King Kaufman’s Sports Daily

Hobbyhorse check: Even great coaches like Belichick and Reid insist on leaving the door open for beaten foes. Plus: Instant replay is not so instant.


Can’t anybody here manage the clock?

One of my hobbyhorses is the insistence by NFL teams on leaving time on the clock before attempting a game-tying or game-winning field goal.

Sunday two NFL teams pulled this bonehead move. But what did I expect? They were only the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles, the defending conference champions coached by two of the most respected minds in the game, Bill Belichick and Andy Reid.

Neither decision cost the team making it the game. In the Pats game, the Pittsburgh Steelers mismanaged the clock too, and they almost certainly wouldn’t have won had they not done so. But once in a while, these types of things cost teams games. Even the best teams never seem to get them right.

The Eagles’ move was particularly jaw-dropping.

Philadelphia played the whole game with a hobbled kicker. David Akers, who hurt his right hamstring, his non-kicking leg, last week, aggravated the injury on the opening kickoff and could do nothing more strenuous than kick extra points and similar-length field goals the rest of the day.

Why coach Andy Reid, for whom roster management is a forte, didn’t put another kicker on the roster Sunday, just in case, is a good question. Surely some special-teams soldier could have been spared for the afternoon, and mediocre kickers who can kick off to the 10-yard line and have a decent chance of hitting a medium-range field goal are loitering on street corners looking for casual labor.

Instead, the Eagles used a linebacker to placekick and a third-string tight end to kick off, with results that combined to nearly cost the Eagles a win over the Oakland Raiders, who enjoyed great field position all day and only had to stop the Eagles on downs to keep them from scoring. The linebacker, Mark Simoneau, even missed a PAT.

So the game is tied 20-20 in the final minute and the Eagles are driving. On first down from the Raiders 12 with 25 seconds left and no timeouts remaining, Donovan McNabb hits Terrell Owens over the middle at the 5. Twenty seconds to go, second and three. There’s plenty of time for the Eagles to gather themselves, think about what to do and do it.

So let’s think. You have a kicker who can barely walk. Your kickoffs have given the Raiders the ball at midfield all day. You don’t want to leave enough time on the clock for Raiders quarterback Kerry Collins to throw a Hail Mary pass. You wouldn’t give anyone that chance if you didn’t have to, but Kerry Collins has Randy Moss on his team.

The play is to line up, let the clock run down below five seconds, the time it takes to kick a field goal, and spike the ball. The only risk is that someone will commit a false-start penalty in the last 10 seconds, which would cause a clock runoff and mean the end of regulation. But that would only mean overtime, and with no actual play running, why would anyone jump? The linemen don’t even have to come out of their three-point stances when the ball’s snapped.

And let’s not even talk about that “in case of a muffed snap” argument, which is somewhere below “I carry a bomb on airplanes because what are the odds of there being two bombs on one plane” on the scale of understanding probability.

The Eagles rushed up to the line and spiked the ball with 12 seconds left. Here’s what I typed in my notes after that, knowing I’d use it:

“David Akers limps in, kicks the field goal. Nine seconds left, and now it’s time for the tight end to kick off. The game should be over. CBS analyst Dan Dierdorf, who will criticize the way a guy ties his shoes, has said nothing. And this isn’t second-guessing on my part. I’m typing this paragraph between the field goal and the kickoff, with the picture paused. OK, I’m hitting play.”

Fortunately for the Eagles, the Raiders were just as dumb. Chris Carr fielded the ensuing amateurish kick — or maybe it would have been a squib anyway, another hobbyhorse — at the 32.

And rather than downing it or running straight ahead for 10 yards or so and getting tackled with time on the clock so Collins can try a desperation pass to Moss, who is, not to put too fine a point on it, the best guy in the league to try to throw such a pass to, Carr runs around for the entire nine seconds, first advancing straight ahead to the 40, then reversing fields and giving ground madly, eventually getting tackled at the 34. Total return yardage: two yards. Game over.

Dierdorf says, “Boy, he sh –” and stops short, since the broadcast, 35 minutes overtime, has to end quickly and he must have gotten a shout in his earpiece. So I’ll give Dan credit for one out of two.

Even if Carr had broken the run for a touchdown, the chance it would have been called back for an illegal block in the back penalty was roughly 100 percent, maybe a little more.

The last time I saw an NFL kickoff or punt return that wasn’t called back for an illegal block in the back penalty was in 1993. I’m juuuuuust starting to think this rule is a little too strict. The last time I saw it not called on a return when the ball-carrier reversed his field was in 1887. President Cleveland about fell out of his chair on that one.

Dumbest play I’ve seen this year, immediately following the second dumbest.

But there was plenty of dumb in the Patriots-Steelers endgame, the finish of a terrific, tense battle.

The score was tied 20-20 in this one too, with the Pats driving. They got to the Pittsburgh 25-yard line with 40 seconds to go, facing a third-and-3. Forty seconds, mind you. The Patriots had no timeouts left, the Steelers one.

New England brought kicker Adam Vinatieri onto the field as the seconds ticked away. The Steelers did nothing. The Patriots snapped the ball with six seconds remaining, Vinatieri hit the 42-yarder and the Pats had a 23-20 lead — with one second left.

Now, why not wait another few seconds, then snap it? Why leave time on the clock? Now the Patriots had to kick off, meaning the Steelers had a tiny, tiny, tiny chance of running it back all the way and winning. I can’t emphasize enough how tiny the chances were, but they were greater than zero, which is what they would have been had the Patriots waited one more lousy second to snap the ball.

The chances probably wouldn’t have been much greater had the Steelers called their last timeout with 40 seconds left. The Patriots almost certainly would have had Tom Brady take a knee, then run the field-goal drill in exactly the same way, leaving one second on the clock.

But something might have gone wrong. Maybe Brady fumbles the snap. Maybe someone jumps early and makes Vinatieri’s job five yards harder. Even if all you’re doing is improving your odds from one in a million to one in 999,999, if there’s no cost, why not do it?

- – - – - – - – - – - -

Get on with it! [PERMALINK]

Patriots-Steelers, middle of the second quarter. Eugene Wilson appears to intercept a Ben Roethlisberger third-down pass. It’s low and he goes down and either cradles it or traps it, though it looks pretty clear to the naked eye he trapped it.

It’s ruled an interception and the Steelers challenge. CBS goes to commercial and returns two minutes later to a shot of referee Bill Carollo peering into the monitor.

The network runs a replay that shows without a doubt that Wilson hadn’t come close to catching that pass. It bounced under him and he gathered it up.

From that point, it’s five minutes to the next snap. Instant replay is instant like chickpeas are chicks.

Why does this stuff take so long? The entire challenge delay was seven minutes. Even if Carollo hadn’t started looking at the replays until CBS came back from a commercial — which is not what happened — it shouldn’t have been more than a three-minute delay. Wilson didn’t catch it. Fourth down.

Considering he headed over to the sidelines sometime around the start of the commercial break, it should have been about a one-minute delay.

After CBS returned, Carollo stayed on the sidelines for another two minutes, most of which he spent talking to the booth, not looking at replays. Then he went back on the field, made the announcement, set the ball, ready to go and … hang on. Another delay.

The ball was sitting nose on the 40. Is that where it had been? Well, let’s go to the replay! Good thing the ref had spent those extra two minutes talking to the booth about the placement of the ball and the setting of the clock.

So another two minutes later, Carollo comes back to inform us that “The ball is correct, it should be at the 39 and a half yard line.” So I guess by “correct,” he meant “incorrect.”

OK, they move the ball about the distance of the ball itself, so the back of it is on the 40 and, seven minutes after the last play — seven minutes! — the Steelers get their fourth-down snap.

Now, how on earth did the officials ever know where to place the ball before instant replay? I mean, did they have, like, a guy standing on the sideline with a stick planted in the ground or something, to mark the spot of the last snap?

- – - – - – - – - – - -

Overnight ratings [PERMALINK]

First glance at some Week 3 picks.

Told you so: Saints, Jets, Bengals, Patriots.

Did I say that?: Falcons, Cardinals.

Almost: Randy Moss and Terrell Owens not scoring.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

  • Bookmark to get the new Kaufman column every day.
  • Discuss this column and the sports news of the day in Table Talk.
  • Send an e-mail to King Kaufman.
  • To receive the Sports Daily Newsletter, send an e-mail to

  • More Related Stories

    Featured Slide Shows

    • Share on Twitter
    • Share on Facebook
    • 1 of 11
    • Close
    • Fullscreen
    • Thumbnails

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
      Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
      Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Here by Richard McGuire
      A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
      The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
      This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
      For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Over Easy by Mimi Pond
      When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
      You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Shoplifter by Michael Cho
      Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
      This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

    • Recent Slide Shows



    Comment Preview

    Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>