The main reason the New Orleans Saints lost to the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night was because the home defense made Drew Brees look like Drew Henson. Or Drew Stanton. Some Drew that won’t be inducted into the hallowed Canton football halls. But Sean Payton didn’t help.
In addition to blowing through his two challenges early, which left him powerless to review this egregiously bad spot late, Payton made the very least of his third and final timeout in the closing minutes.
Dallas took control of the ball at the Saints’ 16 with 2:08 remaining. Then this sequence occurred.
- 1st & 10 at NO 16(2:08 – 4th) (Shotgun) E.Elliott left guard to NO 14 for 2 yards (S.Rankins).(2:03 – 4th) Timeout #3 by NO at 02:03.
- 2nd & 8 at NO 14(2:03 – 4th) (Shotgun) D.Prescott pass incomplete short right to A.Cooper. PENALTY on NO-M.Lattimore, Defensive Pass Interference, 13 yards, enforced at NO 14 – No Play.
As Troy Aikman astutely pointed out on the broadcast — and what video game enthusiasts have understood for years — you don’t call the final timeout on that side of the two-minute warning. Saving a few seconds is not worth allowing the offensive team to run a passing play without penalty.
Had Payton allowed the two-minute warning to happen, Dallas would have come out facing a 2nd and 8 with the knowledge New Orleans could stop the clock once. They’d have likely handed off to Ezekiel Elliott to set up a bigger decision on third down.
Run another 40 seconds off the clock or try to win with a first down via a passing play, knowing an incompletion would stop the clock. It’s possible Dallas would have run twice, kicked the field goal, and given Brees the ball back with 1:10 remaining.
Instead, Jason Garrett opted to pass, a penalty was drawn in the end zone, and the Cowboys bled the remaining seconds. In the end, Payton earned three seconds for his team and they didn’t matter.
Don’t do this, NFL coaches. Don’t make your timeouts work harder. Make them work smarter. Every single coaching candidate should be forced to take a multiple choice quiz developed by the nerds to make sure that they either understand late-game time management (good) or are amenable to learn (almost as good).
Just another free idea for the serious minds who love to brag about sleeping in their offenses to scoff at.