Denver Broncos snatch defeat from the jaws of victory
AMERICAN FOOTBALL: Baltimore Ravens 38 Denver Broncos 35:The Denver Broncos had this one. With a seven-point lead late in the game, possession of the ball and Peyton Manning running the offence, Broncos fans had every reason to believe their team would still be playing next weekend.
But given a chance beat Baltimore with two minutes left in Saturday’s AFC divisional playoff game, Denver coach John Fox opted to run the clock and run the ball on third and seven rather than trying to throw for a first down. The Ravens stuffed Ronnie Hillman for no gain, Denver punted and, with 31 seconds left, Joe Flacco found Jacoby Jones for a 70-yard touchdown.
“We were running the clock,” said Fox. “Pretty standard. As it worked out, it wasn’t great.”
After a touchback, Manning trotted back on to the field with two timeouts left and enough time to move the Broncos into field-goal range. Again, Fox took a conservative approach. As the announced crowd of 76,732 at Sports Authority Field booed, Manning took a knee, leaving the Broncos to take their chances in overtime.
“If you don’t win you get criticised on everything, so that is par for the course,” said Fox when asked about the decision. “The thinking was, with 30 seconds left it’s hard to go the length of the field. And some bad stuff can happen, as you saw at the end of the game.”
Manning put the Broncos ahead, 35-28, with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas with seven minutes 11 seconds to play. Baltimore drove to the Denver 31 before Flacco threw an incompletion on fourth down, giving Denver and Manning the ball back with 3:12 left.
Hillman ran four times for 16 yards, picking up a first down, forcing Baltimore coach John Harbaugh to use his final two timeouts, and running the clock down to the two-minute warning.
With the ball at his 47, Fox weighed the risk of a clock-stopping incompletion against a run. He chose to give it to Hillman one more time.
“The entire offence wanted to end the game right there,” said Manning, refusing to second-guess Fox who let the clock run down to 1:15 before calling Denver’s first timeout, just before Brian Colquitt punted 30 yards to the Baltimore 23. Three plays later, Flacco threw down the right side to Jones, running with cornerback Rahim Moore.
“I have to settle down and let the ball come to me,” said Moore, close to tears at his locker. “I misjudged it. It’s my fault. I’m taking the blame for it. I lost the game for us.”
Manning and Denver receiver Brandon Stokley understood why Fox let the clock run out in regulation.
“Conditions were bad,” said Stokley. “I think it was the right call . . . we just didn’t do it.” Manning, whose interception late in the first overtime led to Justin Tucker’s winning field goal, added of Fox’s decision: “I really don’t have a whole lot of thought on it . . . I made a bad throw . . . You can’t really point at that [Fox decision].” – New York Times