In the Ravens 37-7 win over St. Louis two weeks ago, I questioned some of John Harbaugh’s in-game strategies and decisions as it related to “coaching in the reality of the moment”. None of those strategies he employed back-fired, per-se. Rather, they were just good “what if?” fodder for sports talkers and water cooler discussions on Monday morning. Things like keeping the team’s only real quarterback in the game with a 30-point lead don’t become topical until said quarterback separates his shoulder with 1:35 to play while scrambling for his life.
Sunday night in Baltimore, while the Ravens defense was busy suffocating Mark Sanchez and Company, the Jets themselves contributed to their own demise with another failure to recognize the “reality of the moment.”
We’re always quick to point out the things the Ravens do RIGHT when they win. I’m here to tell you something the Jets did WRONG on Sunday night — and it was not only a mistake that might have cost them a chance to win the game, it’s even more proof positive to me that coaching in the NFL isn’t so much about preparing for the game — it’s about quickly (very quickly) sizing up what’s going on IN THE MOMENT and reacting to those circumstances.
The Jets were swallowed up early on Sunday night and their offense obviously stumbled around like a bunch of frat brothers in New Orleans during Mardi Gras.
Before you finished your 2nd beer, it was 20-7 Ravens and the rout was on.
Then it quickly became 27-7 when Sanchez coughed up the ball and Jarret Johnson hustled into the end zone with it.
This was a national-TV-punking that would have made Ashton Kutcher blush.
But something weird happened.
The Jets scratched their way back into the game.
They cut the halftime lead to 27-17 — and while nearly all of us assumed the Ravens wouldn’t cough up a 20-point home lead, stranger things have, in fact, happened.
But when New York couldn’t mount any kind of 2nd half opening drive and the ball went back to Baltimore early in the 3rd quarter, all was going along to plan.
Then Aaron Maybin made a play and knocked the ball out of Joe Flacco’s hands and the Jets recovered on the Ravens 27 yard line. Nine minutes remained in the 3rd quarter.
The Jets were within an offensive score – either a field goal or touchdown – from turning a blowout into a one-score game with 24 minutes of football remaining.
You could feel the nervous energy in the stadium. It was of the “holy hell we might be in trouble” variety.
The Ravens defense, solid all night long, would now have to buckle down deep in their own territory and keep the Jets out of the end zone, for sure.
The game was in the balance.
All that work building a 27-7 lead and here, suddenly, the Jets were a deep throw to Santonio Holmes in the corner of the end zone from being down 27-24.
Obviously, we’ll never know what *might* have happened had the Jets scored any points there, for on the very next play, Mark Sanchez threw the ball to Lardarius Webb on the right sideline and Webb scampered 73 yards for the game-ending score.
Enter the “coaching in the reality moment” I wrote about after the St. Louis game and the one that might have cost the Jets the game on Sunday night.
What in THE hell was New York offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer thinking with that dumb-ass play call?
Yes, it looks like hindsight and it appears easy to say, “No, Brian, not THAT play call”, but I was saying this as the Jets came out of their huddle right then and there.
Drew: “If the Jets are smart here, they run the ball at least twice real quick and just let it sink in on the Ravens that this is potentially a game-changing moment. The pressure is ALL on the Ravens now. Had a 27-7 lead, now it’s 27-17, and New York has just benefitted from a turnover in the Baltimore end of the field. The only thing New York can’t have right now is a turnov…”
And as soon as I said that, Sanchez threw the ball to the sideline, intended for Santonio Holmes, but with press coverage applied by Webb, he was never a factor in the play and it was an easy pick and run for the Ravens’ cornerback.
What would that play have accomplished had Holmes, in fact, caught the ball? Answer: 2 yard gain, maybe.
Why throw the ball there? If you ARE going to throw it, toss a back shoulder pass to Holmes or Plaxico Burress in the corner of the end zone. Don’t throw the ball on the sideline where one bad deflection or a wobble of the ball can change the whole tenor of the game.
And that’s what happens when you’re Brian Schottenheimer and you’re not really coaching in the “reality of the moment”.
The reality of that moment, right there, after the turnover by Flacco, was that the Jets were ready to steal the game. I think we’d all admit this: had the Jets punched the ball into the end zone on that drive to make it 27-24, there’s a reasonable chance that New York wins and Baltimore loses.
The play-calling chart might have offered one set of potential calls by Schottenheimer.
The reality of the moment said this: DO NOT TURN THE BALL OVER HERE. MAKE THIS A ONE-SCORE GAME, GET IT TO 27-24 OR 27-20, AND THIS GAME IS COMPLETELY UP IN THE AIR AGAIN.
Schottenheimer, like most NFL coaches and coordinators, was too bogged down with the cookie cutter mentality that gets them prepared by planning during the week and doesn’t allow them to think for themselves – QUICKLY – while the game is actually going on.
That moment right then was when Schottenheimer – and Rex Ryan, I suppose, since he’s the Head Coach – should have said, “Ohhhhh, boys, you smell that? The crowd is nervous. The Ravens are nervous. This thing is turning. They can smell it…so can we. Let’s make ’em bathe in it for a minute. Let’s run the ball a couple of times, churn up 6-7 yards, maybe get a first down, maybe throw a deep ball and try and get a flag.”
In the moment, the Jets should have had ONE goal. Get a score of some kind and see how the Ravens react with the tables turned on THEM in front of their fans and a national TV audience.
It only took one play to diffuse the whole situation.
It was a horrible play call at the worst possible time with absolutely NOTHING to gain from the play and everything, including the game, to lose.
Had Cam Cameron initiated that exact same scenario, I would have started the show at 5:00 am on Monday and blasted him back to Indiana for having “no feel for the moment”.
Instead, Brian Schottenheimer helped deliver the game to the Ravens on a silver platter.
We don’t often look at it like that because we’re busy talking and writing about how great the Ravens were in the midst of their victory.
Sunday in Baltimore, the Jets grounded themselves with yet another example of a coach’s inability to understand and grasp “the reality of the moment”.
Some coaches have a feel for it, and some don’t.
I’m sure glad Schottenheimer didn’t know what he was doing on Sunday night.