Why Did Norv Turner Stop the Clock for Peyton Manning?
Except, for some reason, Norv Turner insisted on giving Peyton Manning and the Colts plenty of time to go for the win.
OK, when Turner called timeout with a little more than 90 seconds left and his team down by three, I'm sure he had a lot on his mind. The Chargers had just completed a 13-yard pass, giving them a fourth-and-two on the Colts' 29. When that play ended, Turner immediately called timeout - about 1:35 remained on the clock.
Here's the problem: Turner called timeout immediately after that third-down pass play ended. He then proceeded to send Nate Kaeding out to kick a game-tying field goal.
Getting knotted up at 20-20 was all well and good, except Turner's quick trigger finger on the timeout left Manning 1:30 to get into field goal position. And there was really no reason for that mistake.
Let's think about this logically.
The only excuse Turner has for calling that TO is that he was entertaining thoughts of going for it on fourth-and-two. Even if that was his mindset, there are issues.
The biggest, and most pressing of those issues, is that if the Chargers had run the play clock allllll the way down to about two before snapping it on fourth down, then converted for a first down, there still would have been around 50 seconds on the clock. A first down in that scenario would have had to take San Diego to at least the Indianapolis 27.
Twenty-seven yards in 50 seconds is plenty doable in the NFL. So that eliminates the reasoning for stopping the clock immediately after third down. The Chargers didn't need to save that much time. The Chargers had two timeouts left after that clock stoppage. At that point, if you don't score, with the Colts taking the ball near the 40, you're almost certainly toast anyway.
But making matters worse is that Turner then opted - seemingly without much hesitation - to kick the field goal. On paper, it looked like the right move. San Diego had just stormed back to put itself in position for a surprising tie, at home, and had all the momentum.
Fine. There is no issue here with kicking the field goal.
The problem is, if you're going to kick the field goal, let the clock go! The Chargers could have run the clock down under a minute, kicked the game-tying 3-pointer and left the Colts with very little room to maneuver.
Consider what happened on Indianapolis' final drive: Manning hit Reggie Wayne on a third-down pass to San Diego's 48-yard line with 0:26 seconds left. After a review to determine if that pass had gained a first down, Manning then hit Marvin Harrison for 14 yards, the Colts called a timeout, Joseph Addai ran for a yard, the Colts spiked the ball and Adam Vinatieri hit a game-winning field goal.
Minus Turner's spazz-out, none of those final few plays would have had time to happen. Of course, the Colts could have worked the sidelines more, used a timeout earlier, etc.
The difference between Manning having 1:30 and Manning having 45-50 seconds, though, proved San Diego's undoing. The fact that there was no reason for the Colts to have 1:30 makes San Diego's playoff-crushing defeat that much more baffling.