If Washington Redskins Coach Norv Turner had any second thoughts about his decision to go for it on fourth and four with the Indianapolis Colts leading by 11 points, rather than kick a field goal, he kept them to himself after Sunday afternoon's 24-21 loss.
Less than five minutes remained when Turner faced the decision. His call was bold. But the result--a three-yard gain--wasn't what he wanted.
Had running back Brian Mitchell gained another yard after catching a pass from Brad Johnson, the game might have turned out differently. But with the Colts winning by three points, Turner's decision may be the call fans debate most in a game that was filled with big plays on both sides of the ball.
The Colts had taken a 24-13 lead after recovering the ball on a blocked field goal. Until then, things had gone remarkably well for the Redskins.
The defense had done an outstanding job against running back Edgerrin James, who was held to 89 yards on 22 carries, and kept the score in hand despite giving up some big passing plays.
The Colts led, 17-13, when place kicker Brett Conway was called on to attempt a 49-yard field goal. Pressure came from his left side, where the protection evidently collapsed. The kick was blocked by Jason Belser and recovered by Jeff Burris, who returned it 27 yards to the Colts 49. Six plays later, the Colts scored on a two-yard scamper by James.
"It came from my left," Conway said. "I never see him; I never see him. I'm concentrating on the ball the whole time. I kicked it and heard two thuds, and that's not good. . . . I don't know what happened--if it was the blocking, or if I was slow. It was just a bad break."
Said Coach Norv Turner: "We got beat on the wing inside."
The special teams unit redeemed itself later by recovering an onside kick with 1 minute 24 seconds left that put the Redskins in position to win the game. But that didn't spare the unit some harsh words from wide receiver Albert Connell for allowing the field goal to be blocked.
"I'm not even on special teams, but I watch the film with the special teams when we meet Saturday night," Connell said. "The guys on special teams know what's coming. You can't be lazy--especially in a big game like this."
With the Colts leading 24-13, the Redskins needed two scores to tie. When they faced fourth and four on the Colts 26, Turner decided against kicking what would have been a 43- or 44-yard field goal.
"We felt we could make the first down," Turner said. "We also had just had a field goal blocked."
What made the odds of converting the fourth down somewhat tougher was the fact that the Redskins had lost running back Stephen Davis to a sprained left ankle late in the first half. Davis has been the Redskins' strongest hand in short-yardage situations. This time, Turner called a passing play for Mitchell, who was tackled immediately by Burris.
"As soon as I caught the ball, the guy hit me," Mitchell said.
". . . I think if I had gotten the ball a little sooner, I could have done something with it. But I caught it. I was kind of off-balance, and he hit me."
Mitchell ran six yards for a touchdown on the next possession, and the Redskins trimmed the Colts' lead to 24-21 with a successful two-point conversion.
At that point, Conway began practicing kicking into a net on the sideline, anticipating a chance to send the game into overtime. But he never got that chance as the Redskins' drive fizzled on their 47 with 32 seconds remaining.
Afterward, Turner was asked if he had considered kicking the field goal with his team trailing, 24-13. He said he hadn't.
Conway, who had hit from 23 and 32 yards, also refused to look back.
"You know I'm never going to second-guess him," Conway said of Turner's call. "He's my coach. That's his decision. We didn't get it [the first down], and everybody is going to look at it and second-guess it. Had we made it, it would have been the best call in the world."
Staff writer Mark Maske contributed to this report.