The good news for Andy Reid is there never will be as ridiculous a coaching decision in a Super Bowl as what Pete Carroll and the Seahawks staff conceived a half-dozen years back. Marshawn Lynch. One yard. Interception by Malcolm Butler. You know the details.
Sunday, though, there was Reid giving Carroll a run for a runner-up finish.
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The Chiefs had just scored with 1:01 remaining before halftime to cut their deficit to 14-6, and after Tampa Bay’s Jaydon Mickens had returned the kickoff 28 yards to his own 29, and after Bucs running back Leonard Fournette had been stopped for no gain on first down, Reid called timeout with 49 seconds left in the half.
He was well aware that Tom Brady was quarterbacking the Bucs, and though Reid might not have known the precise numbers — 39 fourth-quarter comebacks, plus another nine in the postseason — he certainly was well aware Brady’s career had included plenty of last-second success. That included a just-before-halftime, game-changing touchdown bomb in the NFC championship game just two weeks ago.
KC had a clock advantage, because the Bucs had only one timeout remaining and the Chiefs had all three. If KC could stop Brady, then it could squeeze in another possession and possibly three more points. Or more.
Then Tampa ran its second-down play, an 8-yard pass out of the shotgun to wideout Chris Godwin. The Bucs would need to advance only 2 more yards to convert a first down. Nevertheless, Reid called timeout again, this time with 44 seconds left.
It was that decision, along with two pass interference penalties (and some earlier clock bungling by wideout Tyreek Hill) that gifted the Bucs with seven points that didn’t have to happen and plunged the Chiefs into a 21-6 deficit at halftime.
Brady had little trouble converting the first down with a short pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski that covered 5 yards. He went long on the next play, similar to the pass against the Packers to Scotty Miller, this time targeting speedy Mike Evans down the left side. The pass was probably too long, but cornerback Bashaud Breeland couldn’t be sure, so he reached out and tripped Evans, resulting in pass interference.
And then safety Tyrann Mathieu committed PI in the end zone, and that set up a short TD pass to Antonio Brown.
Those errors by players were made in the heat of competition. As was Hill’s decision to run out of bounds with 1:52 left after a bailout pass to him along the sideline. There was no reason for him to go out, because KC had plenty of time to use and all its timeouts available. He chose to avoid contact, and that saved at least a half-minute the Bucs spent well on their own enrichment.
But Reid’s decision was calculated. He had time to think about it. And he gambled.