Jason Garrett made a critical mistake on Sunday. It obviously wasn't his intention to "ice" rookie kicker Dan Bailey. In hindsight, Garrett wishes he would have just allowed the play to resume. The Cowboys would be comfortably in control of the NFC East division with a 2-game lead on the New York Giants if he did.
Instead, Dan Bailey's second attempt missed, and Jason Garrett is being second-guessed. It is a rite of passage as an NFL head coach. I understand what Garrett was thinking. His field goal team was having issues getting lined up while the clock was winding down, and Garrett wanted a clean attempt, and therefore called a time-out to give his field goal unit its best opportunity.
To compound the problem, Garrett allowed the game clock to wind down from 28 seconds before calling time-out, instead of using time-outs to run two more plays in order to get into better position. Again, I see Garrett's logic. Arizona's run defence was stifling all day. The Cowboys' longest run of the day was 11 yards, and they had been held to negative yardage a couple of times. Garrett didn't want to chance running the football into another run blitz and risk adding distance to the field goal.
At the end of the day, here's my thing: make the kick. This is the National Football League. I understand that Dan Bailey is a rookie, but he has already made four game-winning kicks this season, tying an NFL record for rookie kickers. Plus, he just had a free practice swing, and drilled it! It was a 49-yard field goal attempt, not a gimme by any stretch I understand, but certainly makeable.
Jason Garrett will be criticized for his decision to call a time-out for the remainder of the season. Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith went for it on 4th and inches inside his own 30-yard in overtime, leading to a loss against division rival New Orleans. Bill Parcells faked a punt in Super Bowl XXI. That worked, and because of it, he's considered a legend.
Head coaching decisions are no different than any other decision we make in our day-to-day lives. Sometimes you guess right, other times you guess wrong. Having played with Jason in New York, I can tell you he's the type of coach that will have owned up to his mistake in front of his players after the game, and his team will respect him more because of it. The Cowboys didn't lose because of Garrett's decision. Football games are never won or lost because of one play. I bet he cannot wait for Sunday night to roll around so that he's given the opportunity to redeem himself.
The Green Bay Packers escaped New York with a 38-35 win on Sunday, and people are now wondering whether or not the Giants have in some way exposed the defending Super Bowl champs. The 3-point victory was the Packers' smallest margin of victory during thir 18-game winning streak, so it's natural for people to begin dissecting the Packers and their flaws. If anything, I think we discovered what we already knew: the Packers are not a good pass defence.
Charles Woodson and company entered Sunday with one of the worst pass defences in the NFL and currently are allowing 293 yards per game through the air, the second worst total in the league. What is alarming is how many big plays the Packers gave up through the air, as Eli Manning completed three of his four pass attempts of 31 yards or more. While the Packers had been very porous all season, they had only allowed five completions of that distance all season heading into this past weekend! Defensive coordinator Dom Capers has been experimenting with different pressure packages all season long, and the Giants demonstrated that if you can pick up the different blitzes, you can dent the Packers with deep throws downfield.
At the end of the day however, if you are going to beat Green Bay, you have to outscore them. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are scoring 35 points per game, the most of any team in the NFL. Because of that, Mike McCarthy shouldn't be too worried. The Packers have clinched the NFC North division. The perfect season is still intact. The Packers continue to chase the '72 Dolphins and become only the second team ever to go unbeaten through an entire season. All is well in Green Bay (although it wouldn't hurt if their pass defence improved).
Favre Saga Continues
The rumours have started again. Brett Favre may be coming out of retirement. The Chicago Bears have now lost two games in a row with backup Caleb Hanie having thrown a combined six interceptions, and sources say the 42-year-old QB would listen if the Bears came calling. Bears head coach Lovie Smith has said that his team is not looking for outside help at the QB position. The team is still hopeful that Jay Cutler will return from a fractured throwing thumb before season's end.
The team has already signed Josh McCown to back Hanie up. Reports out of Bears practice say that McCown has struggled at practice which explains why he hasn't been inactive each of the last two weeks. Certainly Lovie Smith wants to avoid the media circus that would certainly ensue if he signed Favre. It would be a giant distraction for a team that is desperately holding on to a shot at an NFC wildcard spot with four games remaining.
The only possible explanation I could see for Favre's return, would be the fact that the Bears still have both the Packers and the Vikings remaining on their schedule, two teams that Favre is certainly familiar with. But will time away from the game be too much for him to overcome? We've seen a much younger Carson Palmer come back after missing extended time and it took him several weeks to find his groove.
The Bears situation is dire when you count the loss of running back Matt Forte because of a sprained MCL. Lovie Smith believes his team's best chance is with the guys he's got. And he's right. The Bears don't need Favre.
Method to the Madness
The Kansas City Chiefs finally won again Sunday, and their only touchdown came on a very familiar, yet normally unsuccessful play. Tyler Palko threw his first NFL TD pass in a Hail Mary at the end of the first half. Believe it or not, teams practice this play each and every week, and there is method to the madness. It's not just wide receivers sprinting down into the end zone as fast as they can, trying to make a circus catch.
It all starts behind the line of scrimmage. The QB drops back, then attempts to roll out to the wide side of the field, allowing his receivers enough time to reach the end zone. The receivers meanwhile are trying to "layer" themselves into the end zone. There is a designated "point man" who lines up in the middle of the end zone, and there are two WRs who position themselves in front of and behind the point man. They do this in order to catch a deflection or ricochet in case the ball gets batted down. Often times there is a WR coming over from the other side of the formation to catch any deflection that gets deflected back into the field. The QB is trying to land the football where the point man is standing.
If the point man can high point the football and catch it, great! If not, there are three players available to assist. In the Chiefs' win on Sunday, Dexter McCluster was more than happy to help out, making a tremendous grab on the ground. The normally unsuccessful Hail Mary was all the Chiefs needed to pull out the win, and it was executed to perfection, just the way head coach Todd Haley drew it up!
Next time your team runs a Hail Mary play, you won't feel so bad about your odds.