By HCR Staff | Oct. 17, 2018
In this week’s Situational Call of the Week, another head coach is forced to put the game on the line on a fourth-and-short in questionable field position late in the game. In this case, Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn shines under the spotlight for his calculated gamble that not only sealed a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but showed key positive coaching qualities.
The one-win Falcons hosted their division rivals in a must-win game in order to keep their season relevant. The Falcons came into Sunday’s contest on a three-game losing streak during which they had given up 30 or more points in all games. The Bucs were also on a mini-losing streak but were fresh off a Week 5 bye.
Both teams started off positively on offense, scoring on their opening drives. Atlanta jumped out to a 21-6 lead and would go into halftime leading 24-13 after a last-second 45-yard field goal from Matt Bryant. So far so good for the hosts.
Then the second half began and credit the Bucs for adjusting to the Falcons’ high-powered offense because they didn’t allow any more points until six minutes left in the game. The Bucs scored a touchdown on the very next possession which cut Atlanta’s lead to 31-29. It no longer seemed like this much-needed win was in the bag. Quinn and his Falcons clearly had more work to do.
The Falcons offense marched to the Tampa Bay 39-yard line and faced a fourth-and-2 with 1:15 left in the game. Quinn had three choices: go for it, attempt a 57-yard field goal, or punt.
If the Falcons went for it, it would risk giving the Tampa Bay offense — that scored touchdowns on its previous two drives — a short field needing only a field goal to take the lead. The same risk is run if Quinn decides to go for the field goal — but the reward for splitting the uprights would be a five-point lead that would force the Bucs to drive the length of the field — needing a touchdown, and with no timeouts. If he punts, the Bucs would theoretically have a long field ahead of them but again they’d only need a field goal to win.
Going for it would have been the most aggressive call. Punting would have been the most conservative. Quinn opted to attempt the long field goal instead, and Bryant split the uprights to give Atlanta that five-point lead. We believe Quinn made the right choice. He trusted his veteran kicker. Maybe if this were a road game in the elements, he’d have made a different decision, but home under the dome certainly helped. With no timeouts and one minute left, the Bucs would need a miracle. Never mind that they almost got one on that crazy last play of the game — the Falcons came away with a victory. Quinn showed his knowledge and trust of his personnel, and made the right call.