In overtime on Thursday night, the Bengals faced a fourth down at the Dolphins’ 39-yard line, and coach Marvin Lewis had a decision: Send out kicker Mike Nugent to try to win the game with a 57-yard field goal, or punt? Lewis opted to punt.
The Bengals, of course, went on to lose the game on their next offensive possession when Andy Dalton was sacked in the end zone for a safety, and that led to Lewis being questioned about why he didn’t trust Nugent to try to win the game for him. Lewis, however, believes he made the right call, even in hindsight.
“I don’t see many 58-yard field goals going through the uprights very often,” Lewis said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Lewis (who overstated by a yard the distance of the potentially game-winning field goal he eschewed) acknowledged that Nugent had just made a 54-yard field goal with room to spare, going in the same direction, late in the fourth quarter. But Lewis says there was a stronger wind at Nugent’s back at the time he made that field goal than there was in overtime.
“Earlier in the game the wind was a little stronger, later in the game the wind was different. You could tell by the depths of the kickoffs and so forth as the game went on,” Lewis said.
That explanation is odd, considering that Nugent kicked off twice after that 54-yard field goal, both in the same direction, with one of the kicks going five yards into the end zone and the other going eight yards into the end zone.
Still, Lewis may have had a point when he told reporters that they were only second-guessing him because his team lost.
“I don’t think you guys ask that question when we win the game, do you?” Lewis said.
For his part, Nugent said he understood why Lewis decided not to give him the chance to win the game.
“It’s tough for me because I look at it as me being the kicker, but if you look at it as a coach’s point of vie,w you have to be objective,” Nugent said. “As much as I wanted to be out there at the end of the day it’s probably the right decision because that’s a tough call for coach. That’s what makes being a head coach one of the hard parts right there.”
Getting second guessed on decisions like that comes with the territory for a head coach. In this case, it’s hard not to think that the second-guessers have a pretty good point.