Football has always been known as a game of inches. However, many times the game reminds us that seconds are just as important.
Trailing the Cleveland Browns 23-21, the Falcons were moving into position to kick a field goal for the win. After picking up seven yards on a second-and-9 play, the Falcons sat at the Cleveland 35-yard line. However, instead of milking the clock before running a third-down play, coach Mike Smith called a timeout, stopping the clock with 55 seconds remaining.
On the subsequent play, Matt Ryan's deep pass to Devin Hester fell incomplete, stopping the clock with 49 seconds left. After Matt Bryant banged the 53-yard field goal home, Atlanta took a 24-23 lead. However, the 44 seconds left on the clock would come back to haunt Smith, as the Browns drove down the field in the remaining time to snatch the 26-24 win.
Smith was torched for his clock management after the game, but tried to explain his reasoning.
"Again, you can definitely ask that question," he said per the team's official website. "The 53-yarder was definitely outside the range we set prior to the game. We wanted to get a first down, and we felt like we had a play that's why we called the timeout. We came over and used it. They would've used the timeout probably if we hadn't."
Attempting to get closer is smart. Using a timeout so the other team wouldn't makes zero sense. Why do the opponent a favor? If the Browns had one fewer timeout, perhaps their game-winning drive would have gone a bit different.
Smith's job status has been in question since the outset of the season. Their blown lead in London stoked the flames under his seat. Sunday's botched clock management and its subsequent faulty rationalization adds kindling to the fire.