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DENVER — The end of Monday night’s Denver Broncos’ game was defined by two twos.
The Broncos fell to the Tennessee Titans by two points, 16-14. And Vic Fangio left the field with two timeouts, despite the game coming down to the final seconds.
As the Titans entered field goal range just after the two-minute warning down 14-13, the Broncos sat and watched the Titans drain the game clock. With 1:50 left and the ball on Denver’s 35-yard line, Tennessee ran five plays to get the ball down to the Broncos’ 7-yard line.
Despite having three timeouts, Fangio didn’t use a single one in that stretch. Instead, in those five plays, he let the clock tick down to the final 20 seconds, where the Titans lined up for a go-ahead 25-yard field goal.
“It was two-fold,” Fangio said after the game, explaining why he didn’t use his timeouts on the Titans’ final drive. “One, their field goal kicker (Stephen Gostkowski) obviously been having his problems so I didn’t want to extend the drive where they could get closer.”
Gostkowski, the former Patriot, certainly was having his problems throughout the game. Leading up to the final kick, Gostkowski had missed every single kick, including going 0-for-3 on field goals and 0-for-1 on PATs.
Even without Denver calling a timeout, however, the Titans drove the ball down to Denver’s 7-yard line, setting up a chipshot. Even then, the Broncos were confident Gostkowski would go o-fer on the night.
“Definitely, easy,” former Titan Jurrell Casey said after the game when asked if he thought Gostkowski would miss the final kick. “He missed what, four or five of them earlier, so it felt like he could have missed it. But, with this close of a game you can’t expect him to miss them all.”
After the game, Titans’ head coach Mike Vrabel said despite his kicker missing the previous four kicks, he had no doubts about sending him out for a game-winner.
“They did obviously, because they weren’t using their timeouts,” Vrabel stated. “They were banking on him missing.”
Of course, Gostkowski didn’t miss. He nailed it for the go-ahead score.
But not wanting to give Tennessee an extended drive wasn’t the only reason Fangio decided to save his timeouts.
“Number two, we would have used a timeout, but we got the running back out of bounds. We would have used a second timeout, but they threw an incompletion which would have given us one when we got the ball back so that was part of the thinking there,” Fangio explained.
In those final five plays by the Titans’ offense, Derrek Henry did run out of bounds on 2nd-and-6 from the Broncos’ 12 followed by an incompletion on 3rd-and-1. The Broncos’ head coach was right — no need to use a timeout after either of those plays.
But the three plays before, the Titans bled the clock from 1:50 to 31 seconds, while in field goal position the entire time.
On 1st-and-10 from the Broncos’ 35-yard line, Ryan Tannehill completed a six-yard pass to Adam Humphries who stayed in bounds. No timeout.
Henry then scampered for 13 yards to Denver’s 16-yard line with 1:33 left. No timeout.
Another Henry run. Again, no timeout. That was until the Titans called a timeout of their own with 31 seconds left.
Instead of calling a timeout, or two, or three, Denver let 1:19 tick off the clock over a three-play sequence.
Those 79 seconds were precious as Denver only had 17 seconds to put together a game-winning drive of their own after the Gostkowski field goal.
Seventeen seconds wasn’t enough for the Broncos’ offense, even with three timeouts in their back pocket.
Fangio did use one of his timeouts before the end of the game, however. But with only two seconds remaining, it was too little too late.
In a game of inches, the Broncos let 79 precious seconds tick away in the final two minutes. In the end, they had two timeouts to show for it after the final whistle, but the Titans had two more points.