Key Coaching Decision #1 (NO trails 14-17 / 4th & 6 NO 31 / 10:17 Q4):
- Sean Payton burned two timeouts on two unsuccessful challenges in the 4th quarter. Not taking away too much from his play calling grade here, but observing that he seemed to be making these decisions off bad intel, and losing two timeouts and both challenges down the stretch in a close game is not a good thing. Perhaps some better review/communication systems among the coaching staff would have helped this situation.
Key Coaching Decision #2 (NO trail 21-23 / 1st & 10 MIN 33 / 0:40 Q4)
- As the New Orleans drove on what appeared to be the game winning drive to end the game, they faced a 1st & 10 from within field goal range, and completed a quick out that stopped the clock and allowed the Vikings to save one of their timeouts. On 2nd down, they threw another quick out that was caught, but due to an official’s review the clock was stopped again. They ended up kicking the field goal to take the lead with 29 seconds left in the game.
- As improbable as a touchdown drive with only 25 seconds left was, it demonstrated how any margin can mean the difference between a victory and a loss in the NFL. Because of this, we have to downgrade the Saints for not squeezing all the clock they could have out of their final drive. Had the Saints ran the ball 3 times before kicking the field goal, they would have left Minnesota with no timeouts and less time for their final drive. It was an amazing sequence for Minnesota to win the game, but we have to observe that better game clock management could have sealed the victory for the New Orleans.
- This was an evenly played game in many ways, with both teams playing excellent football on both sides of the ball. The fact that it came down to one final play is a testament to the preparation and play calling of both coaches, who really called a good game and deserve credit for the competitive game.