The Broncos lost on Monday night by two points. Coincidentally, they exited the Week One game against the Titans with two time outs left.
So why didn’t coach Vic Fangio stop the clock more often on the drive that resulted in Tennessee kicking the game-winning field goal with 17 seconds on the clock?
“It was two-fold,” Fangio told reporters after the game. “One, their field goal kicker obviously been having his problems so I didn’t want to extend the drive where they could get closer. Number two, we would have used a timeout, but we got the running back out of bounds. We would have used a second timeout, but they threw an incompletion which would have given us one when we got the ball back so that was part of the thinking there.”
He’s technically right, but by then it was too late. The first time out should have been used after a 13-yard run by Titans tailback Derrick Henry put the ball in the Denver 16 with 1:27 to play. Instead, Tennessee — now in extra-point range — let the clock run. And run it did until the next play started with 49 seconds remaining.
After that play, a four-yard Henry run up the middle, 45 seconds remained. Fangio didn’t call a time out. Fourteen seconds later, Titans coach Mike Vrabel finally did.
At that point, the Titans had the ball on the Denver 12, second down and six, with 31 seconds left. That’s apparently when Fangio would have started using time outs, because that’s when Henry ran out of bounds (stopping the clock) followed by quarterback Ryan Tannehill and receiver A.J. Brown not connecting in the end zone (stopping the clock).
After those two plays, 20 seconds remained. After the game-winning field goal, 17 seconds were left.
All other things being equal, if Fangio had used two time outs after the two Henry runs that finished in bounds, the Broncos would have gotten the ball back with 1:07 to play and a time out on the board.
With only 17 seconds, the Broncos got to their own 43 — close enough for what would have been a 74-yard field goal attempt in the thin air. For some reason, the possibility of the kick was never considered or mentioned, even though McManus once kicked a 73-yard field goal in a live practice setting with 21 other players on the field and fans in attendance.
Even if the Broncos had time for only one more play from scrimmage, they could have gotten close enough for McManus to send a football flying through the mile-high air. They didn’t, in large part because they didn’t use two of their time outs when they should have.