Saturday, January 12, 2013

John Fox's conservatism helps Broncos blow a big one


John Fox stayed true to his conservative roots Saturday night in Denver – and it cost the Broncos dearly in a classic AFC playoff game.

Baltimore beat Denver on the road, 38-35, in double overtime, and Fox will and should be second-guessed just like he used to be in Carolina for playing it so close to the vest when the game was on the line.

But that’s Fox, as we all know in the Carolinas. He doesn’t like to gamble. He told me 11 years ago the first time we talked at any length – just after he took over the Carolina Panthers for what became a nine-year stint -- that “a punt is not a bad play.” He’s conservative even when he has Peyton Manning on his side.

Leading 35-28 and with Baltimore out of timeouts, Denver had the ball and faced a third-and-7 at the Denver 47 with exactly two minutes to go. If Denver throws the ball just once -- for one more first down – then the game’s over.

Instead, the Broncos ran it (Peyton Manning would say later he audibled to a run, but if I'm the Bronco coaches I don't let that even be an option in that situation). They didn't get it. And they punted. And then Baltimore scored on a 70-yard pass to send it to overtime (that was eerily reminiscent of the way Carolina punted to Atlanta in September, only to see safety Haruki Nakamura allow a 59-yard pass over his head that set up the Falcons for a winning field goal).

But still… Denver is getting the ball back at its own 20, the game tied at 35, the home crowd in its favor, timeouts in its pocket. What does Fox do?

He has Manning kneel down once to send the game into overtime. Even the CBS announcers couldn't believe that one.

Now this game wasn’t all Fox’s fault by any means (Manning would say later he called a run audible on third-and-7, and of course the offensive coordinator has something to do with all this). In overtime, both teams possessed the ball twice, with plenty of chances to win, before Manning threw a bad interception and Baltimore converted it into the winning field goal. Who’s to say if Fox had made Manning throw the ball in those earlier two situations that Manning wouldn’t have thrown another interception?

But then again, if you’ve got a hall of fame quarterback on the field and you don't use him any better than that, I think you deserve to lose.

Bottom line: Fox mismanaged this one. I think Manning would have completed a third-and-7 pass at aruond midfield late in the fourth quarter. I don’t think the Ravens would ever have gotten the ball again for that last-gasp Hail Mary TD, and there would have been no overtime.

But now we’ll never know. (Photo credit: Associated Press)

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is what it is.

I am so glad he's gone.

He lucked in to getting Peyton Manning and still mismanaged it.

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with everything you said. Broncos had some bad breaks. If you play the prevent defense your safety should be in position to prevent a touchdown. Really a big disappoinyment, luck was with the Ravens and some questionable calls as well.

Troy said...

Manning just said he called run audible on 3 rd and 7....not fox or mccoy....nice job Scott

Shots956 said...

They picked a bad day to have a bad day.

Bronco Kate said...

Fox's call to go for a 52-yard field goal at the end of the 1st half was another poor decision, in my opinion. Way too much time left on the clock for Flacco, even if Prater makes the field goal (instead of kicking the dirt...).

Anonymous said...

Tebow 1
Manning. 0

Anonymous said...

miss Tebow now?

Billy Thomas said...

The worst part about it is Fox is WAY better than Rivera.

Matter of fact, what happened there in Denver tonight was that Fox pulled "A Rivera".

Peyton had to have been REALLY unhappy with the defensive secondary there at the end of regulation but that pick he threw in OT was a very poor play.

Anonymous said...

Only Fox would take a knee when you have 31 seconds and 2 timeouts left....plus Peyton Manning as your QB. That's plenty of time for #18 to gain 45-50 yards and give you a chance to win with a FG. But we all know Fox doesn't play to win, he plays to not lose. And then does.

CommonCents said...

Reminded me of Mike Martz going for the tie in that double overtime game in St Louis in 2003. Guess Mr Magoo now knows how it feels to play to lose.

Anonymous said...

And to think we still have people in Charlotte that miss this conservative clown.

banks said...

You really should give this **** a rest. Conservative is playing 3 safeties deep, each covering one third of the field. There's no excuse for letting a receiver get behind you.

The same quarterback you say should have been "used better," whatever the heck that means, is the same quarterback who threw that crucial interception. The same guy who audibled to a run on third and seven. You acknnowledged all this, "BUT" you still insist Fox's decision making bears some of the blame.

You've got plenty of company though, as there are idiots at the Denver Post and bleacherreport peddling this same schlock. ALL THEY HAD TO DO was put together a winning drive with 30 seconds left. There was no defense out there, I guess. No possibility of an INTERCEPTION or even a SACK FUMBLE. How would they have looked giving up the field goal that way?

Anonymous said...

He also took a knee at the end of the fourth with 30 seconds and two timeouts in his pocket. I thought that was a terrible move.

I think that's a defensible move if you have Jake Delhomme as your quarterback, but not Peyton Manning.

The "playing not to lose" philosophy always comes back to bite you.

You can't play scared football.

Anonymous said...

I swore I was watching a Panthers game ala 2005. Fox may be a good coach between the 2:00's, but my God does he suck at end of half and end of game management. There is NO way it makes sense to do what he did - you're telling me the odds of converting the 1st down or having something bad happen versus the return on the risk (a WIN) if they convert is WORSE than boiling it down to dead even odds that either team could win by choosing to go conservative? Because that's exactly what Fox does by choosing to tie both hands behind his team's back and run three straight draw plays and a punt - it's hitting the reset button and saying, here you go, give it a shot and let the best team win - when he could have finished the fight with one last knockout blow on that 3rd down. How many Panthers games did Fox blow with that conservative strategy? Poor Denver, how long will it take them to figure out what Carolina finally figured out, that Fox is a good coach but a lousy end-game strategist?

Anonymous said...

I think blaming Fox for this loss is a stretch....the defense gave up 35 points in regulation. Maybe you're PO'ed at Fox for something in the past? If Manning had thrown a pass and it was intercepted, what would you have said then?....that it was a good call gone bad? For whatever reason, a really good defense had an awful day.

Anonymous said...

I do not miss him.

Anonymous said...

Even more quizzical, to me, was allowing the Ravens' last touchdown. That was the only play--generically--- they could have run that would have tied it. Why not defend against that? The announcers could not believe that one, either.

Anonymous said...

The field goal at the end of the first half was a really bad move for the Broncos. Also throwing away the last 30-something seconds of the game when they had all the tools to possibly put it away was crazy too. Hated to see Denver blow it as I believe they are the better team overall.

Anonymous said...

Since leaving the Panthers, Fox has how many trips to the Playoffs? Scott, write about us (Panthers). Oh, that's correct, we aren't playing or doing anything for that matter. My bad, Scott.

Anonymous said...

Why isn't. The chattering class talking about Manning not being able to throw the ball more than 15 yards. That is why he sat on it at the half.

Anonymous said...

I rarely read the Observer for sports reporting, especially when it comes to professional sports. This article is a prime example of why. Not sure what the axe to grind is against Fox, as he was the most successful coach in Panthers history AND has taken the Broncos to the playoffs twice in two years, including one with Tim Tebow as his QB! Yet, al I see is article after article slamming the guy. Anyway, you get Rivera, an inept leader if ever there was one and Cam Newton, who smiles only when he is doing well and enjoys brooding more than winning. So, keep heaping praise on those who have never won anything and scorn on those who only win. On second thought, stick to college basketball and leave the reporting of pro sports to the pros.

Anonymous said...

Hey Scott, I'm with you on the taking a knee decision, but the run on 3rd and 7 wasn't a bad decision. Virtually every sports announcer on ESPN said it was smart, keep the ball safe, in bounds, let the clock run down, and your TOP defense stop them.. who woulda thunk Flacco gets that bomb with 30 seconds left...

Again, I think downing it was a little silly, but Denver had a lot of chances to win that didn't have anything to do with John Fox... Ravens running every single first down to get behind in the count? Crazy..

Anonymous said...

30 secs left.... Peyton manning... knee... WTF? Give your team the chance to win.... all that happened in OT could have been avoided...

Anonymous said...

No Guts + No Glory = John Fox

dcboy60 said...

If Manning says he is the one who audibled to a run why are you blaming Fox. I thought I was seeing Hikuru Nakamura all over again out there, except this was was even worse. The late interception by Manning was inexcusable. Is anyone complaining about Joe Flacco now? He clearly outplayed Manning. The Broncos secondary was exposed. If you are going to question Fox's coaching why not question leaving Bailey alone on Smith. To me that was really questionable after the first long touchdown. Blaming this loss on Fox's conservatism after Manning audibled to a run is a stretch. The Broncos lost because of some really poor execution including Bailey getting torched twice and their safety absolutely misplaying a critical long pass. How about Flacco making that throw when he did. That was clutch.

Anonymous said...

John Elway should just take Fox's headset away on game day. Then they would be SB Champs.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Scott that the Broncos should of gone for it. Every human being, coach, player, has flaws in our eyes. I still think, as a Panthers fan, John Fox is a hell of coach. We were lucky to have him. Wish him the best

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more Scott even with 18 he still blew it with the old "play not to get beat" strategy that broke our hearts so many times ,and like Denver's secondary had even slowed Flacco down ,but I'd still take Fox over Rivera ,and I thought I would never say that.

Binh Nguyen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

classic Johnnie

Anonymous said...

What a bonehead decision. 31 seconds with two time outs and needing to go only 30-40 yards for a potential field goal. We all know the questionable and obvious decisions Fox can make.

Binh Nguyen said...

John Fox has made it to the playoffs twice in two years since leaving the Panthers. The Panthers have a QB by the named of Cam Newton who has broken almost all of Peyton records. We can't even get to a .500 record while Fox is winning with Tim Tebow. You can blame Fox for not trying to win with 30 seconds on the clock because Peyton NEVER had the arm strength. He is an elite QB but that is something he had always lack. You can blame Fox all you want but it was Peyton who threw that interception. I feel bad for Fox because he get no credit for what he has done. He turn a 30th rank defense into a top 5. He got Peyton Manning. For Panthers fans you should not forget, he got you to the ONLY SUPER BOWL trip in your franchise history. He almost beat TOM BRADY while having Jake Delhomme. Scott stop blaming John Fox. He can only lead. He can not tell a safety to stand at his 5 instead of 20 yard line to prevent a touchdown with only 1:00 of regulation left in a game. The safety got to know that. Fox is a great head coach. He got to the playoffs with two QB that no one in the NFL want. So Scott you can blame Fox all you want but Fox did what no one will ever be able to do. He went to the Super Bowl with Jake Delhomme and almost won. He BEAT the #1 defense with Tim Tebow.

Anonymous said...

For Fox, Manning and all those who think you can't win a game in :31 seconds with two time outs, perhaps you watched the Atlanta Falcons game today. Amazing what can happen when you play the game to win.

Anonymous said...

John Fox is the coach of the Broncos now, not of the Panthers. I think you guys in Charlotte need to move on with your lives and worry more about a team that's 16 million over the cap with a lame duck coach going into next season, while the new GM attempts to clean up Hurney's mess. Obviously it was the front office and ownership that has been the problem with the Panthers, not Fox. He may not be on the same level as Belichick, but he's far better than Rivera.

banks said...

The Broncos had TWO DRIVES in overtime to go for the winning score, and all the time in the world to get it done. Criticizing the coach for not attempting a drive with 30 seconds left, when the defense knows exactly what little options you have (not to mention the risk of a costly TURNOVER), is just plain stupid of all of you.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't really make a difference. The problem is Peyton Manning. He would have thrown an interception with 31 secs left in the 4th quarter. Doesn't matter who audibles. He and Fox were meant to be together.

pnthrsfan2 said...

This is classic John Fox, what a loser. Third down draw play over and over and over and over. Every DC knew what Johnnie would call and were ready every time. Nothing has changed in Denver. I feel for those fans because they will see this until the fool is fired.

Anonymous said...

It was what it was......