Time for coaches to play for TDs in OT

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Barry Wil­ner

An old adage in col­lege foot­ball has been “never play for a field goal.”

It might be time for the pros to take heed. Par­tic­u­larly in over­time. For the first time in 19 years, the NFL has had two ties in a sea­son. On con­sec­u­tive week­ends, no less, and punc­tu­ated by poor place­kick­ing. It nearly was three draws, in­clud­ing a pair on Sun­day, which would have been a league first. But Oak­land knocked off Tampa Bay with 1:45 re­main­ing in over­time by avoid­ing a field goal try and throw­ing for the win­ning points.

Ties are strange crea­tures in the NFL, and coaches tend to be un­sure how to avoid them. Should they be ag­gres­sive or con­ser­va­tive in the ex­tra ses­sion? How do you use the clock? Most im­por­tantly, when do you strate­gize for a win­ning kick?

Maybe the an­swer to that one is sim­ply never.

Bruce Ari­ans and Pete Car­roll were burned by that ap­proach in the 6-6 dead­lock be­tween Ari­zona and Seat­tle last week­end. On Sun­day, in a 2727 tie in Lon­don be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Cincin­nati that was one of the most watch­able games of a mostly pedes­trian 2016 sea­son so far, the Red­skins got scorched by a field goal fail­ure in OT. The Ben­gals had their kick­ing woes in reg­u­la­tion.

“I need to make those kicks, bot­tom line,” said Dustin Hop­kins , who hooked a 34-yarder in OT sec­onds af­ter his suc­cess­ful kick was negated be­cause Cincin­nati called a time­out. “I try my very best ev­ery time I go out, and that’s kind of the only stan­dard I can hold my­self to. Ob­vi­ously, I ex­pect more from my­self. I can’t ex­pect any­thing more from these guys. They played their heart out, so I’m dis­ap­pointed for them.”

Just as dis­ap­point­ing as the botched kicks by Hop­kins or Ari­zona’s Chan­dler Catan­zaro or Seat­tle’s Steven Hauschka is the uncer­tainty on the part of Ari­ans, Car­roll, Wash­ing­ton’s Jay Gru­den and Cincin­nati’s Marvin Lewis for han­dling over­time. Gru­den even face­tiously sug­gested he and his play­ers didn’t know games could end in ties.

“I don’t know how to re­act,” Gru­den said. “I didn’t think it was pos­si­ble to tie. I know there was a tie last week in Ari­zona, but I was like, ‘How the heck did they tie?’ “Now we know.” Draws — yes, a nod to the 27-27 af­fair in Eng­land — also con­fuse the play­off tiebreak­ers. All four of the teams who played ties this month made the play­offs last year. If they be­come con­tenders again, well, good luck fig­ur­ing out all the per­mu­ta­tions.

While those ties were packed with drama, they weren’t necessarily filled with strong play. It’s gen­er­ally true that de­fenses get worn down quicker than of­fenses in the NFL, and that looked par­tic­u­larly true of the Ben­gals on Sun­day. They were spared de­feat as much by mis­takes by Wash­ing­ton as any­thing.

On the other hand, in the Car­di­nals-Sea­hawks prime tie last Sun­day, the play of both de­fenses ranged from stingy to spec­tac­u­lar. Sure, there was some clunky of­fense, but much of it was caused by the likes of Richard Sher­man and Pa­trick Peter­son.

There’s also the is­sue of ex­haus­tion. A 60-minute game, es­pe­cially if it’s close and ex­tremely phys­i­cal, usu­ally leads to un­der­whelm­ing over­times. While the sit­u­a­tions have im­proved with the cur­rent rule that, bar­ring an im­me­di­ate touch­down both teams must get a pos­ses­sion, the coin toss to be­gin OT still has too big a role. The team go­ing on of­fense first has a huge edge — wit­ness the Cow­boys’ vic­tory Sun­day night against Philadel­phia.

While the NFL is loath to copy nearly any­thing the col­leges orig­i­nated, per­haps some­thing sim­i­lar to their OTs would pro­vide a more level play­ing field. One thing it would en­sure is no more ties.

MATT DUN­HAM - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Wash­ing­ton Red­skins cor­ner­back Josh Nor­man (24) leaves the field af­ter an NFL game against the Cincin­nati Ben­gals that ended in a 27-27 tie at Wem­b­ley Sta­dium in Lon­don, Sun­day.

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