Take a bow, Mike McDaniel, for taking a knee.
Miami's coach decided to forgo a field goal that would have allowed the Dolphins to break Washington's record 72-point game set in 1966 against the Giants. Instead, he had his offense go into victory formation on fourth down at the Denver 27 in the final minute of their 70-20 shellacking of the Broncos on Sunday.
McDaniel's magnanimous gesture allowed the Broncos to avoid infamy to go with the insult of becoming the first team to surrender 350 yards and five touchdowns both passing and rushing in the same game.
“It would have been cool,” McDaniel said of scoring more points than anyone in the 104-year history of the NFL. “But ... that's not really what I’m about. I will be fine getting second-guessed by turning down NFL records. That’s fine.”
Fins fans wanted the record, loudly voicing their displeasure that the Dolphins didn't match the all-time NFL record established by the Chicago Bears in their 73-0 wipeout of Washington in the 1940 championship.
“I’m very OK with the decision, and I think the team, notably the leaders of the team supported it, the captains supported it,” McDaniel said. “It’s not the way you want to get the record. I would hope that if the shoe was on the other foot, the opponent would feel the same way. That’s called karma. I’m trying to keep good karma with the Miami Dolphins.”
Tua Tagovailoa sure has McDaniel's back.
“I think in this league and around the league, it’s about respect in the NFL,” Tagovailoa said. “As we went out there, I feel like that’s what we got. We got respect — and we’re not trying to go out there and humiliate teams. That’s just what it happened to look like. Trying to run the ball, trying to kill some time, big plays opened up and that’s what it looked like.”
Denver's defense allowed 10 touchdowns and only McDaniel's gesture kept the score from being even worse.
“I think that it was very professional,” said his running back Raheem Mostert.
Las Vegas coach Josh McDaniels also got fans riled up with his decision in the desert to send his field-goal unit out on fourth-and-4 from the Pittsburgh 8 while trailing the Steelers by eight points in the closing minutes of the Raiders' 23-18 loss.
“I think I'd be going for this,” “Sunday Night Football” analyst Cris Collinsworth said, noting, "I would just be worried I'm not going to get the ball back here.”
His broadcast partner, Mike Tirico, suggested viewers have become so conditioned to aggressive coaching moves that it's stunning to see someone go conservative like that.
The Raiders had all of their timeouts plus the two-minute warning to work with after Daniel Carlson's 26-yard field goal made it a five-point game with 2:22 remaining. And Las Vegas' defense had produced a pair of three-and-outs on Pittsburgh's previous two drives.
The Raiders, however, gave up a first down before getting the ball back at their 15-yard line with 12 seconds left. It wouldn't matter because Pittsburgh cornerback Levi Wallace intercepted Jimmy Garoppolo to secure the Steelers' win.
Still, McDaniels' decision was a head-scratcher because the Raiders needed a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to tie it and even after the chip-shot field goal, they still had to reach the end zone, and chances were slim they'd get a shot from the 8 again after choosing to kick the field goal.
Had they gone for it on fourth down and scored, they could have even missed the 2-point conversion and still had a shot at a long field goal from midfield to win it.
Since the 2-point conversion was adopted in 1994, the Raiders were the only team to attempt a field goal in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter when trailing by exactly eight points with fewer than 5 yards to go for the first down, according to OptaSTATS.
“No! No!” McDaniels answered emphatically when asked after the game if going for the field goal showed a lack of confidence in his lurching offense. “You’re going to need another possession anyway. It’s not a lack of confidence. We went for it multiple times.”
Twice, the Raiders went for it on fourth down earlier in the game, converting once. But going for it a third time was the better choice there because even if they didn't get the first down, they would've pinned the Steelers deep and would've had another shot at the end zone if their defense came through.
McDaniels was less defiant over his decision Monday, saying:“It’s fair to to to be critical of it. I’m not saying I would do it different, but I understand both sides. That’s what I was going through in my mind, too, is trying to evaluate both scenarios. ... It had nothing to do with not believing we had a play that would work or whatever.”
While the Dolphins were content missing out on history — a 50-point win isn't anything to scoff at, after all — the Raiders were a little more mixed in their reaction to their coach's curious choice.
“We trust the coaches and they made the call,” receiver Jakobi Meyers said. “They felt like there was another way. We had a chance and it almost bounced our way."
Davante Adams demurred when asked for his thoughts on the matter, saying: "I don't want to get into that. At the end of the day, my job is not to call plays. I go run routes.”
AP Sports Writers Mark Anderson and Alanis Thames and AP freelancer W.G. Ramirez contributed to this report.
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