard-line and Douglas was tackled with 58 seconds left on the clock.
For starters, if Smith really wanted to call a timeout to think about the next play, he really should have let another 30 or so seconds run off before doing so. More than anything else, he should have made Browns head coach Mike Pettine burn the first of his three timeouts if he wanted the clock stopped earlier than that.
If the above clock mismanagement wasn’t enough, the Falcons decided to throw deep down the right sideline on third down with only two yards to go. That play burned all of six seconds and the incompleted pass of course stopped the clock in the progress.
Why not run on third and short in that situation if you are really happy with your kicker possibly needing to kick a 53-yard field goal to win the game? At the very least it would’ve run more time off of the clock.
Falcons kicker Matt Bryant proceeded to make the 53 yard kick, but the Browns got the ball back with 44 seconds left and all three timeouts at their disposal. That was all they needed to drive the length of the field to set kicker Billy Cundiff up for a 37 yard game-winning field goal.
Here is what Smith said after the game:
Re: On why he called the timeout on third and two:
Smith: “Well, we wanted to get our best play for third and two, to try and earn the first down. That was our thought. We were right on the edge, in terms of where we wanted to be, in terms of field goal. We wanted to get a first down. The look that they gave us said to throw the ball; we did, and we didn’t convert it.”
Re: On whether he was reluctant on stopping the clock before the field goal:
Smith: “Again, you can definitely ask that question; the 53-yarder was definitely outside the range we set prior to the game. We wanted to get a first down, and we felt like we had a play that’s why we called the timeout. We came over and used it. They would’ve used the timeout probably if we hadn’t.”
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin will never win any awards for his clock management or late game decisions over the years, but Smith’s mismanagement on Sunday certainly takes the cake.