With all three timeouts still in his pocket, Broncos coach Vic Fangio stood and watched from the sideline as his opponent converted a game-winning field goal Monday night.
The responsible kicker, Stephen Gostkowski, had missed all three of his field goal attempts in the game prior to this one, a 25-yard try to take a two-point lead with 0:17 to play. The veteran didn’t miss, giving the Titans the lead and leaving the Broncos with time for three plays at the most to cover the majority of the field.
They didn’t, and lost a 16-14 heartbreaker. Fangio took a timeout with him to the locker room after calling two in a row before the final play, which occurred well out of field goal range as a result of simply running out of time. That could have been changed had Fangio used a timeout to preserve some time during Tennessee’s game-winning drive.
He attempted to explain his logic following the loss.
“It was two-fold there,” Fangio said, via the Denver Post. “One, their field goal kicker had obviously been having his problems so I didn’t want to extend the drive to where they could get closer.
“And we would have used a timeout but we got the running back out of bounds, and we would have used the second timeout, but they threw an incompletion.”
Tennessee embarked on a 13-play, 90-yard drive that began with 3:05 left on the clock and didn’t include a single third-down conversion. When the first third-down attempt arrived, less than 30 seconds remained on the game clock.
The Titans entered the Broncos’ red zone on a 13-yard run by Derrick Henry with 1:28 left to play, yet the Broncos stood and watched the clock drain between plays while veteran quarterback Ryan Tannehill waited until the time ticked down below 50 seconds to snap it. Tennessee burned its first timeout after the next play, a four-yard run by Henry, who wisely got out of bounds on the ensuing play to stop the clock with 0:31. Two plays later, Gostkowski knocked the chip shot through the uprights.
Tennessee’s chances of winning, according to Next Gen Stats’ win probability metric, climbed even before the Titans got the ball back for their eventual game-winning drive. A Drew Lock incompletion on third-and-8 from Tennessee’s 42 saw the Titans’ chances of winning go from 24 percent at the start of Denver’s possession to 40 percent. By the time they lined up for Gostkowski’s 25-yard attempt, it was 88 percent.
With very little time left and a kicker who’d clearly been out of rhythm in his season-opening performance, Fangio elected to stand idly by instead of attempting to ice him with a last-second timeout — the same timeout that remained unused when the clock hit zero. The Titans’ swing in momentum was visible on the probability chart, and seconds later, it was on the scoreboard as well.
There are 16 weeks to go in what is a marathon, not a sprint of a season, but this one might end up stinging more in hindsight as the season progresses for the Broncos.
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