As Broncos receiver Bennie Fowler was sprinting with the football on a 76-yard catch and run late in regulation on Sunday night against the Chiefs, Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy was saying that Fowler should go down.
The reason was simple: The Broncos led the Chiefs, 17-16, the Chiefs had just used their last timeout, and Fowler’s touchdown plus the one-point conversion gave Kansas City a chance to force overtime with a touchdown and a two-point conversion, which they did.
In the heat of the moment, it would have been a difficult decision for Fowler to make. He’d sprung free after the Chiefs sent the house on third and two. It was a huge and unexpected development, and the last thing Fowler was thinking about as he churned toward pay dirt was not securing the ultimate payoff for his efforts.
It’s arguably a tangible example of the importance of having an experienced quarterback on the field. An experienced quarterback with a thorough understanding of the game may have told the receiver at the start of the drive to not score if they broke free. An experienced quarterback like, say, former Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.
In fairness to the Broncos, it wasn’t as obvious as it would have been if three kneel downs would have secured victory. With roughly three minutes to play, the Broncos would have had to execute three plays, score a touchdown or a field goal, and then keep the Chiefs from marching down the field.
But if the clock had been properly milked, the Chiefs would have had perhaps 80 seconds to get in position for either a game-winning or game-tying touchdown, depending on whether Denver scored three or seven points.
Not scoring likely wasn’t an issue due in large part to the faith that the Broncos have in their defense. However, based on what everyone saw late in regulation and twice in overtime, maybe that faith was, for one night, misplaced.