The universal reaction in the press box when the Colts called a timeout with 36 second left in regulation and the Jaguars clearly willing to settle for overtime was: What’s Jim Caldwell thinking?
I didn’t think his postgame explanation was sufficient. He said they weren’t going to let the Jaguars run out the clock.
But Monday the Colts coach did a better job explaining the philosophical thinking:
Courtesy of the Colts from Caldwell’s news conference:
On if he stands by his decision to call a timeout during Jacksonville’s last drive of the game:
“Yes. What we look at is this; first of all, you never know if you’re ever going to get the ball back in those situations. But the big thing we try to look at is if we can get the ball back for our offense, particularly on the road, don’t necessarily want to go into overtime, if we can win it in regulation we want to give it a shot. So, the timeout in that situation ended up being probably about what we thought it would be. We wanted to make certain that we had a third-down situation where if they didn’t make it they had to punt the ball, and it was there. We had opportunities there on that last drive to get that ball back, but didn’t do it. You always reflect, you always think back, you always look at yourself first, in terms of what you would do differently and all that kind of stuff to try to learn from it, but we’re pretty aggressive in those areas.”
I can handle that. The problem with it, of course, is that it came on second-and-2. So in order to force that punt, the Colts needed two stops against a team that averaged 5 yards a rush on the afternoon.
Odds there say at worst the Jaguars would get a first down and be able to run out the clock and at best they would do what they did, get enough yards to hit a bomb of a field goal to win it.
If my defense was semi-effective, I’d do everything I could to get Peyton Manning the ball no matter how little time he had with it. But the defensive performance at EverBank Field didn't qualify as semi-effective, so I might have called off the standard team strategy for that situation.
Even after that, two questions remained:
How did Tiquan Underwood get open enough on the sideline to catch a 22-yard pass and get out of bounds with 11 seconds left? Antoine Bethea was the first defender to arrive, but after Underwood went out of bounds he went right to nickelback Jacob Lacey to talk about what happened. Lacey let Underwood go by to step up to cover Mike Thomas out of the slot, but Thomas was in much shorter and less dangerous territory. Lacey was way behind the play to Underwood, looking as if he expected help to arrive a lot sooner than it did.
How could Kelvin Hayden drop an easy pick on the following play? Under pressure from Robert Mathis, a retreating David Garrard threw for Underwood up the right side. Hayden easily got in front of the intended receiver and was in position to take an interception to a game-winning touchdown. But the ball bounced right off his numbers and he was left to watch Josh Scobee’s heroics unfold two plays later.