|Shanahan's gutsy call wins admirers|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 15 September 2008 13:19|
``That surprised me,'' receiver Brandon Stokley said of Mike Shanahan's gamble to go for the 2-point conversion when his team trailed by a point with 24 seconds left Sunday.
The venture paid off when Jay Cutler hit rookie Eddie Royal on the same route he had run on his fourth-down touchdown catch moments earlier, giving Denver a breathtaking 39-38 win and sending San Diego to its second straight last-minute loss.
``I didn't think at all we'd go for two right there,'' Stokley acknowledged. ``That was really surprising. But I guess when you have good job security you can do those things. It was a gutsy call, and we executed it.''
Shanahan, who's been on the job longer than any NFL coach except for Tennessee's Jeff Fisher, had an inkling the best way to win was by avoiding overtime.
ve got a lot of confidence in your offense, you've got a lot of confidence in your offensive line, your receivers getting open, just kind of the tempo of the game. ... We had a bunch of momentum going.''
Shanahan said the feeling was similar to the one he had once when his team faced fourth-and-1 deep in its territory in a game against the Rams and instead of punting the Broncos went for it and got the first down.
Was it a smart call? ``No, but you get a gut feeling of your football team and you just do what you think is right,'' Shanahan said. ``And I felt that was the right call. Thankfully, it worked.''
Shanahan said it was the right call Sunday whether the Broncos converted or not, and the numbers bear that out:
-The Broncos' high-octane offense was nearly unstoppable, with Cutler completing 36 of 50 passes for a career-best 350 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. He's now thrown for 650 yards with seven TDs and one pickoff this season.
-Cutler's targets in the spread-out, shotgun set include Brandon Marshall, who caught a team record 18 passes for 166 yards Sunday; Royal, who's been the hero in his first two NFL games; Stokley, one of the best slot receivers in the NFL; and tight end Tony Scheffler, who had two TD catches Sunday.
As Cutler said, ``There's a lot of dudes running free.''
-Denver's defense was a sieve against Philip Rivers, who tore them apart for 377 yards and three TDs.
-And their special teams were steamrolled by Darren Sproles, who averaged nearly 40 yards on five kickoff returns, including a 103-yarder for a touchdown in the first half, and who piled up 317 all-purpose yards.
Shanahan didn't wait for the moment of truth to make up his mind. After Cutler threw an interception in the end zone and the Chargers responded with a touchdown and 2-point conversion of their own to take a 38-31 lead with less than 5 minutes left, Shanahan asked Cutler what he thought about going for their own 2-pointer.
Cutler loved the idea.
``We hadn't really been stopped,'' Cutler said. ``We stopped ourselves with the pick. I liked it.''
And so, when he took the field again with 80 yards and 4:22 to go, the third-year quarterback told his teammates in the huddle the plan was to go for the win, not the tie.
Shanahan said he wanted the idea to settle in during the drive so that it wasn't a surprise when they scored and didn't send kicker Matt Prater out to tie it.
``It makes you feel good because he has confidence in you,'' Stokley said. ``It's nice to know that your coach counts on you in crunch time and believes in you.''
``It would have been a shame to lose that game on a coin toss,'' Scheffler said. ``It was a great decision.''
What about Denver's defenders? Did they read any distrust into their coach's do-or-die decision? Not at all, Champ Bailey insisted.
``I love it,'' the perennial Pro Bowl cornerback said. ``It shows the confidence he has in us. Not a lot of people are going for two. He's an aggressive coach. I love it.''
``To me, it only says one thing, that he believes in this team and that's all it came down to,'' added Bailey's brother, outside linebacker Boss Bailey, who made his Denver debut Sunday. ``He believed he had the call and the right playmakers out there to make the play, and we did.
``With this type of team and this type of explosive offense, I think I would have made the same decision he made.''