By HCR Staff | Feb. 14, 2019
Throughout the 2018 season, Head Coach Ranking highlighted key coaching decisions in our weekly game posts – some good, some bad. Now it’s time to share our favorite and least favorite calls of the year. And since today is Valentine’s Day, we’ll start with the plays we loved…
1. Chargers go for the win
In Week 15, the Los Angeles Chargers were down 28-21 late in Kansas City. They scored a touchdown with seconds left and head coach Anthony Lynn opted to go for two and the win rather than kick an extra point that would force overtime. Philip Rivers hit a wide-open Mike Williams in the flat for the win, 29-28.
We thought this was a smart move for two reasons: 1) the Chargers had Kansas City’s defense reeling at the time; and 2) with the Chiefs’ quick-strike offense, why give Patrick Mahomes a chance to touch the football again?
2. Saints’ fake
With all the controversy in the NFC Championship Game, some fans might forget how close the New Orleans Saints were to not even being in that game. In the divisional playoff game a week earlier, the Philadelphia Eagles jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the Superdome. The Saints faced a fourth-and-1 at their own 30-yard line with 11:54 left in the first half. Thomas Morstead came in to punt, but backup quarterback Taysom Hill, who was in to protect, took a direct snap and drove straight ahead for the first down. The drive ended with a Drew Brees TD pass on fourth-and-goal for the Saints’ first points of the game, on the way to a 20-14 victory.
It wasn’t the first fake punt of the season for New Orleans, and it certainly wasn’t the first time they creatively used Hill (you’ll see him again on this list, in fact).
3. Sneaky Rams
The Los Angeles Rams faced a crucial fourth down on their side of the field late in their Week 5 game against the Seattle Seahawks. With 1:39 left to play and nursing a 33-31 lead, the Rams had fourth-and-1 at their own 42. Head coach Sean McVay sent out the punting unit. Seattle called timeout.
This gave the Rams time to reconsider the decision to punt, and the offensive unit came back on the field. Jared Goff plunged forward on a quarterback sneak and got the first down and sealed the game for the Rams.
4. Thrill Hill
As previously mentioned, Saints head coach Sean Payton was never afraid to take the ball out of the hands of his Hall of Fame quarterback and give it to versatile backup Taysom Hill in critical situations. In Week 9 against the Rams, less than four minutes into a scoreless game, the Saints faced a fourth-and-1 at the Rams’ 37. On this play, Hill lined up in the slot. Brees took the snap, lateraled to Hill and then went out to the left flat. The plan was for Hill to pass it to Brees, but he wasn’t open. So Hill tucked the ball away and scrambled nine yards for the first down. The Saints would eventually score on the drive.
This call was representative of Payton’s creative use of Hill throughout the season. Hill made plays as a runner, passer and receiver. And opponents were forced to take the time to prepare for him each week.
5. Bears’ confidence boost
By Week 3, the Bears had not yet emerged as the serious NFC contender they were to become. In fact, they were just 1-1, and trailing the Cardinals 14-3, midway through the second quarter in Arizona. They faced a fourth-and-1 at the Cardinals’ 19. With the offense struggling, it made sense to kick a field goal here and make it a one-score game. Instead, rookie head coach Matt Nagy gave his offense a vote of confidence and kept them on the field.
Mitch Trubisky hit Allen Robinson on a short pass to get the first down, and the drive resulted in a touchdown. The Bears went on to win, 16-14, on their way to an NFC North crown.