Some have questioned the failure of the Browns to consume more time before scoring the touchdown that tied Monday night’s game at 42. Is the criticism valid?
The Browns got the ball with 1:51 to play, down seven points. In four plays, they tied the game.
It happened via a 30-yard pass that went out of bounds, a seven-yard pass that went out of bounds, a 16-yard pass that finished in bounds, and a 22-yard catch and run by running back Kareem Hunt for six points.
The drive consumed 47 seconds.
“It is a fair question,” coach Kevin Stefanski told reporters on Tuesday regarding whether they should have taken more time off the clock. “When we called that play, I was not thinking a hitch to the running back was going to score. To Kareem’s credit, it was an unbelievable individual effort. Yeah, I would love to score with one second left on the clock, but that is a very, very fine line. I would really just tell you that was an incredible play by Kareem.”
Indeed it was, and what was Hunt supposed to do? Take a knee at the two? This isn’t Madden, where the clock can be milked with confidence that the touchdown eventually will be scored. If an NFL team voluntarily chooses not to score a touchdown, there’s no guarantee a touchdown eventually will be scored.
It’s far different than milking the clock when a field goal is needed to tie or win. Once a team is in field-goal range, the clock can be managed. Once a team is in end-zone range, the touchdown needs to be taken whenever it can be gotten, and there has to be some degree of faith that the defense will hold.
If anything, the Browns could be criticized for not taking a time out after the snap by the Ravens that came with 22 seconds on the clock. The Ravens eventually spiked the ball with seven seconds left, setting up the game-winning field goal. If the Browns had stopped the clock when the play ended, with 18 seconds left, what would the Ravens have done, given that they had no timeouts left?
Already within Justin Tucker‘s range, would the Ravens have risked running another play and stopping the clock in an effort to get closer? Or would they have kicked it, giving the Browns 13 seconds instead of only two to work with?
It ultimately may not have made a difference, but we’ll never know. We’ll also never know whether the Browns would have failed to score a game-tying touchdown if they’d tried to engineer one with no time remaining on the clock. But if they hadn’t scored that touchdown because they tried to give the Ravens not enough time to win in regulation, it would have been fair to criticize the Browns for not tying the game when they had the chance to do it.