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TWO FASCINATING NFL PLAYOFF PLAYS TO ANALYZE

Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

PLAY 1:  Saturday, New Orleans at Seattle, 2:48 left in the 4th quarter, Seahawks up 16-8.

TO SCORE OR NOT TO SCORE, THAT IS THE QUESTION

You will probably remember the play.  Seattle has the ball, 1st and 10 on the New Orleans 31, Seattle up eight points.  New Orleans is out of timeouts.  Marshawn Lynch runs it to the left, bounces off the line of scrimmage and is headed for the end zone.  He scores the touchdown with 2:40 seconds left in regulation.

Should he have scored or should he have stopped at the one or two yard line and given himself up?

A much more interesting question than you might think.

Here’s why:  If Lynch falls down (inbounds) on the one-yard line with 2:40 left, here’s what happens:  Seattle lets the clock run down to the 2:00 minute warning (maybe they get an irrelevant five-yard penalty for delay of game), then kneels on first down .   They then let the clock run down to about 1:20 and they kneel on second down, then they let the clock run down to about 40 seconds left and they kneel on third down.

And the game ends before they have to snap the ball on fourth down.

BUT WHAT REALLY HAPPENED?

Well, the announcers thought that the touchdown was a fantastic, probable game-winning play.  One said, “Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks may have just punched their ticket to the conference finals.”  Another announcer said, “That looks like that will be the dagger.”

So what happened next?  New Orleans gets the kickoff and goes down the field and scores with 26 seconds left (remember the game is over if Lynch falls down at the one).  Now down eight points, everybody in the stadium knows it’s an onside kick.

So the ball bounces off Golden Tate and Marcus Colston recovers.  After a short pass over the middle and a spike, New Orleans decides to throw a short pass to set up a Hail Mary.

And it works to perfection as Colston catches the pass right by the sideline at the Seattle 37 with seven or eight seconds left.  All he has to do is step out of bounds for at least one or maybe two 37-yard throws into the end zone.

Instead he throws an inexplicable forward pass, penalty, ten-second clock runoff, game over.

It never seemed to dawn on anybody that Seattle could have run out the clock if Lynch had fallen down at the one.  Was it too much to expect in the heat of a game off a great touchdown run?  Maybe.

But in today’s game, a coaching staff really has to look at whether or not you, the offense, should score.  Conversely, at times the coaching staff has to look at whether or not you, the defense, should let the other team score (for example, in Super Bowl 46, the Patriots, up 2 late, let the Giants score so they could get the ball back with 57 seconds left.  Ahmad Bradshaw apparently tried to stop himself from scoring, but fell into the end zone.  Fortunately for the Giants, Tom Brady wasn’t able to work his magic).

In last Saturday’s Seattle game, if Marshawn Lynch stops at the one, the game is over.  And nobody seemed to get that.  Again, the whole point here is that both teams in situations like this, have to decide, on the one hand, to score or not to score, and, at times, on the other hand, to let a team score or to try and stop them.

PLAY 2:  Saturday, Colts at Patriots, 2:44 left in the second quarter, Patriots up 21-10

TO FALL ON THE BALL AT YOUR OWN 3 OR TO KICK IT OUT OF THE END ZONE FOR A SAFETY, THAT IS THE QUESTION

You will probably remember this play as well.  Patriots lining up to punt from their own 44.  The snap goes well over the head of punter Ryan Allen and rolls all the way to the Patriots 3 (think about that, a 41-yard snap; longest ever?).

In any event, Ryan runs back, gets down on one knee as he picks up the ball (as opposed to kicking it out of the end zone for a safety), tries to do something with it (lateral it? pass it? who knows) and the ball is knocked out of the end zone by a Colt for a safety.

One announcer inexplicably said the following:  “He could have just stayed on the football right there and at least you give your defense a fighting chance.”

A short time later he said, “I mean, there’s just no question about it.  Just, you have possession of the football there, get tackled at your own two-yard line and at least you make the other team work to get into the end zone.”

Well, not exactly.

WHAT WAS THE RIGHT PLAY HERE?

Without question, the right play would have been for Allen to kick the ball out of the end zone for a safety.  In fact, we’ve seen that play once-in-a-while over the years, usually when the ball is snapped into the end zone.  But even here, on the three, without question, the ball should have been kicked out of the end zone.

As luck would have it (that is, good and bad luck), the Patriots got the desired result.  Since the ball was batted out of the end zone, as opposed to the Colts recovering it on the three or in the end zone for a touchdown, the Patriots had some good luck.

Of course, the bad luck is that the Patriots punter got hurt and you wound up with none other than Tom Brady holding for Stephen Gostkowski the rest of the game.

WHAT IF ALLEN HAD JUST FALLEN ON THE BALL AT THE THREE?

Well, in this situation, you understand the stupidity of that.  Either the Colts go in for a touchdown (seven points) or they kick a chip-shot field goal (three points).  The notion that the defense would hold the Colts scoreless from the three is borderline ridiculous.

WOULD YOU EVER FALL ON THE BALL ON YOUR OWN THREE-YARD LINE?

Well, here’s one example where you would.  Very late in the game, same situation on the field (that is, a bad snap that stops on your three-yard line and your punter can fall on it), and your team is up nine or ten points.  In this situation, it would be a wise choice to fall on the ball.

Why?  Because if you kick the ball out of the end zone for a safety, your team is up seven or eight points and the other team is guaranteed to receive the ball (you have to kick it or punt it to them).

If you fall on it and they go in and score a touchdown, they will either kick off to you or, more likely if it’s very late in the game, try an on-side kick.  Either way, you won’t be giving them the ball.

So, in this situation, you would fall on the ball.

Fascinating stuff, no?

© Copyright 2014 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.

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