Another season has come and gone. 17 weeks, four postseason rounds, 269 games, and after all of it, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the champions of an empty and improbable NFL season.
At the conclusion of the season, teams, and players, go back and reflect on their projections, their goals, and take this time to reflect, to get at the source of what went right and wrong, and why things played out the way they did. After watching the 2020 NFL postseason, there is one simple lesson that needs to be learned, that already should have been learned:
DON’T BE A COWARD
ALL COWARDS GO TO HELL
During the postseason there were multiple coaches who continued to punt and kick field goals so that maybe one day they would get the ball back, or to shrink the deficit they were in. By making these decisions, they completely forgot that getting four, or even one yard, is easier to do than stopping the opponent from getting a first down, or even three points, that the other team gets the ball and they can score too (wow, incredible!), and that field position plays into these decisions too.
Seattle, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Buffalo, Green Bay, and even Kansas City, all took the COWARD’s path at one point or another, rather than go for it, and failed to maximize their win probability as a result.
In the Super Wildcard Round, Seattle, Pittsburgh, and Tennessee, all ignored the collars on their shirts, and turtled, rather than sieze da dey.
Facing a 4th and 1 with 9:32 left in the fourth quarter and down 23-13 to a defense that was the perfect poison for their offense, the Seahawks took a five yard false start penalty, pushing them to 4th and 6. The Seahawks dawdled up to the line of scrimmage. Wavering between going for it and punting, they tried to quickly get a snap off with time brushing closer and closer to the infinitesimal. Jordan Simmons moved too soon. Still, on 4th and 6, with a MVP caliber quarterback, the correct call in a ten point game would have been to go for it. Instead they punted into the endzone. The Rams answered with an 80 yard touchdown drive. 30-13. The game was over.
Cleveland cashed in on all their years of goodwill they had reserved in the bank this postseason. The first snap over Big Ben’s big dumb head. Yards after the catch. Turnover after turnover. Yet, they almost missed the chance to lose to Chad Henne the following week. Their lead fell from 28 points to 12. The Steelers, facing a 4th and 1, with the ball at the 46, punted it. The Browns scored on the following possession crushing their comeback attempt.
The Titans have been a successful team the last three years by playing their bizarre brand of TITAN UP football. Midzone, outside zone, and its varieties, play action, and most importantly, the strange: winning the turnover battle, going for it at crucial times, taking advantage of holes in the rule book, and playing tough intelligent mistake free football while Mike Vrabel led his men. They too cratered in spite of their philosophy. The Titans down by four, facing 4th and 2, at the Baltimore 40 yard line with 10:06 remaining, punted the ball instead. Despite their brand of football, Derrick Henry, and the defensive problems they had this season, they punted it to the Ravens for a net gain of 15 yards of field position. Luckily, an offensive pass interference penalty nixed an ice bath fourth down conversion from Baltimore. They received another chance. Kalif Raymond slipped, Ryan Tannehill still threw his pass, and Marcus Peters danced the running man on the flaming thumbtack, their postseason grave, for the finisher. Karma is very real. Your heart will be weighed against the feather one day.
The following round, the Kansas City Chiefs showed those losers how it’s done. After Mack Wilson gellinated Patrick Mahomes’s spine, FATALITY, the Chiefs brought in their favorite type of pasta, Chad Henne, to cliff hang their way to victory. After the Browns, facing a 4th and 9 on their own 32 yard line punted like with only one timeout in their pocket.
The Chiefs went to work. They faced a 4th and 1 with 1:14 remaining and the ball at their own 48, and up by only 5. They did the dance. Showing motion. Running back motioned back into the backfield. Henne hollered at the line of scrimmage a lot. Tony Romo squirting There’s no way they call a play here JIM EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. Play action. A throw to Tyreek Hill in the flat. Conversion. Off to the AFC Championship Game.
NOT A COWARD.
Despite Andy Reid’s decision, and the Super Wild Card Round failures, both head coaches Matt LaFleur and Sean McDermott didn’t learn from others failures. Aaron Rodgers slung a pass in the back of the endzone, instead of running it to set up a shorter fourth down attempt. It didn’t matter. Down 31-23, with 2:09 left, facing 4th and 9, with a below average defense on the other sideline, the Packers opted to make it a six point game, turning one possession into an easier one possession. The Bucs picked up three first downs to clinch it.
The Bills kicked not one, not two, not three, but four field goals against the Kansas City Chiefs in their 38-24 loss. Their first field goal, facing 4th and 3, in a 0-0 game, wasn’t the right decision, but it wasn’t egregious. McDermott should be put in jail for the other three. On their last drive of the first half, the Bills finally realized the Chiefs weren’t playing man coverage, and started moving the ball. They wormed their way down to the two yard line. Facing 4th and goal, they of course kicked the field goal, Making it 21-9. This decision could have been acceptable if they were getting the ball to star the second half. They weren’t. The Chiefs scored on their first drive of the second half, making it 24-9.
On their first possession of the second half, after trading field goals, failing to understand the Chiefs can score points too, they worked their way to the Kansas City 8 yard line. Facing 4th and 3 they kicked another short field goal, this one from 27 yards. The Chiefs scored a touchdown on the following possession. 21-9 became 28-12 immediately. Touchdowns instead of field goals and an interesting fourth quarter would have been in play. This didn’t come to fruition. On top of all of that, down by 17, with 3:19 left, they kicked another field goal.
The Super Bowl flipped both sides of the coin. The Bucs brought it. Up 7-3, facing second and goal from the two, they ran three plays. Incompletion. One yard. Rather than kick it to make it a seven point game, they played the game how it should be played, and were stopped at the inch line. Unlike other teams, they understood the value of scoring touchdowns against an all-time great passing offense, and the field position swing. The Chiefs starting at the six inch line wasn’t failure, but an opportunity. Fast forward to a 29 yard punt, the Bucs started with the ball at Kansas City’s 38 yard line on the next possession. They of course scored a touchdown, were rewarded for their decision, making this game the rightful 14-3 it should have had all along.
NOT A COWARD.
The Chiefs had a failure of their own at the end of the second half. 3rd and 6, ball at the 14, Mahomes was immediately attacked by a Shaq Barrett inside move, and a Jason Pierre-Paul inside-out jump rip. Rather than go for it, giving his all-time quarterback a shot at an eventual seven, they kicked the field goal. 14-6. A defensive pass interference penalty set up another Bucs touchdown before the end of the half. 21-6. The Chiefs would score one more time by, yep, you guessed it, kicking a field goal.
Cowardice is never rewarded. Don’t allow those times a heroic decision backfired, and didn’t work out, to blind you from the true and righteous path. The right decision is still the right decision even if the results are not there. The Seahawks, Titans, Steelers, Packers, Bills, and Chiefs, all had their own personal failures, and football miseries because of their meek decisions. Going for it may not have worked out. They may have failed. They probably would have lost anyways. But at the end of the day, it’s all about maximizing your probabilities. The aggressive decision would have been the right decision, and would have put them in a better situation to succeed than where they ended up, and, where they ended up, was hell, that spot all cowards belong to.
The lesson is the same, always and forever:
DON’T BE A COWARD. ALL COWARDS GO TO HELL.