Every head coach in the NFL has quite a few plays in his head and memory he would love to do differently. John Fox added another one to his collection last season, as the Denver Broncos lost in the AFC Divisional playoffs to the Baltimore Ravens.
What most people recall questioning is Fox telling Peyton Manning to take a knee after the Ravens just tied the game with an improbable 70-yard pass from Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones that tied the game. Instead of trying to go for it before overtime, Manning took a knee that ate up the clock. The Broncos lost to a field goal and were knocked out of the postseason after a 38-35 loss.
Bu Fox doesn’t regret telling Manning to take a knee. He thinks his team couldn’t have gotten anything done in the little time remaining to them after the shock of conceding a touchdown that late in the game.
When they scored the touchdown, you could hear crickets in the stadium. You think the crowd was shocked? It was a lot harder on the players and the coaches. It was a 12-round fight. We had been knocked down by a hard punch. The best thing we could do was get up, regroup and get to the next round. I would do the same thing 10 times out of 10.
However, Fox, often criticized for being a bit too conservative for his (and his teams) own good, does regret the play before the punt that lead to the Ravens’ touchdown. He called for three straight running plays despite being down to his third-string running back. On the third-and-7, despite having Peyton Manning at his disposal, Fox called for another running play, this time around the edge, which had no gain.
The Ravens had no timeouts, and looked like they had their backs against the wall with an exhausted defense. Yet Fox didn’t call a pass, gave up the ball on a punt and eventually lost the game. That play, according to the Denver Post, is something that in hindsight he might have done better on.
That’s the one that gnaws at me. We get the first down there, and Baltimore can’t stop the clock again, and the game’s over. I don’t know what I should have or would have done, but something that would pick up a first down.
The Broncos look like preseason favorites to win the AFC, as many predict the New England Patriots to be weaker next season, not to mention the Ravens who lost a lot of their bite to free agency and were limited in their recruitment. However, unless Fox learns to turn away from his conservative play calling and thinking, which was part of what got him fired from the Carolina Panthers eventually, the Broncos seem destined to fall short of their goal once more.