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Norv Turner was a liability to the Chargers' hopes of winning the playoff game.
Turner has been a favorite target of analysts since the moment he was hired last summer. No one seems to doubt Turner's abilities as an offensive coordinator, but his history as a failed head coach in both Washington and Oakland have led to an inordinate amount of criticism as the coach of San Diego.
Turner made a critical decision yesterday at a critical moment that helped his team advance to Indianapolis next week. The Chargers were faced with 4th and goal from just outside the 1-yard line, trailing the Tennessee Titans 6-0. The crowd wanted to go for the touchdown. The team wanted to go for the touchdown.
Norv Turner kicked the field goal.
Was it the correct decision? The proof is in the pudding - the Chargers dominated the game from that point forward and defeated the Titans 17-6. The decision to get the points, keep the momentum and ignore the cat calls from the crowd and players was a difficult, but important one.
As an offensive guy, you know Turner wanted to score the touchdown. You know he had a list of plays in his head to get it done. He also had the sense to make the right call. The Titans defense was stingy all afternoon and points were tough to come by. The Chargers' all-world tight end and favorite red zone threat Antonio Gates was out with a toe injury. And what if the Chargers had been stuffed on 4th down? Momentum swings back to the Titans, the Chargers come away with nothing once again and are forced to play from behind (limiting Tomlinson and exposing Philip Rivers to the Titans impressive pass rush) in order to advance.
Compare Turner's decision to the one make by Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin against the Jacksonville Jaguars. With the Steelers down 28-23 and over 10 minutes left in the game, Tomlin decided to go for two points to make it a 3 point game. With so much time left in the game, the Steelers were likely to get two or maybe three more possessions, so there was absolutely no need to gamble for two points.
To make matters worse, the Steelers were penalized for holding on the initial try (which they did convert) and were moved back 10 yards. Tomlin's decision? To try for two points again.
The Steelers failed on the attempt, leaving them down 5 points. They then scored the next touchdown of the game, making the score 29-28. Now Tomlin was forced to try another 2-point conversion just to get the score where it should have been with two simple extra points. If Tomlin had not panicked, his team would have led 31-28. Instead, up only 1 point, Josh Scobee's field goal gave the Jags a 31-29 victory over Tomlin's Steelers.
It is easy to pick on Norv Turner, but for one important afternoon he made the right decision in a key moment that gave his team the best chance to win. It is not easy to pick on Mike Tomlin, a popular coach who made a terrible decision that hurt his team's chances to win their playoff game.