INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — A lot is being made of the final 1:23 of the Colts loss to Detroit in the regular season opener and how Chuck Pagano managed the clock.
Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
1:23 – Andrew Luck completes a pass to T.Y. Hilton for no gain. Pagano calls a timeout with 1:15 on the clock and the Colts facing a 2nd and 10 from the Lions 12. I have no problem with the timeout. At this point, there is no guarantee the Colts are going to score, and it HAS to be a touchdown.
1:15 – Luck completes a pass to Donte Moncrief for six yards to the Detroit six. As the Colts are hurrying to the line, the officials stop the clock for a booth review to see if Moncrief stepped out of bounds before catching the pass which would have negated the catch. This stoppage of play has been overlooked by a lot of people, myself included, until I re-watched the final minutes on DVR. What if the Colts or Lions would have taken a timeout here? We will never know.
:46 – Ball is marked for play and the clock starts. Center Ryan Kelly snaps the ball just three seconds later. It’s 3rd down and four from the six yard line. Luck hits Jack Doyle for the TD and the clock stops at :37. How much time would have melted if there was not a review after the previous play? Once the clock started, the Colts could have waited until just :21 remained to snap the ball, provided the Lions didn’t use one of their three timeouts at that point. It was 3rd down. If the pass is incomplete to Doyle, the Colts are looking at 4th and four from the six with :37 seconds remaining. The clock would have stopped on the incomplete pass. My guess is the Colts would have used their final timeout at that point to design a play. And remember, the Colts could have picked up a 1st down without scoring the TD. That would have left four more chances to get into the end zone.
:37 – The Colts kickoff from the 50 yard line after a Lions penalty. This is where I have a real disagreement with strategy and time management. Pat McAfee booms the ball out of the end zone. No time comes off the clock and the Lions get the ball 1st and 10 from their own 25. Three plays later Detroit has moved 50 yards in just :25 seconds. The rest is history. Why not squib kick it? Or go with a “sky” kick? Making the Lions field the ball in play would start the clock. With the Colts defenders barreling down from the 50, a big return would be doubtful. Perhaps the Lions are 1st and 10 from their own 15 with just :27 seconds to play. Who knows?
My point is this: You can’t just assume the Colts are going to score a go ahead touchdown. Don’t run before you catch the ball, and don’t worry about the clock until you score. 2nd and 10 from the 12 means the Colts could have run seven more plays in the final 1:15. That’s right SEVEN plays. Can you imagine if they got to 1st and goal from the one but had only :07 seconds left? Then people would be asking “Why didn’t he use his timeouts?”
Once they scored however, THAT’s when you need to start looking at the clock. Given the Swiss cheese nature of the defensive secondary, milking clock on the kickoff was vital. Giving the Lions a longer field would have helped, too.
But hey, if the Colts had won; what would all the experts have to complain about today?