Playing to the Whistle?

Elias Kotsis, Staff Writer

How many times has the losing team surged back to win in the last few seconds of a game when the opposing team is in possession of the ball? In hockey, when the winning team has the puck with two seconds left, does the losing team usually steal the puck and score? In basketball, does the losing team even try with one or two seconds if they don’t have the ball? You will normally find that the answer is no: an attempt with such a minute amount of time remaining is futile.

So why did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers try to win a game when the New York Giants were in possession of the football with only five seconds left? The Giants and the Buccaneers played in a closely contested football game on 9/16/2012. By the second quarter, it didn’t look like Eli Manning was having a good day. In a fifteen minute span, he threw three interceptions, one which was returned for a touchdown. However, the Giants found their rhythm in the second half and found a way to come back. Andre Brown, the Giants running back who replaced an injured Ahmad Bradshaw, found his way into the end zone with 32 seconds remaining in the game to give New York a 41-34 lead.

The Buccaneers had a real chance to score with about half of a minute left. Much to Tampa’s displeasure, they turned the ball over with little time left. The Giants lined up to take a knee to eat up the remaining five seconds of time left on the clock. Then, something a little peculiar occurred. The Bucs took advantage of an unprepared and unsuspecting New York offense. When the ball was snapped to Manning the entire Tampa Bay defense plowed over the line in an attempt to knock the ball free and gain possession.  Did they really expect to do so  and score all before he placed his right knee on the turf? This resulted in a surprised Giants offensive line.

What are the odds that this decision will yield positive results? Since 2002, when the Houston Texans joined the league to form a 32-team large NFL, 2560 regular-season games have been played.  This number does not even include the hundreds of combined preseason and playoff games that have took place. Of all of these games, has there been just one where the losing team lost with even fifteen seconds left when the other team had the ball? Not only are the odds astronomically small, but this poses possible injuries for the unsuspecting offensive players. Of course, every time a professional football player takes part in a play, there is a chance of injury. But when the player is not even ready to take any kind of hit, this can lead to a devastating injury. Several players, including the elite, two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning, were knocked onto their rear ends. Brian Billick of Fox Sports said it best when he stated, “I suggest they play harder during the first 59:55 so they don’t need to be in 4-point stances when the other team tries to take a knee.”