Saints mismanaged their timeouts, in costly fashion

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The Vikings’ victory over the Saints on Sunday was aided in part by the Saints’ misuse of their timeouts, which forced the Saints to settle for field goals at the end of both halves when, with better clock management, they might have scored touchdowns.

Late in the fourth quarter the Saints’ timeout usage was incredibly costly: With the Vikings facing third-and-19 with 2:54 remaining, New Orleans had two timeouts. They used one of them, which was a sensible thing to do — but only if they were prepared to use another one after the play, which they didn’t.

Instead, after stopping the Vikings on third-and-19, the Saints allowed the Vikings to run the play clock all the way down before punting. By the time the Saints’ punt return was done, it was after two minutes. The Saints had just wasted the two-minute warning, because it passed on a punt, and the clock stops after punts anyway.

If the Saints had used their third and final timeout immediately after sacking Kirk Cousins on third-and-19, they would have forced the Vikings to punt with about 2:48 remaining in the fourth quarter. They could have run multiple offensive plays before the two-minute warning. Instead, the Saints saved that final timeout.

And what were they saving it for? Nothing. Amazingly, even after foolishly saving that final timeout, the Saints never used it. On their first offensive play after the two-minute warning, Alvin Kamara had an opportunity to step out of bounds but decided to cut back inside to pick up a few extra yards. That was a mistake, but that’s what the Saints saved the timeout for, right? Nope. They let the clock keep running. Two plays later, Kamara again went down in bounds. Now they’ll use the timeout, right? Wrong. The clock kept running. The next play, Michael Thomas was tackled in bounds. Again, the clock kept running. On the next play Jared Cook was tackled in bounds and the clock was still running. Now the Saints were getting nervous about running out of time, so they lined up to spike the ball with 21 seconds left, but they weren’t lined up properly so they were penalized and got a 10-second runoff. At this point, surely they’ll use their timeout to avoid the 10-second runoff, right? Nope. They opted for the runoff. They then ran one more play, an incomplete pass, before kicking the game-tying field goal with that last timeout still in hand.

If the Saints had managed the clock better, they could have taken multiple shots at the end zone and tried to win the game in regulation. Instead they tied the game and lost in overtime.

The Saints also mismanaged their timeouts late in the first half: When the Vikings got first-and-goal at the 5-yard line with a minute left in the first half, the Saints should have called timeout to save themselves time for their next possession. Instead they allowed Minnesota to bleed the clock before scoring a touchdown with 23 seconds remaining. That meant that when the Saints got the ball on the ensuing kickoff, they had very little time and ended up missing a field goal on first-and-10 as time expired in the first half. With more time, the Saints might have driven down the field for a touchdown, or at least driven further down the field for an easier field goal.

With better timeout usage, the Saints might have scored a touchdown at the end of either half. Instead they missed a field goal at the end of the first half, made a field goal at the end of the second half, and cost themselves good opportunities to score in a game they would lose in overtime.

49 responses to “Saints mismanaged their timeouts, in costly fashion

  1. Wait, did the Saints lose the game or the did the Refs take it from them?? I’m confused.

    ‘Cuz clearly no one thinks the Vikings won it. Seems to me the Vikings dominated the game and executed a beautiful 43 yard bomb in OT. But I guess they don’t get credit for that.

  2. Clock mismanagement happens often and it’s frustrating as a fan. My particular “favorite” is when a team calls it’s last timeout with like 2:42 left in the game, because the next play assuredly will last more than 2 seconds. If they hadn’t called it, the other team would have to snap at 2:02, the clock stops at the two minute warning (or at like 1:55 when the play ends) and you still have the timeout. Instead teams call timeout at 2:42, play gets over at 2:35, and the team winds the clock down to the two minute warning before the next play. And you don’t have that timeout anymore.

  3. The first snap of the game told me everything i needed to know about how the game would be playing out.

  4. It’s truly amazing how many coaches simply don’t understand late game clock management. These guys put in 80-100 hours a week but don’t bother to learn simple calculations that NEVER change once you’ve learned them. And if the head coach is too busy why isn’t one of the many assistants tasked with learning it?

  5. Saints didnt show up for their prove it game. Pretty embarrassing. Outcoached and outplayed. I know its easy to get likes and dunks on us, but enough with the posturing. I love how recognition and accountability in a billion dollar and even culturally significant entertainment business is too much to ask.

  6. terrible coaching by sean payton, but come on youve gotta wonder about the refs trying to keep them out, lookup how may small market teams have made it to the superbowl over the past 10+ years and you might get suspicious

  7. The football Gods were on our side yesterday and that is the only explanation I can come up with for how that game played out.

  8. Remember that despite the fact that the Saints got jobbed by the refs in the NFC Championship game last year, Payton totally bungled the clock management at the end of that game too. Watching that last drive and seeing Payton and Kamara do it again, I was astonished. And amazed announcers had nada to say about it….

  9. “Instead, the Saints saved that final timeout.”

    The Andy Reid method of game management. Saving timeouts hoping he can still use them in the 2020 season

  10. Way to cry last year to get the rule change for one bad call and then it comes back again this year and still doesn’t help the saints. The PI review is the dumbest rule, get rid of it for next season.

  11. I don’t get it either. I’m sitting in my comfy living room making better decisions than these NFL coaches. Maybe they have too much chatter and scenarios going back and forth in their headsets and brains for that matter.

  12. Referees mismanage their interpretations, in costly fashion.
    See what i did there? Lol

  13. Gonna hasta give Sean a pass here on this one. He was occupied with angst over the HC job in Dallas. Must hurt – deeply – to be passed over for McCarthy.

  14. I agree with the poster above, Brees is not a playoff QB. Neither was Peyton Manning.

    both guys throw for lots of yards and TD’s in the regular season, but routinely save their worst game for the playoffs – against heavy underdogs. You can blame the defence, the coach, the refs – but in the end, Brees looked off.

    All the excuses and performance are so reminiscent of Peyton “1 and done” Manning.

  15. I watched it unfold and couldn’t believe how poorly Payton managed the clock.

    Don’t get me wrong, I was happy he did.

  16. Liberalsruineverything says:
    January 6, 2020 at 9:45 am
    When are the Saints fans going to call out Brees for his constant choking in playoff games?


    He’s no Tom Brady or Russel Wilson

  17. Of course he mismanaged the game! Did you see the readers he had on? (I would say cheaters, but that’s a whole ‘nother story…) He must have borrowed those glasses from Aunt Mabel!

  18. “Saints fans will have none of this. It was all the refs fault”

    Every Saints fan should be asking themselves about those saved timeouts but also ask why on the winning pass they only had one little six foot defender covering a six foot six reciever without help.after the Vikings lined up why didnt the Saints call timeout and change their defense so they could double the big tight end.he may have pushed off but he certainly would have caught the winning td anyway where that ball was located where only he could catch it.maybe they should have turned those fgs into tds,thats what good teams do in the playoffs.

  19. RIDICULOUS ANALYSIS. Choice was simple:

    a) Ball at 30yd line, 2:45 on clock with ZERO timeouts.
    b) Ball at 30yd line, 1:55 on clock with ONE timeout.

    EVERY sensible NFL coach would want a TO in their pocket for emergency. 2 minutes is more than enough time for Drew Brees or any QB in the league.

    As for not calling the last timeout to prevent the 10 sec runoff – you do know a sack could’ve likely have ended the game, right?

  20. As an Atlanta fan I can tell you w/o any doubt that Dan Quinn has the market cornered on poor use of timeouts and general dismal clock management.

  21. Def some questionable decisions made yesterday by Payton. Rushing the snap before the 2 minute warning trying to take a shot down field cost them 7 points. Then, the end of the game by not burning the timeout to save the 10 seconds. He was def playing for the tie rather than the win. Which is odd considering how aggressive he usually is. I dont think the saints lost that game because of any of that though. Their oline got abused all game. Zimmer had a nice game plan of putting their ends over their guards exposing andrus peat and Brees had no time to throw all game. The TD in overtime was def OPI but it doesn’t take away the fact that the Saints laid an egg.

  22. tinye67 says:
    January 6, 2020 at 9:27 am
    Wait, did the Saints lose the game or the did the Refs take it from them?? I’m confused.
    ‘Cuz clearly no one thinks the Vikings won it. Seems to me the Vikings dominated the game and executed a beautiful 43 yard bomb in OT. But I guess they don’t get credit for that.
    If they dominated the game…..Why did it go to OT???

  23. hbudgess says:
    January 6, 2020 at 9:30 am
    It certainly was not Sean Paytons best coaching.
    Why, yes, it actually was…at least the best he could do. I wonder why Mike Tomlin is constantly criticized for failing to win more Super Bowls with the talent he had while Mr. Payton seems to avoid the same criticism?

  24. If Lutz had made the FG before halftime… If the Saints had won the OT coin toss… We can analyze and criticize all we want. The Saints offense (besides Taysom) played without enthusiasm and the Vikings simply out played them.

  25. It’s the playoffs. You let the players decide the game unless it is blatant. That being said, I’m very happy that the Saints think the refs screwed them. They ignore bounty gate and play the victim. It’s hilarious.

  26. Since winning the SB, what has this team ever really done in the postseason after constantly tearing it up in the regular season..

    Payton and Bree’s continually come up small in the second season since that one magical time

  27. The 4th quarter clock management by the Saints did seem weird, then again, with all the pro-Saints build-up, the whole game where the Vikings appeared to be the better team (other than that Hill guy — geez) was weird.

    I will say this — the Saints coaches and players lost with quite a bit of class under these circumstances. Unfortunately for them, they’ve had a lot of practice.

  28. This isn’t the first time something like this happened. Like last year while whining about the bad call, no one mentioned that if you run the ball three times late, you bleed the clock so the Rams can’t hit the tying FG. Same thing to what coverage they were playing against Minnesota two years ago. Lots of coaching brain farts from Payton over the years.

  29. Whole team choked except for Taysom Hill and Demario Davis. At this point I think all the bad playoff losses are in their head. They were pressing too much.

  30. Saints fans should start a petition so teams can have 4 timeouts per half…. that would have solved the problem.

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