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Did the Packers almost throw the 12/20/15 Oakland game away by violating my clock management rules?

Posted by John Reed on

Here is a Facebook exchange I had with a reader about the Packers gme with the Raiders on 12/20/15.

Reader: Jack, if you want to see a recent example of the absolute worst time management (again) wrought with at least half a dozen examples of "trying to blow a game that is already won 101", checkout the last 5 minutes of the Packers win in Oakland...I was never so frustrated by a Packer win.

JTR: I found a game that GB won 30-20 but I did not see anything noteworthy in the last 5 minutes other than a blocked FG. What specifically did you mean?

Reader: (1)With the Pack ahead by 2 scores & Oakland out of timeouts & less than 2 minutes left & the ball at the Oakland 25, Rodgers (a) threw a pass (b) into tight coverage (c) that was picked...only possible way Oakland could win. If he takes a couple of knees or wide running plays, clock goes to near zero probability to score twice from 75 yards out. Also the field goal attempt gives them a chance where none should exist...only chance..block the attempt & return it for TD, recover onside kick & hit long TD or FG...

JTR: My Football Clock Management book has a chapter on when to take a knee or run my QB-sweep-slide play.

Football Clock Management book

Each of those tactics has a table containing 36 combinations of time remaining, down, and opponent timeouts remaining. If you are within the time required for your situation, you can do the sweep slide or take a knee and you should. 

According to the play-by-play (http://espn.go.com/nfl/playbyplay?gameId=400791699), the situation was 2:44 left when Rodgers threw the pick. It was a 2nd down play and the Raiders had 2 timeouts left. My take-a-knee table says there has to be no more than :06 left in order to take a knee in that situation—a far cry from 2:44. Even my sweep-slide table says there must be no more than :18 left to run that play if the opponent has two timeouts left. That shows how precious timeouts are and why I rail against wasting them.

So GB did NOT violate my rules on sweep-slide or take-a-knee.

My other pertinent slow-down tempo rules are Rule 1.20 (c) and (d) which say:

(c) prefer running plays to passing plays when the running play in question is adequately effective to gain the yards needed on the first three downs of a series and on the first three down of a series, prefer pass plays with high-completion percentages to pass plays with average or low-completion percentages when the pass play is adequately effective to gain the yards needed on the play

I note that it was 2nd & 9 which means the Packers were behind schedule for the series. On schedule would be 2nd & 6. So it is plausible that they complied with my rules and Rodgers simply made a bad decision. That happens even to the best players. It is also possible that the Packers did NOT comply with my rules 1.20 (c) and (d), but it would take a far more nuanced analysis of the Packers offense than I can do to say that.

I can say that the Packers snapped the ball 33 seconds after the prior snap which was an in-bounds running play. They should have waited until the end of the play clock which would have been snapping the second-down snap at about 2:31, not 2:44.

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