With 4 minutes and 41 seconds remaining, the New York Jets took a 17-13 lead over the Detroit Lions.
Minutes later, that lead evaporated when Lions QB Jared Goff threw a short pass to unheralded backup tight end Brock Wright who rumbled another 45 or so yards into the endzone to take a 20-17 Lions lead, leaving the Jets 1 minute and 51 seconds to receive the ball and score at least 3 points to take the game to overtime.
Sometimes a game shakes out in a way that lends a hand at a critical moment. For the Jets, it was the good fortune of having not just 1 minute and 51 seconds to drive into kicker Greg Zuerlein’s pretty far reaching field goal range, but also having three timeouts that should have allowed them to maximize the 1 minute and 51 seconds they had available. What happened instead was this:
1st & 10 at NYJ 25
(1:49 - 4th) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson sacked at NYJ 16 for -9 yards (R.Okwara).
2nd & 19 at NYJ 16
(1:26 - 4th) (No Huddle, Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass incomplete deep middle to B.Berrios [J.Houston].
3rd & 19 at NYJ 16
(1:22 - 4th) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass deep right to G.Wilson to NYJ 38 for 22 yards (J.Okudah).
1st & 10 at NYJ 38
(0:58 - 4th) (No Huddle, Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass incomplete short right to B.Berrios [C.Moore].
2nd & 10 at NYJ 38
(0:53 - 4th) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass short left to G.Wilson to NYJ 48 for 10 yards (J.Jacobs) [J.Houston].
1st & 10 at NYJ 48
(0:31 - 4th) (No Huddle, Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass incomplete deep right to B.Berrios.
2nd & 10 at NYJ 48
(0:24 - 4th) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson sacked at NYJ 40 for -8 yards (J.Cominsky).
(0:19 - 4th) Timeout #1 by NYJ at 00:19.
3rd & 18 at NYJ 40
(0:19 - 4th) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass incomplete short right to E.Moore.
4th & 18 at NYJ 40
(0:14 - 4th) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass deep left to E.Moore to DET 40 for 20 yards (K.Joseph).
(0:01 - 4th) Timeout #2 by NYJ at 00:01.
1st & 10 at DET 40
(0:14 - 4th) G.Zuerlein 58 yard field goal is No Good, Wide Left, Center-T.Hennessy, Holder-B.Mann.
(0:00 - 4th) END GAME
Note: Credit for the above play-by-play goes to ESPN.com, which provided all of the information sans the bold emphasis I placed where timeouts were taken. This play-by-play recording can be found here.
As shown above, the Jets did not take their first timeout until there were 19 seconds remaining in the game. This decision becomes increasingly odd when you consider that the Jets allowed 3 plays to run off about 51 seconds of dead time as outlined by beat reporter Rich Cimini. This lost time is especially glaring when you realize 16 seconds accounts for 15% of the available time the Jets had, a non-trivial amount to put it lightly.
Reviewing clock management on final drive. Missed 3 opps to use first TO.— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) December 19, 2022
1. Sack at 1:44. Next snap: 1:28. Wasted :16
2. Wilson +22 at 1:15. Next snap: :58. Wasted: :17
3. Wilson +10 at :49. Next snap: :31. Wasted: 18.
When asked about the decision making after the game, Jets Head Coach Robert Saleh said the following:
Saleh on questionable clock management on the final drive -- not using a timeout until :19 left:— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) December 18, 2022
"I can probably look back at it and say we should’ve used one, for sure. But at the same time, when you have 3 timeouts, time is not an issue whether you use one there or not." ...
Saleh, cont: "But, yeah, in hindsight for me, I could’ve called a timeout to settle the guys down." Could've called one after sack with 1:40 left or after Wilson's long catch (about 1:15 left). About 12 secs or so wasted before next snap. #Jets— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) December 18, 2022
So what seems to have happened is Saleh under-estimated the amount of time that the Jets offense would need to get the team down the field. While this was a costly miscalculation, it is an understandable miscalculation that likely was exacerbated by the 10-yard sack Zach Wilson took with about 20 seconds left on the clock.
Regardless of the rationale, to end a game on a 58 yard kick because there was not time left to run another play while a timeout sits in your pocket is an egregious use of resources no matter how you slice it.
So what do you think? Was Saleh’s rationale right? If not, which non-timeout did you think was a mistake in real-time