If there is one thing I cannot stand from fans is when we harp on one, tiny, relatively insignificant thing and use that as THE reason why the Colts lost a certain game. This week, we have fans like Eric Conner bemoaning Tony Dungy's timeout call at the end of the game when Tennessee ran its punt coverage onto the field. For those of you living under a rock, here's another summary:
- Tennessee sends its kicking team in to try a long, 60 yard FG. Colts send out their kick blocking crew. Play clock is running. Tennessee is out of timeouts. Indy has one.
- Before the play clock runs out, Tennessee runs its kicking unit off the field and brings on the punt team.
- Dungy calls time out, the last one for Indy. He puts his punt coverage team in. Tennessee responds with its kicking unit AGAIN, running the punt coverage unit off. Colts respond with the block FG unit AGAIN.
- Bironas kicks a 60 yard FG, the fourth longest in NFL history, to win the game.
So, in all that, Conner (and the Star's Bob Kravitiz) suggests that Dungy made a mistake calling the timeout, and doing that cost Indy the game.
I've yet to hear a reasonable explanation of what in the world Tony was thinking, and virtually none of the national coverage of the game has focused on what was a very crucial mistake by the coaching staff.
Now, I like Eric and think he does a great job at AOL, but he is way off base here. As a fan, you have absolutely no idea what Tennessee was thinking there, so don't even try and guess. I know Jeff fosher said he made the decision to kick after Dungy's timeout. Jeff Fisher has lied before to mask silly decisions. If Bironas misses that kick, the Colts still have excellent field position to get it into Vinatieri range, even without timeouts. You see, there is this thing called...
When you catch the ball and go out of bounds, it stops the clock. So, lets say Tennessee runs in its punt coverage and the Colts do nothing to change the special teams personnel. They don't call at time out. Tennessee then has its speedy punt unit on the field against the beefy Colts kick blocking unit. This is a great matchup for Tennessee to commit a FAKE PUNT and throw or run for a first down, get out of bounds, and have an easier kick for Bironas. A 60 yarder is now a 50 yarder.
If you are Dungy, you don't want to chance that. You want Bironas to kick that 60 yarder, timeouts or not. The odds are clearly in your favor. If he makes it, God bless him! He beat the odds. Throw him a parade. If he misses it, then Fisher looks like a schmuck because, timeouts or not, Manning and the offense will get at least one chance to win the game with good field position.
It all comes down to Bironas making a very improbable kick.
Now, if Tennessee tries any trickery, which they are known for, and gets a first down on a fake punt, gets out of bounds, and is now kicking a 40 yard FG, can you imagine the kind of insane Dungy-bashing we'd hear?
It probably would sound a lot like Conner's and Kravitz's bashing, which is all based on the notion that Tennessee intended to punt... a notion I simply don't buy or trust. Regardless, in the moment, there was nothing wrong with calling a timeout. As a coach, you want the correct unit on the field to counter any craziness the other team might do. Tennessee is a team that is rebuilding. They have nothing to lose. They can do anything because no one expects them to win.
And if I were in Dungy's shoes, I still have Bironas do that kick. The odds are he'd miss it, but he didn't. Whatever. If he kicked it five time he'd make one and miss four. That's the breaks.
In any case, the kick, and the timeout before it, were not what cost Indy the game. If Eric Conner, and Bob Kravitz, can't accept those reasons, then they are fishing for something other than reasons. They're looking for excuses and places to assign blame rather than, you know, reporting the facts. I usually like Eric, but in this instance he is dead wrong. This is the last I will discuss this "issue," because it's silly in my mind.