But, Fox said, Denver’s situation was nowhere near what the Falcons faced. The Falcons were losing and had no other choice. They were playing in a dome. The Broncos had just given up a game-tying 70-yard heave and were standing on the sideline in disbelief. The temperature was below 10 degrees. Manning had thrown just two long passes all night.
Fox said the Broncos were like a prizefighter who was staggered just seconds from the bell, so the smart thing to do wasn’t to go for a haymaker themselves but regroup for the next round.
Fox also stood by his other important strategic decision. A few minutes before kneeling on the ball, Denver was up by seven and trying to grind out the clock. Despite being down to their third-string running back, 188-pound Ronnie Hillman, the Broncos called three straight running plays, including a run off right guard on third-and-7 that went for no gain. That ran the clock down to 1:15 and made Baltimore burn all its timeouts.
But three plays after a punt, Flacco threw that improbable 70-yard touchdown pass over Moore.
Fox said he played the percentages on all the calls, noting there was a 99.9 percent chance of winning when the Ravens had the ball on the 30 with 41 seconds left.
In the end, all the analytics didn’t matter. They simply didn’t make the plays they had to keep a terrific season going.
‘‘This is something that the players will remember for a long time,’’ Elway said. ‘‘They'll never forget what happened on Saturday. They'll never forget that and I think that we'll use that as we did in ‘96. It was a great incentive for us to come back and have an even better year the following year like we did in ‘97. Like I said, it’s how we approach it, how we use it, how we learn from it. And it gives us an opportunity to be that much better next year.’’
Notes: Fox dismissed any notion of Bailey moving from cornerback to safety next season. ... Elway said the Broncos view rookie Omar Bolden as a potential starting CB.
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