Interim Colts coach Jeff Saturday makes some game management errors at end of loss to Steelers
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There's a lot going on during the game for an NFL head coach, especially in the final seconds. Game management is not easy.
It's a lot harder when you're in your third game as a coach above high school.
Jeff Saturday was a controversial pick as interim coach for the Indianapolis Colts, and every mistake will be dissected. His management of the last few minutes in Monday night's 24-17 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers deserves some doubt.
The Colts had two more timeouts by the end of the game, and everyone took notice.
The Colts were 24-17 behind and had all three timeouts. You noticed a fourth down conversion shortly after the two-minute warning. This is when the problems with game management began. Matt Ryan got fired on the first down and that was a great opportunity to call a timeout with about 1:30 to go.
"It's also a running clock and the Colts are burning a lot of time right now with all their downtime," said ESPN analyst Troy Aikman.
The clock kept ticking. The snapshot came out with 59 seconds remaining, which wasted about 31 seconds.
Then came a momentous sequence. Ryan started up the middle for a 14-yard run. That surprised the 37-year-old quarterback. He made a costly error as he dived forward before scoring the opening goal, surrendering himself and setting up a third and 3. Ryan might have stumbled a bit at the end of the long run, but he had to find a way to stay on his feet and get down the first. Instead, the Colts faced a huge game of third down and the clock ticked.
And that was the time it took Saturday to call the timeout. Not necessarily to save time, but at least to let the offensive reform. Ryan went down at the Steelers 26-yard line with 51 seconds remaining. ESPN showed a stone face on the sidelines on Saturday.
"They need to take some time out here, I would imagine," said Joe Buck, ESPN's play-by-play announcer. "But they aren't."
"Wow," Aikman said.
The Colts ran the next game and Jonathan Taylor was stopped without a win. This snap came 34 seconds from the end. From the time the Colts latched the ball as a first down when Ryan was sacked, they ran two games in a full minute of play despite having all three timeouts. Ryan could have called timeout, but didn't.
"I thought we had plenty of time. I wasn't really worried, we still had time-outs," Saturday told the media after the game. "I wasn't too concerned.
"I was expecting us to get the ball and play another game a little faster, but again it wasn't 'time pressure', we just didn't play enough games."
After Taylor was stopped on the third down, they finally called a time-out with 30 seconds left. The Colts pitched incomplete in fourth and the game was all but over. The Colts didn't bother to call their last two timeouts as the Steelers knelt on it and the clock ran out.
Saturday was an unconventional choice to be the Colts' interim coach, to say the least. Owner Jim Irsay was happy to rent it, but pretty much everyone was wondering if it would work. Saturday began with a win over the Las Vegas Raiders, but the Colts have since lost back-to-back.
Saturday didn't look overwhelmed in most of his first three games as an NFL coach. But on Monday he appeared to be making some obvious mistakes and that's hard to ignore given his unique situation.
Indianapolis Colts interim head coach Jeff Saturday greets Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin after the Colts' loss. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
American football player and sports analyst (born 1975)
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