LAKE FOREST — When Ray Rice ran 11 yards for a first down to the Bears’ five-yard line in the final minute on Sunday, it seemed fair to wonder if Marc Trestman would call any timeouts.
The Ravens were five yards away from a go-ahead touchdown, the Bears had all three timeouts left and could save some clock for Josh McCown. Or, if the Ravens got a field goal, they could have some time to try and win.
I asked Trestman about the situation, and he explained his thought process, and how analytics and the Ravens’ playbook went into his decision to let the clock run down.
“I think it’s a very fair question. But let me just give you a big picture. When you call timeouts at the end of halves, you want to call them in succession if you can. If you’re calling them just hit or miss, there’s really no value on that.
“So just a little bit of history, when you start a drive from the 16-yard line, you have a 13 percent chance probably in the last five years to score a touchdown. And you have to take that into consideration when you go into the game. And then when a team’s driving, you need to know what they have and you need to know that you have.
“They had two timeouts at the time, and we had three timeouts. Well, the normal thinking is you never want to leave a game with your three timeouts. You want to get them back, especially in those situations. But the fact of the matter is that there was really no time to use the timeouts. And when you’re in a two-minute situation and if you use your timeouts and there’s no way you can call them in succession, you give them more time on each and every play to get the people out there that they want to complete that, to get that play done. So you have to consider that.
“Really, only the first time where I considered really calling a timeout was after Ray Rice had the 11-yard run down to the five-yard line. And he took that ball with, I think it was about 1:16 when he had that ball. That was the first time. I was down there with the official. That was the first time. But when you put it all together, the numbers all together, if you call three timeouts right there in succession, you’re still only getting the ball back at 18 seconds. OK? If you let it run, they’re in a two-minute mode and now they’ve got to call two timeouts.
“A couple things come into play with them using their two timeouts. Number one, they didn’t call a timeout on the first one which means they had to call a play out of their two-minute package instead of using their red-zone package. So that’s number one. They didn’t call a timeout and get into different personnel groupings. They called a play. And then by using their two timeouts, we knew what they had to do on third down. They had to throw it, because there wasn’t enough time left to do anything else. So we cut the percentages in half of run to pass and then it was just one big leap of faith.
“If we had called three timeouts in a row, we’ve got 19, 18 seconds left at the max. So, the percentage of them scoring … It’s a leap of faith. They went all the way down the field. Three points yes, tied the game. Seven points? We’re talking 13 percent. And then from an offensive standpoint as a play-caller, I know if you call timeout, you get what you want out there. If not, you’ve got a limited bag of plays you can use. So that’s the reasoning behind it. I would have loved to have been able to have a situation when they were running the ball and they started to get into that field goal area, where we could have plugged the timeouts, each one on top of each other. But that wasn’t the case.”