Sirianni, Steichen defend decision to clock ball vs. Cowboys


There have been times during Nick Sirianni’s tenure as Eagles head coach where he’ll admit after a game that he’d like to have a decision back.

This wasn’t one of those times.

Because a couple days after the Eagles’ 40-33 loss to the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium, Sirianni stood by his decision to spike the football to stop the clock late in the fourth quarter instead of using a timeout.

“As far as the spike goes, yeah, I liked that,” Sirianni said. “I would do that same thing again and save that timeout. Thirty-three seconds when we spiked it, I think was still on the clock when we had that. I understand that you have one less down to get a first down, but it opens up the field to everything, to be able to complete it anywhere you want and be able to use that timeout.

“Then let's say you catch one on the sideline and you're on the 5-yard line. If you catch one on the sideline, well now you have this ability to run the football there, too, and make yourself multiple for being able to take it away.”

Sirianni called it an “absolute no-brainer.”

As a reminder, here was the situation: The Eagles with 48 seconds remaining in the game were trailing by 6 when Gardner Minshew hit DeVonta Smith for an acrobatic 22-yard gain to get to the Cowboys’ 19-yard line.

With a timeout in hand, the Eagles decided to run down the field and clock the ball. The Smith catch was completed with around 42 seconds remaining. They clocked the ball with 33 seconds left, which burned a down instead of a timeout.

Minshew threw three straight incompletions on the next three plays and the Eagles’ chance to win the game was gone.

Really, there were three options:

1. Do what the Eagles did. Clock the ball and save the timeout. This option was appealing to the Eagles because they got a chance to reset without burning the timeout. And that timeout left open the possibility of using all parts of the field and perhaps even kept the possibility of a run open.

2. Use the timeout, which would have given the Eagles a full set of downs and 42 seconds on the clock. This would have preserved a down instead of the timeout. As it turned out, the Eagles ran out of downs before they ran out of time.

3. Run to the line and call a play. This might work in a perfect world but Sirianni said it would take 8-10 seconds to call a play. And then you risk the possibility of a major mistake without the reset.

On Tuesday, offensive coordinator Shane Steichen backed up Sirianni’s game-management decision.

“I think right there you can save your time-out in that situation,” Steichen said. “I thought it was the right decision there to clock it. Then you have three downs there, and obviously if you get a 1st down inside the 10 or whatever and now you call your time-out and then you have three shots. That's just the way we went with it.”

It’s not egregious and it’s probably unfair to even call it an error. I would have called the timeout, but there are cases to be made on both sides.

And as is the case with so many things in the NFL, the result is driving the conversation. If the Eagles were able to score on one of those ensuing plays, they win in dramatic fashion and the offensive leaders are heroes.

“Yeah, feel really good about that decision,” Sirianni said. “Obviously, we didn't end up winning the game, so I also understand that my job as a head coach is to take criticism on that, and that’s okay. I know what I signed up for, but I would do that same thing again if I was presented with that situation tomorrow.”

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