Shanahan's odds almost in his favor Print
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Monday, 15 September 2008 12:04
NFL Headline News

 When Mike Shanahan decided to go for a 2-point conversion to win - or lose - after Denver scored with 24 seconds left in regulation Sunday against San Diego, the Broncos coach wasn't bucking the odds by much.
After all, there is a 50-50 chance of winning the coin toss. And since the 2-pointer was instituted in 1994, teams trying it have succeeded 49 percent of the time, meaning that Shanahan was playing with only 1 percentage point when he tried it.
It made sense if he had little faith that his defense could hold the Chargers if the Broncos lost the coin toss at the start of the extra period.
In fact, the way both teams were moving the ball, the Broncos' chances of converting probably were better than 50 percent. The touchdown came on a fourth down pass from Jay Cutler to Eddie Royal, and those two hooked up again on the conversion, with Royal open on both plays.
er, when there is more at stake, came on Oct. 12, 1997, when Chicago's Dave Wannstedt went for two against Detroit.
He failed and the Bears lost 24-23 in a season in which they would finish with a 4-12 record.
``Sometimes you have to go with your gut,'' Shanahan said. ``I just felt like it was a chance for us to put them away. I didn't want to count on the coin flip. I wanted to do it then, and obviously it worked out.''
San Diego's Norv Turner, the losing party in Shanahan's gamble, didn't say he would have done the same.
But he acknowledged Monday that in shootouts like Sunday's, momentum often takes over. ``It's like a basketball game,'' he said. ``You feel if you get a stop, you've done something great.''
Buffalo coach Dick Jauron, who twice was involved in games when his team decided to go for two rather than chance it in overtime, said he believed Shanahan did the right thing.
``It depends on why you did it. It could be injuries. It could be the heat, your team's wearing down, you're down to five offensive linemen, you're not sure if you can get through overtime or your guys are spent. And you just say, 'This is it, we're going to win it right here,''' said Jauron, who was defensive coordinator in Jacksonville in 1995 and held the same job in Detroit in 2004 when a game-deciding 2-pointer was tried and failed.
fic. It's situation specific. But he was hot, too. I mean, they were on a roll.''
All of this was complicated by the blown call by referee Ed Hochuli, who inexplicably ruled that what was clearly a fumble by Cutler was an incomplete pass.
Hochuli, who is in his 19th season, has refereed two Super Bowls and is considered one of the game's top officials. He acknowledged his error, but he could not give the Chargers possession even though the ball bounced right to linebacker Tim Dobbins because there is no provision in the rules for doing so.
On the other hand, the ball was moved back from the 1-yard line to the 10, where it landed, and San Diego still couldn't stop Denver.
Sure, no blown call should decide a game. But every coach knows it happens. And so do the people who run leagues.
In fact, several NFL officials acknowledged privately in January 2006 that they were rooting for Indianapolis' Mike Vanderjagt to miss a potential tying field goal after referee Pete Morelli miscalled a replay and awarded the Colts the ball when Pittsburgh should have gotten it.
That allowed Indy to get back in the game, and only a shoestring tackle by Ben Roethlisberger on Nick Harper's return of Jerome Bettis' fumble saved an Indy win. Then, going for a tie, Vanderjagt indeed missed - about 20 yards wide right - ensuring a Pittsburgh win. The Steelers wound up winning the Super Bowl.
ue people rooted privately was fair enough - they didn't want a playoff game decided by an official's mistake.
The same thing happened in January 2003, when supervisor of officials Mike Pereira acknowledged the on-field officials should have called pass interference after a botched snap by the New York Giants on a potential winning field goal forced them to heave the ball downfield in a 39-38 playoff loss in San Francisco. On the other hand, the Giants blew a 38-14 lead in that game, so who was at fault, the officials or the Giants?
That's why everything is relative.
Morelli continues to be highly regarded and has worked postseason games since his error. Those assignments depend on how each official grades out over a full season, so it means he's graded out well.
In this case, Hochuli will be graded down, theoretically hurting his chances to work in important playoff games. In reality, it's too early to tell.
``Officials are held accountable for their calls. They are graded on every play of every game,'' NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Monday. ``Ed has been an outstanding official for many years, but he will be marked down for this call. Under our evaluation system, an official's grades impact his status for potentially working the playoffs and ultimately whether or not he is retained.''
Which only shows that anyone can make a mistake.
Like Mike Shanahan: If the Broncos' conversion attempt had failed, imagine the outcry among Denver fans.
AP Sports Writers Bernie Wilson in San Diego and John Wawrow in Buffalo contributed to this report.

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