There were definitely some questionable clock management decisions in the NFL in Week 12 -- hello, Colts -- but one of the most bizarre decisions came in Cleveland where Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles decided for some reason that he wasn't going to let Tom Brady try to beat the Browns in regulation on Sunday.
When you have the greatest quarterback of all time on your side, it seems like a no-brainer that you'd give him a shot to win it, but instead of letting Brady go for the win in regulation, Bowles played for overtime where the the Buccaneers would lose 23-17.
For the Buccaneers, the clock mismanagement started on Cleveland's final offensive drive of regulation.
After the Browns lost a yard on third down, they were facing a fourth-and-10 at Tampa Bay's 12-yard line. The clock was running after Cleveland's third down play and calling a timeout at that point would have made sense for the Buccaneers. If they had called one, the clock would have stopped with 1:10 left to play. At that point, the Browns only had one play left since it was fourth down and even if they scored, which they did, the Buccaneers would still have had roughly one minute to win the game in regulation. Also, this would have protected the Bucs in case the Browns had scored AND gone for two. That didn't happen, but if Cleveland did convert a two-pointer after David Njoku's wild one-handed TD grab, you'd think Tampa Bay would want a chance to win the game with a field goal in regulation.
In the end, the Buccaneers didn't call a timeout and the Browns waited until there was just 37 seconds left to play before they snapped it.
Not calling a timeout cost the Buccaneers 33 seconds.
Following the game, Bowles was asked if he considered calling a timeout at the end of regulation.
"No. That clock was going to run down," the Bucs coach said after the game. "We didn't have enough to stop it right there, so, it was overtime right there, right off the top. Once we couldn't get the other play -- Julio made a great play, --then we couldn't get there, we were going to overtime."
This was a very bizarre explanation because the Buccaneers didn't have to concede overtime. Even after the Browns' TD, the Bucs got the ball back at their own 25-yard line with 32 seconds left and three timeouts. At that point, Tampa Bay just needed a field goal to win, which meant it probably needed to gain about 40 yards to give Ryan Succop a realistic chance.
"We said if we didn't get yards on the first down on the first play, we wouldn't call timeout, we would probably let the clock run," Bowles said, via Pewter Report. "If (Brady) saw something, he could throw it, but we didn't get any yards on the play, we got one or two yards with Rachaad and we were backed up."
Not giving Brady a chance to win it is asinine. He's the greatest QB of all time and he has proven time and again that he can pull off a fourth-quarter comeback under almost any circumstance. Back in Week 9, the Buccaneers were trailing the Rams 13-9 in the final minute. Brady only had 44 seconds to work with and NO TIMEOUTS, and he still made the impossible happen by driving the Bucs down for a TD with just nine seconds left. In that game, he needed just 35 seconds to go 60 yards with no timeouts. In this game, he had 32 seconds and three timeouts to go 40 yards.
The situations weren't exactly identical -- the Buccaneers had to go for it in the Rams' game because they were trailing -- but the thought process should have been the same: If you have Tom Brady, you try to let him win it for you.
The fact that the Buccaneers got down to Cleveland's 48-yard line after Jones' catch makes it even worse that Tampa Bay didn't call a timeout earlier in the final minute. Although it did call a timeout after Jones' big reception, there were only eight seconds left at the point, which didn't leave any margin for error.
Bowles also mentioned that he didn't even really want Brady throwing the ball on the final drive because he was worried that his QB might throw an interception.
"If we would have thrown a pick and the ball would have went the other way and they would have kicked the winning field goal, so I didn't do it," Bowles said.
That explanation might be his most bizarre one of all. Brady has only thrown two interceptions this year and that's on 470 pass attempts, which is the lowest interception percentage by any starting QB in the NFL this year by far. There was no reason for the Bowles to take this game out of Tom Brady's hands, but that's what he did and the decision backfired with the Browns eventually winning in overtime.
The loss to Cleveland wasn't a banner day for Bowles, who also called for a punt on fourth-and-2 from Cleveland's 37-yard line in the fourth quarter. If the Buccaneers had managed to just get a field goal out of that drive, they would have gone up by two scores (20-10) in the fourth quarter, but instead, they ended up losing.