The end of Bucs-Lions last Sunday included bizarre clock-management decisions by both head coaches. Something similar, but not as obvious, happened in the second game played that day.
It’s something Peter King and I stumbled into during Friday’s PFT Live, while discussing this weekend’s AFC Championship. We agreed that, before the two-minute warning in Buffalo, it appeared that the Bills fully intended to work the clock down as low as possible, either forcing overtime with no time left or scoring a touchdown — preferably, without 13 or more seconds to play.
Those 13 seconds from two years earlier loomed large in that moment. As the clock ticked away toward the final two minutes, it appeared that the Bills were activating a cat-and-mouse plan aimed at keeping Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes on the sideline as long as possible.
The Bills started the drive by getting the ball on their own 20 with 8:23 to play. They milked 6:23 off the clock. Coming out of the two-minute warning, they faced second and nine from the Kansas City 26. The Chiefs had two timeouts.
The Bills seemed to be intent on keeping the clock moving, forcing the Chiefs to use those timeouts while otherwise watching it tick-tick-tick toward zero. The Bills would either kick a field goal with no time on the clock or they’d score a touchdown with minimal time remaining.
Even with 13 seconds (again), the Chiefs would have needed a touchdown, not a field goal (as it was in 2022), to make a difference.
During the two-minute warning, something happened. Something changed. Someone decided to abandon the apparent plan to manage the time. Someone decided to throw to the end zone, twice.
The first play had quarterback Josh Allen looking for receiver Khalil Shakir in the end zone. If Allen hadn’t been hit as he was throwing the ball, the Bills quite possibly would have scored the go-ahead touchdown.
And then Mahomes would have had nearly two minutes to win the game with a touchdown of his own.
On that same play, receiver Stefon Diggs was running a crossing pattern underneath, with no one covering him. It would have been a perfect opportunity for Allen to throw to Diggs, to let him perhaps get to the line to gain, to stay in bounds, and to continue the march toward making it impossible for Mahomes to make a difference in regulation.
After the game, coach Sean McDermott defended an ill-advised decision to try a fake punt earlier in the quarter by repeatedly saying he wanted to be “aggressive.”
Well, someone decided to be “aggressive” coming out of the two-minute warning. Was it McDermott? Was it offensive coordinator Joe Brady? Was it Allen?
Regardless, there’s a lesson in this for the Ravens. If/when they’re in position to consume the clock and keep Mahomes on the sidelines late in today’s game, they absolutely should do it. Don’t twist yourself in knots wondering whether it makes more sense to be aggressive or strategic.
There’s a time for both. When time is an issue near the end of a game and Patrick Mahomes is on the sideline, the smart move is to keep him there. Forgot about being aggressive. Be smart.
Be smarter than the Bills were. They decided to abandon the apparent plan to prevent Mahomes from beating them by going for broke. In the process, they broke, blowing two shots at the end zone, missing the field goal, and ending their season.