Holding tight to an fast eroding 22-20 lead, New York had the ball with 3:09 on the clock. The Vikings had two timeouts and all of the momentum after the fleet-footed Harvin had skittered across the middle of the field to pull his team within two points. It seemed clear that Minnesota would use their remaining timeouts to stop the clock after the first two plays the Jets ran of the possession. They did. The Jets, though, had picked up a first down on the second of those plays, a 11-yard pass to Santanio Holmes, and seemingly had the game in their hands since the visiting Vikes had no means of stopping the clock. Ground and pound time. Right?
On first down the Mark Sanchez handed the ball to LaDainian Tomlinson, who was gang tackled for a one-yard loss. With the 2:00 minute warning creeping within sight, offensive coordinator dialed up a pass play. Sanchez snapped the ball and threw it. It dropped incomplete. And the 2:00 minute warning hadn't arrived, essentially gifting an extra clock stoppage to Minnesota. On the ensuing third down, the Jets also had no choice but to try to pass for a first down to try keep the ball out of Favre's hands. When that third-down pass dropped incomplete, I cursed under my breath and shook my head. The Vikings were going to get the ball back with pretty darn close to two entire minutes to move down the field for the go-ahead field foal. My phone buzzed with a text message reading: "Did the Jets hire Herm to run the clock at the ends of games.
Was it Sanchez's fault for not letting the play clock tick down a bit further before starting the second down play? Was it Schottenheimer's fault for trying to get too cute? Or was it really Rex Ryan's fault for not insisting his team ran this game to the death with Shonn Greene or LT?
There was a little blame to go around for everyone, but, regardless of who was to blame, the strangest aspect of the whole scenario was the way that ESPN play-by-play regular Mike Tirico freaked out. He was appalled and seemingly insulted on a personal level by the mistake. The Syracuse alum reacted with such venom when Jets screwed up, raising the Vikes' hopes for a win in a Lazarus-like fashion, that I began to wonder if he was actually a fan of Gang Green. After all, why would a play-by-play guy lose his cool so explosively over a strategic miscue? This wasn't a flagrant penalty or egregious officiating mistake. Nor was it altogether shocking considering that poor clock management is as prevalent among coaches as I'd imagine chlamydia is among NFL groupies. Maybe Tirico had money on the Jets' money line. Or maybe his father went the same way, killed by poor clock management. Yeah, that must be it. Only way to explain the outburst. Just like how Captain Ed Hocken felt at the end of The Naked Gun when Ludwig fell from the stadium was flattened over by steam roller and eventually marched over by a marching band. His father went the same way. And it's tough when the Fates just throw these things right back in our faces.