Sometimes it is the little things in a game that either earn you a win or a loss. There have been so many games decided by one small decision at any point in the game. Like taking a timeout early on and having it come back to bite you because you don’t have the resource to stop the clock. Well, the Atlanta Falcons missed a chance to show their smarts to the NFL on Saturday.
As far as I am concerned, this has never been done before because the situation is so rare but the Falcons should have pulled this strategic move off.
The Falcons should have booted their last kickoff straight out of bounds for a penalty
In the NFL, you see something every week that you have never seen before, it is the beauty of football. With so many variables, something never-seen-before is bound to happen quite frequently and the Falcons should have been the latest example of that.
As you have already read, after the Atlanta Falcons kicked yet another field goal to make the game 17-9, they should have told Bradley Pinion to launch the kickoff as far down the field and out of bounds as he could, even with it being a penalty.
Why would that have been a smart move? Well, the Falcons had two timeouts and the two-minute warning was three seconds away.
Obviously, after every kickoff, the clock stops. The Falcons needed the two-minute warning to occur when the Ravens were snapping the ball on offense. That meant they couldn’t afford to allow Baltimore’s kick returner to return the ball because then the two-minute warning would be wasted.
Atlanta initially put Younghoe Koo out there to fake an onside kick (which they probably should have done) and then switched him out for Bradley Pinion. If there was no way that Pinion was going to be able to kick the ball out of the back of the end zone—which sure seemed to be the case because he wasn’t even able to get the ball into the end zone—then the next best thing to do is kick the ball out of bounds so that no time ran off the clock. The Ravens would have had to snap the ball before the automatic stoppage in play.
With the Falcons only having two timeouts, that extra clock stoppage was critical. Obviously, kicking the ball out of bounds on a kickoff is a penalty, but those extra 40-or-so seconds were more valuable than the yards you would lose on the flag.
Clearly, it didn’t end up mattering because Atlanta’s defense got gashed, but in the moment, it was the right move and a way to take advantage of the rulebook. Maybe we will see this strategy implemented in the future.