Copyright 2015 by John T. Reed

Packers-Seahawks NFC champioship game

Did Green Bay lose because they refused to comply with simple clock management rules? Yes. Coach Mike McCarthy should be fired immediately, along without anyone else in that organization who thinks he should not be fired.

They probably violated my clock rules in the first half, but it did not matter because Seattle never scored in that half.

Seattle scored the go-ahead TD at 1:15 left in the fourth quarter. So the question is, could the Pack have taken that much time off the clock during the second half.

My rules say they should have been in a slowdown starting with their first FG in the first quarter. That means a number of things, but mainly, wait until the end of the play clock to snap the ball or call a timeout, stay in bounds, and prefer the run to the pass because of the danger of incomplete passes which each make a gift of :40 to the opponent.

Look at the play-by-play.

In their first possession of the third quarter, the Pack went three-and out which took 2:12 or 132 seconds. Normally each play takes about 6 seconds and then 40 seconds run off the clock until the next snap if you comply with my slowdown rules. So this series should have taken 46 x 3 + about 8 more seconds more for the punt play including the return. 3 x 46 = 138 + 8 = 146 seconds that should have been used. But they only used 132 leaving 14 on the clock unnecessarily for the Seahawks.

In their second possession, the Pack got one first down on one play then went three and out. They burned 2:22 on the drive or 182 seconds.

So that’s 4 x 46 + 8 for the punt = 92 seconds. That means they left 90 seconds on the table for the Seahawks to use to come back and beat them. One play was an incompletion. That saved 40 seconds for the Seahawks.

Am I criticizing the call for the pass? Sort of. They could have run or had the QB take a sack. Is it just Monday Morning Quarterbacking for me to criticize it now? No. My rules say to “prefer the run” in this situation. If I had been on the side line and could have talked to the coach, I would have said, “You’re up 19-7. If this is incomplete, you add :40 to the game which is enough time for Seattle to start 7 six-second plays. Are you so sure this will be complete that you are willing to risk giving Seattle 7 more plays?”  And we now know he could not have been very sure because it was incomplete. And we certainly know for sure that he could have run a play that did not risk stopping the clock.

So after two series, the Pack has left 14 + 90 = 130 seconds on the clock unnecessarily.

On their third possession, which went over into the fourth quarter, they ran 10 plays in 5:02 or 302 seconds ending with a field goal. The time they could have run off was 9 x 46 + 6 for the field goal play = 420 seconds.

Actually, they had to run one play twice because of a penalty. That adds another six seconds they could have run off the clock for a total of 426 seconds.

Why did they leave 124 seconds on the clock for Seattle?

The last two plays before the 48-yard FG were incomplete passes which eliminates 2 x 40 second = 80 seconds. Same discussion as above: run the ball. With the FG already at 48 yards, you would not want to lose yards by having the QB take the sack. Pack is still up 19-7. Throwing two incomplete passes lets the Seahawks start 14 more plays. It is for sure that if the coach had not risked those passes, Green Bay would have won the game.

So after three series, the Pack has left a total of 254 seconds on the clock for Seattle to use to come back and beat them, which they did. The go-ahead score was at 1:25 left which is 85 seconds. The Pack left 254 seconds unnecessarily. That means they could have even done a half-assed compliance with my clock rules and still won.

But wait, there’s more!

Green Bay had two more possessions before the Seahawks go-ahead score during which they could have maximized clock runoff.

The first possession was three and out taking 1:40 or 100 seconds. How much could it have taken? 3 x 46 +8 = 146 seconds. Any bad plays? Yes. With 3rd and 4 they threw an incomplete pass. That made a gift of :40 to Seattle. Green Bay had the game won. They did not need that first down.

And the final Packer possession before the go-ahead Seahawks score? Another three and out. Could have burned 146 seconds. Only burned 1:12 or 72 seconds. Any plays they should not have “preferred?” No—all runs. But Seattle burned two timeouts. That lowers the number of seconds Green Bay can run off by 2 x 40 = 80. So they could have burned 146 - 80 = 66 seconds and they actually burned 72.

Good clock management—finally. They knew how to manage the clock all along. They simply are ignorant of the fact that waiting until the last several minutes of the game is wrong, incompetent, coaching malpractice, too late, and can cost you the game.

My book says to be in a slowdown whenever the current situation says you will probably win which is sometimes when you are behind on the scoreboard—like you’re down by two and have the ball at the opponent’s 10-yard line with the clock stopped and :03 left in the game. The Pack was in that situation—probably going o win—almost the entire game.

How could they save more than an average of 46 per play on that last series before the go-ahead TD? One or more of the plays ran a couple of seconds longer than the normal six. In fact, the first two plays lasted 7 seconds each from the snap until when Seattle got timeout. For whatever reason, the third play plus playclock time lasted :50.

So in all, in the second half, before the go-ahead TD by Seattle, the Pack left 254 + 46 - 6 = 294 seconds on the clock unnecessarily which is 4:54 in game-clock terms.

What did they do wrong? Mainly, simply not waiting until the end of the play clock to call for the snap. On almost every play until maybe the final possession, they appeared to call for the snap at around :05 to :10 left on the play clock. They also failed to prefer the run on five plays that were clock-stopping incompletions. Those incompletions alone gave Seattle a 5 x 40 = 200 seconds or 3:20.

They could not be bothered to follow my simple rules, and as a consequence, they lost the NFC championship.

My advice to be in a slowdown whenever your win probability is greater than .500 is often dismissed as “sitting on a lead,” unmanly. No, sir. My clock rules—which are not “sitting on a lead” but rather trying to score more points—just making sure you use all the play clock in between your attempts to score more points. But in this case, let’s humor the macho men and call it “sitting on a lead.”

If the Pack had “sat on their 19-7 lead” in the second half, as my simple rules call for, the game would have ended 4:54 earlier during Green Bay’s third possession with a final score of 19-7—and the Packers would be going to the Super Bowl.

But they were too “manly” to do that.

Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy should be fired for incompetence, along with any other coach or front office guy who disagrees with what I just said.

It’s arithmetic, folks, not my opinion. For details, see my book Football Clock Management, 5th edition.


Patriots just screwed up clock management and almost lost the game as a result. I invented a play called the QB sweep slide. It is a take-a-knee play, only one that maximizes the amount of time the play takes. In it, the QB takes the snap and runs backward and out to the far sideline with a phalanx of blockers. He does this three times in a row after waiting until the end of the play clock to call the snap. On the final play in this situation, up by four points, he runs to the far corner of the end zone then steps out just before being hit by a tackler. The buzzer needs to sound on that play, which is an intentional safety. This is thoroughly explained in my book Football Clock Management.
One difficulty was that they started the series at their own 20 because of a pick touchback. So they needed to form a protective huddle around Brady and run as much time off the clock as possible on each play They needed about 3 more seconds taken off the clock per play on that final series. The delayed take-a-knee or QB sweep slide play would have accomplished that.
I have never seen that QB sweep slide series on TV since my book came, but I occasionally see it run as a one- or two-play sequence to run a few more seconds off the clock in a series where the other plays are take-a-knee plays. I have take-a-knee tables and QB sweep-slide tables in my book. Basically, the Pats were running take-a-knee when they were not yet in the take-a-knee period, They were, however, in the sweep-slide period.
I think the NFL and NCAA coaches are AFRAID to run my QB sweep-slide series. NE just showed how failure to comply with that one of my clock rues can get you beat. NE won, by the way, when the Ravens’ Hail Mary fell incomplete.
I also think I saw a very sophisticated trick on the game-winning TD catch. The receiver seemed to conceal the fact that the ball was arriving from the cornerback as long as possible—successfully. DBs are taught to watch the receiver’s eyes and arms to see if the ball is approaching when their back is to the passer.
One of my baseball teammates pulled a similar trick in semi-pro baseball. I picked a single to right up off the ground and spun and threw a strike to second base. The batter was headed to second on what would be a close slide play. But the second baseman stood at the bag with his hands on his hips, then, only at the last instant, grabbed the throw with his glove and put the tag on the not-sliding runner.
I could be mistaken. Maybe the NE receiver was not deliberately trying to delay the DB’s recognition that the ball was arriving.

  • John Deramo Jr. In addition to having to defend against the final Hail Mary, they had to punt the ball away which could have resulted in a blocked punt near their goal line. I wondered whether the punter would have been better off taking a safety and then free kicking.

  • Pyke Bobo Pats prob should have run your qb sweep play with Edelman taking the snaps.

  • Shawn Ryan John D. I agree; I think the risks with the punter taking the safety after running off time are lower than the risks associated with the punt and subsequent play(s).

  • John T. Reed Taking a safety then free kicking would have been better because you are allowed to punt the free kick which means the Ravens would have had to do a fair catch, not try to return—although the announcers said the returner should have done a fair catch anyway because of how little time was left. He almost did terminal zigging, a no-no in my book that means running off all the time remaining at the end of a game with a play that is not going to score.
    My clock book is very big on warning about the dangers of a scrimmage kick—punt or FG attempt—near the end of a game. “It’s the only chance for the other team to win,” I say.
    Another thing the Pats might have done is my long distance spike an fourth down. Go to max protection but send one receiver deep down the sideline. Brady drops back then throws the ball as high and far as possible (45º elevation for you physicists) out of bounds but toward the one receiver in order to maximize the flight time of the ball.
    If there is no receiver there, it would be intentional grounding which would add time back on the clock. If he were in the end zone when he threw it, intentional grounding would also be a safety. But as long as there was a receiver in the vicinity running a streak route, there should be no penalty. True, the clock would stop on the incompletion, but it stops anyway on fourth down because of change of possession. It is essentially a safer, longer duration punt.
    The basic problem was when they needed to kill clock, they ran the second-fastest play in football: the take -a-knee play. The fastest play in the short distance spike. My QB sweep slide, intentional safety, and long-distance spike all would take more time off the clock and they only needed 3 seconds more per play.
    My main point is Belichick is highly regarded in football, gets paid a lot of money and committed malpractice for four straight plays at the end of this important game. I, who is not much known outside of football circles and who do not get paid a lot of money, figured this out in 1997, wrote a book about it now in its 5th edition, wrote about this particular situation in my column in American Football Quarterly back in the late 90s, and covered it in my clinics at AFQU, gave Belichick every opportunity to learn how to do his correctly. He did not do it correctly because he either can’t be bothered to learn the correct way or because he lacks the guts to run a play that would probably not look right to fans and announcers.
    Ironically, correct clock management often looks crazy to fans and announcers, but if you execute it correctly, and the buzzer goes off during the safety, the light bulb will go on in everyone’s head simulltaneously, and they would have all marveled at what a genius Belichick was. In fact, Belichick might have lost this game during the 14 seconds he left on the clock. Totally unnecessary.

  • John Deramo Jr. If the Patriots had taken a safety and free kicked and the Ravens fair caught the free kick, then could the Ravens have kicked a free kick field goal? That's something I didn't take into account when I made my previous comment. The Ravens could have won with a field goal in that situation.

  • John T. Reed Yo, Deramo! Excellent observation. That is covered thoroughly in my book. Shame on me for not seeing it here.
    First, let me explain the arcane rule. You can always fair catch a kick off or punt before it touches the ground. In high school and the NFL, if you do that, you have the option to do a free kick field goal on the next play. You can ask the ref to move the ball to wherever you want it on or between the hashes on the yard line where the fair catch was made.
    You may then attempt a free kick field goal. A free kick looks like a kickoff which is another type of field goal. NO snap. Defense must stay at least 10 yards from the ball. Kicking team lines up like a kickoff to cover the kick in case it is returned. They kick off a tee and the kicker gets to run at it as far as he wants which increases distance up to a point. If you kick it through the uprights, it’ three points. A kick through the uprights on a regular kickoff is NOT three points. Only a fair catch free kick can store points.
    So the remaining issue is field-goal range. The ball was caught at the Raven 44, a a 73-yard field goal. Not happening even with an extra run. The NFL record is 63-yards from scrimmage.

  • John T. Reed Re Bobo: Bad idea. Taking snaps takes about 1,200 reps for each QB-C pair to master it. I once took my first-string frosh QB—who had never played football before—out with about :05 left in the first half and us on our own two. I put in the 3rd string Q...See More

  • John Albert Soroka III Thanks John.

John T. Reed There is an explanation by Belechick as to why he took a knee at
It makes no mention of the sweep-slide play or intentional safety. What he said is a bunch of incompetent nonsense. You don’t punt with :14 left when you can run off those :14 during your last four plays.

Some have asked the question of whether Bill Belichick...




Green Bay just went for one instead of two even though they were down by two after their TD. Announcer Troy Aikman said it was okay not to rely on the go-for-two chart because it was not yet the fourth quarter.
That comment is almost certainly the result of my clock book directly or indirectly. Before my book, coaches consulted those stupid charts after every TD even in the first quarter. My rule is you use the chart if the remaining scoring in the game is likely to be one or two scores. If it’s likely to be more than that, forget the chart.
The score here is 21-20 after three quarters—about one TD per quarter. He should have used the chart. I applaud Aikman for realizing the chart is only applicable toward the end of the game. But he needs to re-read the book and recognize that it is the number of likely scores, not the quarter, that decides. In a higher scoring game, Aikman might have been right. http:/

After their next TD they went for two and failed. Announcer said they were now 1 for 4 going for two on the season. Also, Aaron Rogers being gimpy was factor. A lot of two-point conversion plays make more use of the QB than other situation plays. Not if he’s gimpy.

John T. Reed