Denver Broncos players were not happy about Vance Joseph’s decision to kick a field goal on 4th-and-1 from the six-yard line.
The Denver Broncos’ loss to the Cleveland Browns could have been avoided if the team had just been able to score 18 points. Unfortunately for this team, that’s asking a lot.
Though the Broncos’ offense has been putrid this year, they have been really strong running the football and have their share of big passing plays. They are missing their top target at receiver in Emmanuel Sanders, which was perhaps a major reason for Vance Joseph’s willingness (or lack thereof) to take a risk late in the game against the Browns.
The Broncos had a good drive going all the way down to the Browns’ six-yard line. That drive stalled on 4th-and-1, and with over four minutes remaining and a four-point deficit, Joseph decided to take three points and put his defense out on the field to get his team one more opportunity with the ball.
Brandon McManus and the field goal team actually ended up taking a delay of game penalty to make the field goal a bit easier, which is ironic. They were actually too close for their own kicker’s comfort. Imagine that?
Joseph defended his decision to take the three points on Monday when he spoke to the media, saying it was the ‘right move’ for the team.
"“It was the right move for our football team. I watched the third down play and it didn’t look good, and it was more than 4th-and-1, in my opinion. I’m watching the spot, so I took the field goal. We had 4:35 left with two timeouts and the two-minute morning and our defense is playing good football. My thought was to at least go three or four or five plays, get the ball back and still have three minutes to get a field goal to win. That was the right call for our football team.”Vance Joseph (quotes via Broncos PR)"
With all due respect to the pressure of Joseph’s position, that is not a mindset I want my head coach to have in that type of situation. Why not gain a yard or two and force the other team to have to go down and kick a field goal just to tie?
Why rely on your defense to get a stop when you could give them a lead?
The Broncos ended up getting the ball back after a very lucky replay review determined David Njoku was down just short of the sticks, and the Broncos came up with a huge stop on fourth down defensively.
Yeah, the Browns went for a fourth down up by one point. They wanted to put the game on ice, and that aggressive mentality bled to the defensive side of the ball, where Gregg Williams’ crew dialed up a blitz on the Broncos’ last play of the game, burying Keenum and the Broncos’ playoff hopes.
Joseph’s strategy nearly worked out, warts and all, but ultimately it failed. Had the Broncos gone for it on fourth down offensively when they were down by four and failed to convert, the Browns’ offense would have been buried 90-plus yards deep and would have had to be much more conservative with their play-calling.
If you want to put faith in the defense, do it by going for it on fourth down and giving the Browns an impossibly long field.
According to running back Devontae Booker, the decision to kick a field goal there did not sit well with the players.
This move was a classic case of a head coach overthinking a situation. Over the course of the season, the Broncos are averaging 5.5 yards per play offensively. Obviously things tighten up inside the 10-yard line, but statistically speaking they were more likely to score a touchdown on that play from six yards out than they were to just get the first down.
Because of the critical juncutre of the game and season, this decision looms large over Vance Joseph’s future with the team, and a public statement like this from one of the players is more evidence pointing to the team eventually moving on.