Broncos-Chargers: The readers write

What about that blown call? Were the Broncos "playing with house money"?

Published September 15, 2008 6:45PM (EDT)

A lot of readers have responded to Mike Shanahan: American hero wanting to talk about the call that referee Ed Hochuli admitted he screwed up right before the Denver Broncos' game-winning touchdown and conversion.

Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler had fumbled while scrambling. He'd tried to throw a pass, but the ball had popped out when he'd brought his hand back. His arm came forward, but without the ball. Hochuli, seeing this in real time, blew his whistle: incomplete pass. The Chargers recovered the ball and the replay review showed that Cutler had indeed fumbled, but the whistle had blown the play dead. The weird, Frankenstein-like ruling: Broncos ball, at the spot of the fumble.

ChillyDogg How could you write this and not mention the only reason Denver even had a chance to try for two was because the ref made a horrible call on the fumble. The announcers even said they thought Shanahan went for two because he knew they should have lost the fumble and was giving the Chargers a chance to win the game.

Seriously, do you believe that's why Shanahan went for two? Have the voices in your head call the voices in mine and they'll meet up for some Bubble Up and rainbow stew. And I'm pretty sure that's not what the announcers said.

I didn't record the end of that game but I was watching it in real time and I'm pretty sure Dick Enberg mentioned that Shanahan was "playing with house money" after the blown call, though I think it was more of a comment than an attempt to get inside Shanahan's mind. Rich Eisen said the same thing on the NFL Network later in the day.

All I can say is: What time can these people come over to my house for poker? Or, as ChefColeman put it, talking about "house money" is a horrible was to look at gambling ... Best way to never leave with some winnings. Is it in your pocket? If so, it is your money.

Shanahan wasn't playing with house money after that blown call. No competent coach would say, "Oh, well, a blown call went our way. We shouldn't win this game, so let's go crazy!" Shanahan's paid to win games and go to the Super Bowl. He hadn't won anything before that two-point conversion. He'll be playing with house money in any games the Broncos play after they've sewn up their playoff berth and seeding. Then he can fool around.

More on the blown call -- and let's not forget about the earlier blown call in Denver's favor, a fumble ruling that would have been overturned on review, only the replay gear wasn't working. Gotta love instant replay.

paperboyz777 Yes, but ... Shanahan wouldn't have had the opportunity if the officiating had been competent.

Lunatic Fringe Like the previous posters, I agree it is disingenuous to not mention the gift Denver was given by the officials.

I don't see the connection between the blown calls and the decision to go for two. There were dozens of things that led to the score being 38-37 San Diego, and I didn't mention any of them because I was talking about the decision to go for two, not how the Broncos got there.

Besides, if I were going to write about every blown call and replay foible, this column would turn into a tiresome recitation of the same complaints over and ... uh ... and we can't have ... er ... hey! Look over there! [Runs away.]

jpbreeze I do give Shanahan respect for going for the two points, why wouldn't he, he got that second chance, and when that happens, you go for the win to get right with the "Karma Police".

lonewolfy Shanahan knew the Gods were especially smiling upon him when Ed Hochuli blew the obvious call on Cutler's fumble ... To have played it safe and kicked the extra point would have been to spit on the Gods in response to their generous gift -- and considering that in NFL overtimes, a coin flip determines possession and your offense may never even get a chance to take the field, why mess with the generous football deities?

I try to stay away from theological debates. I think you guys meant to write to Tuesday Morning Quarterback.

Or, as Mantonat put it: Salon readers are the only community I know who are mostly atheist except when it comes to football. There's no karma or divine force at work here.

mkelly9772 This is not the fourth and one for a touchdown vs. a sure thing field goal situation in which you've been harping on in the past, where the fourth and one success is much greater than the coin flip success (yet coaches choose the coin flip). He basically chose a coin flip over a coin flip. Exciting football, to be sure, but hardly a great coaching decision.

Agreed. But here's the thing. If there are two options, even if those options aren't even close to being equally optimal, NFL coaches will always choose the one that will get them criticized less should it fail. I praised Shanahan not for making a great football decision, but for making the move that would have gotten him criticized had it failed. That just never happens in the NFL, and for Shanahan to do it when it's basically, as you said, choosing one coin flip over another, well ... I'm misting up!

gayle Oh for cryin' out loud who cares about football this morning? Nobody in Chicago, I can assure you.

Thanks for the update. Do keep us posted.

Jason G. KK writes: "If the average offense facing the average defense has a 50 percent chance of success, what are your chances with a good offense against a bad defense? And what if it's the end of a long afternoon, and that defense has just been on the field getting scored on?"

The relative quality of the teams obviously affects the odds, but the other two factors will not affect the odds. Because the baseline success rate, whatever it is, already factors those things in. If you are going for a 2-pt conversion, then the defense will have just been scored upon in the vast majority of cases. (Relatively few touchdowns are scored off of interceptions, kickoffs, etc.) And I would venture to guess that the majority of conversion attempts come late in the game. Nobody goes for two in the first half.

All good points. It's true that the defense has almost always just been scored on and it's usually near the end of the game, but not all scoring drives are created equal, and not all ends of games are created equal. The Chargers defense had just been scored on via a 12-play, 80-yard march.

There had also been a 14-play, 76-yard march by Denver in the fourth quarter that had ended in an interception. The Chargers defense had been on the field for 12:37 of the previous 13:44. On the afternoon they had been on the field for 75 plays, compared to 49 for the Chargers defense. All of that is not accounted for in the overall stats.

But speaking generally, not about this specific situation, yes. I overstated the case.

By King Kaufman

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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