Chiefs head coach Andy Reid never hesitates to use timeouts on offense when he wants to give his team extra time to get the right play called. But if we’re going to praise him for using those timeouts wisely on offense, we also have to criticize him when he doesn’t use a timeout that he should have. And that’s what happened in the AFC Championship Game.
As the Patriots methodically marched down the field for the game-winning touchdown in overtime, the Chiefs’ defense, which had been on the field for more plays than any defense in any NFL game since 2002, was obviously exhausted. Reid should have called a timeout to give his players a breather, ensure any necessary personnel changes could be made, and let his defensive staff get a good play called. He didn’t, and the Patriots scored the game-winning touchdown.
Conserving timeouts is particularly foolish in overtime, which can end at any moment: If you save your timeouts for later, there might not be a “later.” Overtime doesn’t have all the clock management issues that regulation has. Overtime replay reviews are handled by the replay assistant and not by coaches’ challenges, so there’s no need to save timeouts to challenge a close call. A coach gets three timeouts in a postseason overtime and almost never uses all three of them. Reid didn’t even use one. He should have.
This isn’t just hindsight. Jim Nantz and Tony Romo talked about it as the game was unfolding.
“You’ve got to make a call if you’re on defense,” Romo said late in overtime. “But you’re tired. You’ve been on the field a long time today.”
Just before the Patriots scored the game-winning touchdown, Romo said, “You can see the defenders for Kansas City, they’re exhausted over there.” Nantz asked, “Don’t you think a timeout?” Romo answered, “That’s exactly right, Jim, that’s a great call. This would be a perfect time to do it. Give them a break.”
Instead, the Chiefs let the clock keep running, and the Patriots scored the game-winning touchdown.
Reid fired his defensive coordinator this week, but timeout usage comes within the purview of a head coach. Reid put his defense in a bad position, by saving three timeouts that he would never use.