Sometimes when you make the smart play from a clock management perspective, not everyone watching is smart enough to understand why you did it. Chiefs running back Derrick Gore found that out in front of a national television audience.
The Chiefs had the ball and the lead with 1:51 remaining when Gore got the ball on third-and-10. Gore made a nice run around the left end to pick up the first down, and then immediately ran out of bounds, even though he appeared to have a path to the end zone.
That was smart: The Cardinals were out of timeouts, so by stepping out of bounds after picking up the first down, he set the Chiefs up to just have to kneel down three times to seal the win. And that’s exactly what they did.
But ESPN announcers Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Louis Riddick didn’t understand.
“I wonder if he got confused about the first down marker vs. the goal line,” Riddick said.
“I think he could’ve got there,” Levy said.
“You ought to get into the end zone. I don’t know what he was doing,” Griese said.
The ESPN trio weren’t the only ones who didn’t know what Gore was doing. The Kansas City Star‘s review of the game asked, “why did he run out of bounds late in the fourth quarter?”
He ran out of bounds because he was showing that he has a good understanding of situational football: Scoring a touchdown would have forced the Chiefs to kick off, and the Cardinals would have had an opportunity to come back. By going out of bounds, Gore ensured that the Chiefs would only have to kneel down to win the game.
Some might say that in a preseason game it doesn’t matter, and Gore should just try to make the best individual play he can to earn a spot on the roster. But that misses the point that Gore did make the best individual play he could. Running backs who can score touchdowns in the fourth quarter of a preseason game are a dime a dozen. What Gore showed is that he’s a smart player who understands clock management. That’s a valuable trait.
And, of course, if Chiefs coach Andy Reid had really wanted to extend the game, he could have called more offensive plays after Gore’s first down. Instead, Reid called for three kneeldowns, demonstrating that he wanted to walk away with the win.
Gore is to be commended for his high football IQ — a higher football IQ than some who get paid to analyze the game.