Carolina Panthers Retrospective
Rivera takes blame for costly timeout which led to a key Saints field goal in 30-27 loss E-mail
Written by Richard Walker   
Sunday, 09 October 2011 16:55

Drew Brees celebrates the game-winning touchdown with Pierre Thomas. (Photo by John Clark)

NFL coaches and players often talk about how four or five plays can be the difference in virtually every game.
   Sunday’s 30-27 New Orleans Saints’ victory over the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium was no different.
   In retrospect, many could point to one specific play at the end of the first half that proved quite decisive.
   And had Panthers coach Ron Rivera not taken a time out with two seconds left in the first half, perhaps that play wouldn’t have happened.
   The situation was this: With 18 seconds left and New Orleans out of timeouts and near midfield, the Saints’ Drew Brees threw a 12-yard screen pass to Darren Sproles as the clock ticked down the final seconds of the half.
   As soon as Sproles was tackled, New Orleans scrambled to get its field goal team out on the field. At the same time, Carolina was scrambling to get its field goal block team on the field.
   As the clock wound to the end of the half, Rivera called for a timeout. He made the decision when as many as four of his players were rushing to get off the field but hadn’t quite reached the Panthers’ bench.
   “That was squarely on me,” Rivera said of the call, which allowed veteran former Panthers kicker John Kasay the chance to boot a 46-yarder to end the half and give New Orleans a 20-13 lead at the break. “Those three points come right on my shoulders.”
   In a three-point loss, the play loomed larger after the fact.
   “We were running guys on. They were running guys off,” Rivera said. “Truthfully, I overthought it. I wasn’t sure we had 11, 12 or 13 guys on. So I called a timeout. I thought the last thing we needed was to have 13 guys on the field and give them another chance.”
Clearly, confusion reigned on the Panthers’ sideline and on the field.
   And had Carolina not changed defensive personnel, there’s a chance the clock would’ve run out on the Saints.
   “I just heard ‘Field Goal Block’ and I’m on that team so I stayed on the field,” Panthers defensive back Captain Munnerlyn said.
   Did he and his teammates think too many Panthers’ players were on the field when Rivera called timeout?
   “I thought we did,” Munnerlyn said. “I was looking and trying to count. I really couldn’t tell by the time he called time out.”
   However, Munnerlyn defended Rivera’s decision.
   “I wouldn’t say it was a bad move,” Munnerlyn said. “We didn’t want to give them an extra play. We didn’t think time was going to run out.”
Anderson, Munnerlyn and safety Charles Godfrey said one more stop – the Saints were 12 of 17 on third-down conversions – could’ve minimized or overshadowed the timeout at the end of the first half.
   “You can’t pinpoint one play and say that changed the game,” Anderson said. “We had a number of opportunities where we could’ve made plays that would’ve changed the game.”