A mulligan is a word which is usually associated with a sport which is played by guys who wear funny colored clothing and always have their own personal driver. Little would one think the term would find its way into the NFC Division Playoff Game, which saw the Atlanta Falcons pull a Houdini act and narrowly escape a furious twenty point comeback by the visiting Seattle Seahawks.
With the NFL doing no favors for the travel weary Seahawks in scheduling this contest at 1:00 PM Eastern, the Falcons flew off to a 20-0 halftime lead. Around noon time in Seattle, the Seahawks would finally wake up, spread their wings and mount their surge.
Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll also did his team no favors in contributing negatively to the large early deficit, and then later cementing the loss with his third and final mulligan of the day. In the end, Carroll’s curious coaching decisions were too much of a hurdle for a young fiesty Seattle team to overcome.
With the Seahawks trailing 13-0 midway through second quarter, they had the ball deep inside Falcons territory at the eleven yard line on a third down and one. From the shotgun formation, the Seahawks decide to run RB Robert Turbin off right guard for no gain. Maybe right guard works great for perspiration, but it did nothing for t
It is now fourth and one, and a field goal is not even considered by Carroll, although it is still early and the game is tight. Okay, so if right guard did not work last time, let’s try left guard this time. RB Michael Robinson loses a yard on the run, as he never had a chance against the swarming Falcons defense. The Seahawks ended up turning the ball over coming up with nada, zilch. Robinson, a converted wide received, had only 12 rushes on the season.
Seriously, Turbin and Robinson, when you have Wilson and Lynch. You have two of the most explosive players in the game and you decide to take the ball out of their hands on two consecutive crucial plays well inside the red zone? WTF Carroll? Talk about not sticking with the people who got you to the dance.
With the Falcons ahead 20-0 late in the second quarter and Seattle driving, QB Russell Wilson completed a short four yard pass to WR Golden Tate, giving the Seahawks a first and goal at the Falcons six yard line. Instead of running up to the line and spiking the ball, the Seahawks called their final time out with :25 seconds remaining in the half.
After a false start penalty, an incompletion and a Falcons sack by J. Babineaux, Wilson and the Seahawks wished they had the time out they had previously burned back, as the last second ticks off without them being able to get a play off. Poor game time management by Carroll cost the Seahawks three points, which would result in two trips for Seattle to the redzone with no points on the day. Nada, zilch…again. Double ouch!
The third and most damaging coaching decision by Carroll came when Falcons K Matt Bryant lined up for a 49 yard field goal with only 0:08 remaining. Carroll, apparently still enthused for the return of the NHL from its lockout, attempted to ice the Falcons kicker. Not hearing the whistle, play continued and Bryant missed wide right. Play blown dead. Do-over.
Carroll does his best Marlon Brando act asking, who called time out? The video evidence will later reveal that Carroll asked for the time out. Will somebody tell Carroll, the Academy is on the phone.
Carroll Gets Burned
As Bryant’s second attempt at hero sailed true and through the uprights, Carroll for the second time today would scorch his team with poor time out management. And this burn is sure to last for quite a while, beginning with the long plane ride back to the Pacific Northwest.
Smith Outcoaches Carroll
It is worthwhile noting that Falcons underrated Head Coach Mike Smith kept his two time outs at the end of the game, which were of vital importance after two pressure packed completions by Falcons QB Matt Ryan moved the team down the field 41 yards in a swift 18 seconds, and into position for the winning kick. Basically, Carroll was schooled on clock management by Smith, who is the winningest Falcons coach of all time (56-24 .700 pct).
With his generosity towards handing out mulligans, at least Carroll can look forward to one thing this off-season: legions of golfers lining up to play a round with him. Smith and the Falcons can look forward hosting the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Conference Championship Game next Sunday.
Left Standing for Sunday January 20, 2013:
NFC Conference Championship Game: San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons, 3:00 PM ET
AFC Conference Championship Game: Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots, 6:30 PM ET