Monday, February 4, 2013

Time To Give Up Five Yards

Just Say No
A day after the Super Bowl, it's clear that the world isn't ready to let go of the game, and that's to be expected, really. Football is America's religion now, and the fact that it vacates the premises for seven months while the feeder system is coast to coast and numbering in the thousands is a market inequity that will change in our lifetime... but that's not what I'm going to talk about here.

Nor am I going to obsess over the idea that Frank Gore didn't get a sniff at the goal line, in perhaps the last best chance that he was going to have at a Super Bowl. I'm kind of assuming that he's going to be back next year, and the idea that there might not be a championship in Randy Moss' portfolio at the end of his days does not exactly keep me up at night.

No, instead I'm going to harp on the small, ordinary play that no one seems to be pointing out but me. That would be the routine waste of a timeout to save five yards.

The score was Ravens 28, Niners 6. There was 7:53 left in the third, and San Francisco had a first down after QB Colin Kaepernick had completed a nine yard out to Moss for a first. Rather than face a first and 15 from his own 46, the Niner QB took a timeout, the first of the half.

At the time, it didn't seem like that big of a deal, and when Kaepernick hit TE Vernon Davis for 18, then got the pinball blown tackle touchdown to WR Michael Crabtree, it might have even seen like the right move to make. You got your young QB under control, you scored in just two plays after the committee meeting, and without a clean ending to that drive, the rest of the game isn't close enough to discuss.

But Davis got more than 15 on the next play. The Niners averaged 7.8 yards per play in this game. (That is, by the way, when this game has such a feel of Raven theft; the Niners outgained them by 101 yards, and nearly doubled them on the ground.) And a third time out late in the game makes the Ravens punt with 50 seconds left, from their end zone, with a punter that had stunk up the place all night. Maybe you don't win the game -- and as a matter of odds, having to score a touchdown without a timeout in 40 seconds by going 50+ yards doesn't happen more than 6 to 10% of the time -- but you have a shot.

Rather than a first and 10, rather than a first and 15, in the middle of the third quarter.

And the fact that this doesn't get called out as a terrible play, each and every time it happens, and that way too many teams run a pace of game that causes the ball to be snapped with five seconds or less routinely...

Needs, nay demands, to be pointed out in the media as proof that the coach on the sidelines, who is only ever called out when he makes an obvious gamble playcall that doesn't work out, or the quarterback that throws a pick...

Has other moments that deserve serious censure during the game.

Because, well, if this rule had been in place?

Maybe, just maybe, we could have avoided the last few years of hearing how wunnerful wunnerful wunnerful Andy Reid was, and how Michael Vick had turned his whole danged life around, and how his coaching staff was among the best in the business.

When, well, with every single wasted timeout, we knew this to be an utter load of bull squat.

And by the way, if you really want to make a delay flag a game-changer, make every snap more exciting, give the use of a timeout to avoid a delay defensible, and enhance the home crowd's freakout excitement?

Make that flag worth 15 yards. Or a loss of down. (And do the same, or worse, to offensive pass interference.)

If for no other reason that it might actually be the first rule change in decades that might actually speed up the pace of play...

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