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Spagnuolo Defends Game Management
Spagnuolo defends game management
BY JIM THOMAS
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
For the first time in his young tenure as an NFL head coach, Steve Spagnuolo's game management skills came under scrutiny in the wake of Sunday's 23-20 overtime loss to Jacksonville.
On Monday, Spagnuolo once again defended his decision to kick a field goal with 7 seconds to play instead of taking a shot at the end zone. He also defended his decision not to use the Rams' one remaining second-half timeout.
For Spagnuolo, the operative numbers for such situations are 8 and 22. Spagnuolo seems to have numbers and breakdowns for just about every football situation. And in this case the operative numbers are: MORE RAMS
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— Do not attempt to run a play from scrimmage if there are fewer than 8 seconds remaining in a game, when a field goal can tie the game.
— Do not attempt to try a field goal with no timeouts left unless you have at least 22 seconds to get that unit on the field and set up for the kick.
After quarterback Marc Bulger rolled to his right under pressure and threw the ball away on a second-and-goal play from the 9-yard line Sunday, only seven ticks remained on the clock at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium.
"We have used as a rule, and we practice it all the time ... that eight seconds is the spot," Spagnuolo said.
In other words, the cutoff point in terms of having enough time to run a play without having the clock run out. After Bulger's throwaway stopped the clock Sunday, Spagnuolo said, "I looked up and saw it was seven (seconds left), and for a moment (thought): 'Should we try to squeeze it out?' "
Instead, he sent out Josh Brown to kick a 27-yard field goal, sending the game into overtime tied 20-20.
So where did he come up with 8 seconds as the line of demarcation?
"Our research," Spagnuolo said. "Other teams I've been with. (From) coaches I've got a lot of respect for. There's a lot of things that could happen in seven seconds — to be left there with no opportunity to get into overtime. We had some confidence, if we had to go to overtime, that we were going to be OK."
Trouble was, Jacksonville won the coin toss, meaning it got the ball first in overtime. The Jaguars then drove 62 yards in 13 plays, keeping the Rams winless on Josh Scobee's 36-yard field goal.
Of course, the second part of the discussion centers around the fact that Spagnuolo never used that last timeout. What was he saving it for? Timeouts, after all, aren't rollover minutes on a cell phone. They can't be saved for next week or next month.
Here's Spagnuolo's thinking on that:
Following a 13-yard pass play from Bulger to tight end Randy McMichael, Bulger and the Rams hurried to the line of scrimmage (at the 9), and Bulger spiked the ball, stopping the clock with 15 seconds remaining.
Why not call a timeout after McMichael was tackled? By one estimate, that would've saved nine seconds on the clock.
"You could make that argument," Spagnuolo said.
But he added, "The other thing I was being careful of there is I didn't want to get in a situation where we had to rush a field goal. ... You don't want to get into a situation where you can't rush out there under 22 seconds. You can't get it off in time."
Had the Rams used their final timeout immediately after McMichael was tackled, about 24 seconds would've remained on the clock. Had a subsequent play been run where Bulger was sacked or the ball carrier or pass receiver was tackled in-bounds — using Spagnuolo's formula, there wouldn't have been 22 seconds left to safely get a field goal off before time expired.
Interestingly, Spagnuolo said Bulger does not have the option to call a timeout under those circumstances.
"No, I would handle that one," Spagnuolo said. "I've asked him to let me handle those, because now in the NFL, I can run all the way down to the 10-yard line and tell the official 'time out.' They allow you to do that now.
"But again, one of the main things in that situation is we would like to have the timeout (saved) to kick the field goal. Once we got in field goal range and we felt we were safe within Josh's range, we're (still) trying to get in the end zone to win the game. But we weren't going to get ourselves in a situation where we could not get the three points."
All of which sounds logical. But there were two points early in the drive where a timeout might've saved 20 seconds or more. Between the 1 minute, 49 second mark on the clock and the 46 second mark, the Rams ran only two plays: a 38-yard screen pass to Steven Jackson and a 5-yard completion to Danny Amendola.
A timeout after the Jackson screen pass, for example, probably stops the clock with at least 1:30 to play with the ball at the Jaguars' 40. You regroup, the players catch their breath after the long play, and there's still 90 seconds to try to get the ball in the end zone.
But Spagnuolo said he didn't have a problem with clock management early in the drive.
"The flow of the 2-minute drill, I don't remember thinking it was too slow," Spagnuolo said.
Re: Spagnuolo Defends Game Management
Learning curve for the rookie HC also
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