Letting the Other Team Score- Not Just for NFL Coaches
Yes, you heard that correctly, letting the other team score on purpose to try and win a game. It not only happens in the Super Bowl, it happens when you are coaching youth football too. If you watched the Super Bowl this year between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants, you saw a situation where letting the other team score on purpose, made complete sense, we aren’t talking about some kind of “mercy” score, we are talking about letting someone score to win the game. New York had the ball with a first down and goal from the 8 yard line and with just 59 seconds left in the game and the score 17-15 in favor of the Patriots. The game wasn’t in doubt, the Pats had just one timeout. So all’s the Giants needed to do was to run 3 plays, run the clock down to 1 second, call timeout, kick the field goal on the last play of the game and go home with the Lombardi Trophy. The Giants field-goal kicker had been perfect for the season on extra point kicks and field goals inside the 30.
But if you watched the game, that isn’t how it played out, Patriots coach Bill Belichick had other ideas. He told his defense to let the Giants score on purpose, so his offense could get the ball back with about 56 seconds left to play and with a timeout in their back pocket. Belichick isn’t someone that likes to put the destiny of a game into the hands of his opponent. While the Patriots would have to score a touchdown to win the game, with Tom Brady at Quarterback, Welker at receiver and one of the top offenses in the NFL, they certainly have a very real chance to score a touchdown and win the game. It was a brilliant move that gave the Pats a punchers chance to pull out the game, instead of helplessly letting the game unfold to a last second field goal for the Giants. Even with 3 dropped passes and a sack on that Patriots final drive, the game came down to a final play, that just missed connecting in the end zone, what a finish. The Giants would have been better off just taking a knee 3 times and kicking the field goal on the last play of the game. That would have been much safer than giving Tom Brady 56 seconds and timeout to score a touchdown and win the game.
How does this apply to youth football?
I’ve seen a very similar circumstance with a friends team in Florida. They were losing 21-20 with just over 1 minute to play. The opposing team had the ball on my friends 10 yard line and they had a first down. My friends team had 1 timeout left. The opponent had a very strong team, but they weren’t very good at PAT kicks, which were worth 2 points. In fact, they were so bad at kicking, they didn’t even bother attempting a kick the entire game. My friends team had been hitting almost 60% of their kicks and were pretty confident in their kicker.
So these were his options:
Try for a strip and hope to cover it and go 90 yards with the ball. Or go for the strip and hope to cover 90 yards in less than 1 minute on offense.
Try and hold the other team out of the endzone on 4 attempts, with the slight possibility of getting the ball back inside their own 10 with just a few seconds left. My friends offense would have to cover about 95 yards in less than 10 seconds- 1 play more or less.
Let the other team score on purpose. Expect that they will go for the 1 point PAT, get it and be up by 28-20. Receive the kickoff and get field position on their own 40 or better. Now only needing to go 60 yards in the final 60 seconds, score a touchdown and make the PAT kick to tie the game up and send it into overtime.
Well as you may have guessed, my friend let the other team score on first down. As he expected, they ran the ball in for the 1 point PAT to take a 28-20 lead. Fearing a long kick return the opponent kicked short and my friends team got the ball to start off at their own 45 yard line. They went on to score a touchdown to make it 28-26 with just 6 seconds left to play. They then made the PAT kick to bring the score to 28-28 and taking the game into overtime. Momentum was on my friends side as the opponent fumbled the ball on the first play of overtime and my friends team went on to score on their second offensive snap.
Thinking outside the box isn’t just for the NFL guys. When coaching youth football, especially with some of the special rules many of us have, it makes sense as well. Keep this scenario in the back of your mind, you never know when you might need it.
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