On Monday, I posted the following riddle:
Suppose you are Tim Tebow, up 2 points with 25 seconds remaining in the game. You have the ball on your 5 yard line, 1st and 10, and the Raiders are in town (meaning that Sebastian Janikowski can hit a field goal from Mars). The Raiders have all three timeouts. You may assume that any punt will not be blocked. Without gaining a first down, how do you assure victory?
Turns out that Tebow had some more important riddles against the Patriots, like how to run against a disciplined defense that has seen your option before, or how to throw the ball in the cold (he was 9-26!), but let’s go through the best answers I got for the situation above.
He prays really hard for divine intervention to bend the space-time continuum…to either move the ball the remaining 75 yards or by truncating the remaining 25 seconds into the blink of an eye.
Good try Usmail, but we can do better. From my brother Conor:
If we were on the 25 yd line, it’d be easy. Tebow’s a strong guy…have him scramble around in the backfield for a minimum of 6 seconds before going down. Do that three times in a row and you’ll be down to 7 seconds. Have the punter wander a bit to the right before booting the ball out of bounds to kill the last 7 and you’re good.
Not bad. In fact, you might kill all 25 seconds with this strategy without risking a punt, though that last play would be pretty nerve wracking, trying to kill the last 5 seconds by running around. From the 5 yard line, however, it’s going to be tough to kill that much time on every play. My buddy Tony gave a nice variation on Conor’s response:
Offensive fouls. Maybe you can just hold everyone on every play, never have TT be tackled, and take the runoff of the clock.
The only risk with this strategy is that there is some NFL rule that will extend the game in response to the holding penalties. I had to go to the rules, but this is all I found:
Article 2 At the election of the opponent, a period may be extended for one untimed down, if any of the following occurs during a down during which time in the period expires:
(a) If there is a foul by the defensive team that is accepted, the offensive team may choose to extend the period by an untimed down after enforcement of the penalty. If the first or third period is not so extended, any accepted penalty is enforced before the start of the succeeding period.
(b) If there is a foul by the offense, there shall be no extension of the period. If the foul occurs on the last play of the half, a score by the offense is not counted. However, the period may be extended for an untimed down, upon the request of the defense, if the offensive team’s foul is for:
(1) illegal touching of a kick;
Note: The period may also be extended for a “First Touching” violation.
(2) fair-catch interference;
(3) a palpably unfair act;
(4) a personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct foul committed prior to an interception of a forward pass or the recovery of a backward pass or fumble; or
(5) a foul by the kicking team prior to a player of the receiving team securing possession of the ball during a down in which there is a safety kick, a scrimmage kick, or a free kick.
(c) If a double foul occurs during the last down of either half, the period shall be extended by an untimed down.
Holding every playing would be “palpably unfair” I think, so the Broncos couldn’t hold on the final play. However, they could hold on downs 1 to 3! There would be no 10 second runoff as is common when the offense commits a penalty near the end of a half (this is specifically applied when the team is conserving time, which is not the case here). I’m pretty sure the Broncos could run off close to 25 seconds in three plays if they held everyone on each play. Put in all your offensive lineman!
Still, this strategy would generate a rule change. A slightly more sportsmanlike strategy is my preferred choice (which Conor arrived at on his second try). Tebow should run to the back corner of the end zone on each play (about 2 or 3 seconds gone), then throw the ball as high and far as he can out of bounds. The clock doesn’t stop until the ball lands, which could be another 4 or 5 seconds. There will be no intentional grounding since Tebow is outside the pocket. It would be close, but I think the Broncos could run off all 25 seconds in this way with very little risk.
(Note: I think I saw this strategy first in a TMQ column by Gregg Easterbrook at ESPN, but I couldn’t find it again.)