Here is the question: How do you have a touchdown lead with a minute left, your opponent has nearly 80 yards to go and no timeouts, and you lose?
Here is the answer: John Fox is your coach. In the history of professional sports, there have probably been plenty of bad coaching performances, but if one should ever cost a coach his job before the fans leave the seats, it was this one.
Sometimes when a team is very good, piss poor coaching can be masked. A top defense, a hall of famer at quarterback, two very good receivers, a good line, good backs, all that leads to success. But in the playoffs, when everyone is good, you need your coach to step up with a good game plan and make good decisions under pressure. John Fox could do neither.
First, before Baltimore even got the ball back with a minute left, Fox refused to let Peyton Manning try to throw for a game ending first down. Yeah, sure, you want to keep the clock running, but on third and 8 with everyone looking run, what are the odds of a conversion? Besides, Manning excels on underneath routs and would likely have completed the pass whether it went for a first down or not, so the clock would probably have kept running. Second, and I’ve written about my disdain for the prevent defense before, he refused to bring any pressure to Joe Flacco on the final drive, opting instead to rush three and drop 8 in coverage. We saw how that worked out. Third, when Denver got the ball back, they had 31 seconds on the clock and two timeouts, and a kicker with the leg for 60. Are you telling me Peyton Manning can’t drive the ball 40 yards in 30 seconds with two timeouts? Would he have? We’ll never know. But can he? You better believe it. Flacco moved the Ravens 80 yards in 45 seconds, albeit the last 70 coming on a bomb. What does Fox do? Kneels. Has there ever been more of a display of chicken…uh…poop?
It continued in the overtime period, but at that point, the script was probably written. A brilliant Britton Colquit punt coupled with a beautiful open field tackle on the attempted return by Tony Carter stuck the Ravens at their own 5. After two plays netted a return of minus 2 yards, Fox again refused to bring pressure in the end zone, allowing Flacco plenty of time to loft a beautiful 25 yard pass down the middle to Dennis Pitta. Sure, Denver got the ball back eventually, and anyone who watched the game knows what happens. A brutal brain fart by Manning and an even more brutal throw as a result led to a pick that gave the Ravens the ball with scant few yards to have to gain in order to get into Justin Tucker’s field goal range.
The reality is, the win is nothing less than what Baltimore deserved. They played well enough to win, and the only reason they didn’t win in regulation is two special teams touchdown returns by Trindon Holliday. Wipe those from the board, and it’s not close.
In a sporting world where players are often released for an inopportune fumble, missed kick, bad game, whatever, there is no other course of action than for the Broncos to fire Fox. And you know what else, I think they should do it via press release in the next half hour. Hey, I’ve got time, I will even write it for them.
The Broncos organization has decided to part ways with coach John Fox. We thank him for his, uh, contributions, but the reality of the matter is, playoff caliber teams need to be coached by playoff caliber coaches. The fact simply remains, the players on this team have masked Coach Fox’s insufficient ability to coach at the NFL level for most of this season. We wish him luck in his future endeavors, which if they lie anywhere in football will probably be in Division 1 AA, or perhaps the CFL.
That should cover that, right?
On another note, the Baltimore win allows the storied (not always good stories but I digress) and brilliant career of Ray Lewis to continue for at least another week. Lewis, who is retiring after the season, is playing through what would be crippling pain to any mere mortal with a torn triceps injury that 99.9% of players would have taken to the operating room and subsequently Injured Reserve. Not only that, Lewis led all tacklers in the game with 15 (unofficially) and recovered a fumble.
Last point on this game, the officials were mediocre at best. Nah, let’s call it what it really is. They were awful. They got the obvious offside calls correct, but apart from that, they were horribly wrong both ways on pass interference decisions and screwed up about a dozen holding penalties, again, in both directions. However, it has to be said that they got it right on Peyton Manning’s third quarter fumble. Upon replay, it appeared that the play would be a prime candidate for a “tuck rule” incomplete pass ruling. However, they stuck with their ruling of fumble after review. Anyone who even remotely resembles a football fan has to admit, even if they were pulling for Denver, it’s nice to have that idiotic rule for once not become a factor on a play like that.
Ah… that felt good. I’m happy now. I will wake up tomorrow and John Fox will likely still have a job, but that is what it is. My allegiance to Denver in this game started and ended with the office football pool.