Originally Posted by Mailman
Kubiak's decision-making in the first three games played a significant role in those losses, but the Monday morning quarterbacks who still think that bootleg was a terrible play to call in that situation need to wake up and realize it's Tuesday.
A fair, reasonable assessment of that decision must account for the context in which it was made. Despite the foolishly premature celebration that took place in Sunday's gameday thread, that game was not over. The Texans held a ten-point lead with four minutes left against one of the best quarterbacks ever and a team the Texans have beaten only once in franchise history. A first down ices the game, but ball protection is top priority. You've just run it consecutive plays and gained a paltry two yards. It's 3rd and 8, you have two tights in the game, they're expecting a running play up the middle or to the right. The critics insist the correct play is to run it up the gut into the middle of the stacked box because that's the safe, conservative play, but that essentially concedes a three-and-out, and it also puts the running back in the middle of a swarm of defenders punching, twisting, and ripping at the ball.
The bootleg Kubiak called was just as safe (if not more) as the running play not called. The play put Rosenfels in the open field, ten yards from the nearest defender. He had the option of throwing to his primary target (OD) for a big gain and the win, or he could just play it safe and tuck the ball and run. Which running play is safer? The one up the middle into a pack of waiting defenders, or the surprise bootleg that gives the quarterback plenty of space to pick up some yards before sliding down?
Blaming Kubiak for Sage's poor decision to actually run towards contact is asinine.
Very good post, but one quibble and one additional point.
First, the quibble: even with Peyton Manning on the other team, that game was still won if we had punted them to their 20 or better. Sure, Peyton could have worked a miracle, but the only miracle to the comeback that did occur was courtesy of Sage's stupidity or defiance. I'd have been quite happy with a third one-yard plunge to either run clock or burn Indy's last timeout. But, I agree with your basic premise: if you want to make a first down safely, the bootleg gives you the best chance (so long as your QB isn't either recklessly defiant or suddenly insane).
The additional point: the bootleg is also a safe play because there is no handoff. The same guy keeps the ball throughout the entire play (unless he chose to throw it to the wide-open receiver), so that's one less thing that can go wrong. Ask the Eagles: they lost to Dallas in week 2 because their two best players botched a handoff deep in Cowboy territory with a lead.
The first fumble was 100% not Kubiak's fault unless he somehow should have known that he couldn't trust Sage to run it as designed.