by Craig Masters
With a home field advantage, an extra week of rest and preparation and a packed stadium of fans willing to sit outside in single-digit temperatures to cheer them on, the Broncos set a terrible example for kids Saturday. But maybe you – and your young fans – didn’t notice what has to be considered as the lack of will to try to win.
Never mind the five different times when the team faced third down and needed to only be able to move forward just 36 inches or so to get another set of downs. Don’t worry about pointing out the third and two that didn’t get converted for a first down. Those kind of plays are simply going to happen. The fact that the Ravens were able to stop those third and very short conversions is a credit to the Ravens’ skills, not the Broncos’ lack of will to win.
So go ahead and discuss the loss of starting running back Willis McGahee, back-up back Knowshon Moreno, and the poor defensive pass coverage that allowed three touchdowns on plays as simple as any sandlot receiver could do: go deep and outrun the other guy!
All of these things are acceptable as simply ‘tough breaks.’ Nearly a hundred yards of penalties might be a little more difficult to explain, but even these are often considered as due to excessive enthusiasm or even some ‘questionable’ officiating that can happen to any team on any given day.
But what you shouldn’t discuss with the youngsters – or your husbands for that matter – is the two times the Broncos simply quit playing before the time ran out. Don’t explain how the Ravens went from 7 points behind to 7 points ahead in a span of only 42 seconds on the play clock. If you mention that, you will only be faced with the problem of explaining why, at the end of the first half, with about 30 seconds and time outs available, the Broncos simply quit and ran off the field as time ran out.
Okay, you can say they knew they would be receiving the kick-off to begin the second half. But why not try a few passes down the field and maybe get a chance for a field goal and go ahead by three points?
Even if your young fans accept the strategy of leaving the field in the first half before time ran out, be careful about endorsing the strategy of quitting before the end of the game. And that’s exactly what the Broncos did in the second half! Just as they had done at the end of the first half, the team simply decided to quit trying to win a tied game and stopped playing with time remaining, the ball in their possession, and time outs available. With almost as much time as the Ravens had used to score twice in the first quarter, the Broncos just gave up and chose to take their chances in overtime play.
As good as this year’s Broncos had played up to the playoff game Saturday, they seemed to have ignored the famous words of Yogi Berra, “it ain’t over ’till it’s over!”
So in the event that your young fans ask why Manning and the Broncos didn’t try to win the game before it was over, maybe you can just use another Yogi-ism the great one used to explain the 1960 series to Pittsburgh, “we made too many wrong mistakes.”