Conservatism has a place on the political landscape.
But when it comes to the NFL playoffs, taking a conservative approach late in a football game has no place and can cost you dearly.
For the third time in the postseason, a team trailed in the fourth quarter of a do-or-die playoff game and chose to put the game in the hands of its defense following a fourth down decision.
On Sunday with a Super Bowl bid on the line, the Green Bay Packers and coach Matt LaFleur, a former Titans offensive coordinator, curiously kicked a 26-yard field goal that cut an eight-point deficit to five points rather than go for a game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion with 2:05 remaining to play.
Yes, the Packers had all three timeouts left and the two-minute warning in their favor, but they also had Tom Brady in the Buccaneers huddle with a trip to the Super Bowl hanging in the balance.
LaFleur's decision to kick that field effectively killed the Packers chances of getting the football back and giving Aaron Rodgers and the offense another shot to pull the game out. Thanks to the Bucs offense and a somewhat questionable pass interference call, the Packers never saw the football again and watched helplessly as their season came to an end.
A week earlier, it was the Cleveland Browns who trailed by five points and faced a fourth-and-9 at their own 32 with 4:19 to play. Browns coach Kevin Stefanski elected to punt and put the game in the hands of his defense, figuring that with Patrick Mahomes out of the game due to a concussion, that his troops could surely get the ball back from the Chad Henne-led Chiefs.
It didn't happen, and Browns also get to spend the off-season pondering what if.
Likewise, two weeks ago, Titans fans were understandably bewildered when Mike Vrabel decided that with his team trailing 17-13 with 10:04 to go and facing fourth-and-2 at the Baltimore 40, it was no time to roll the dice – even though Vrabel has many times flown in the face of conventional wisdom in his three years as Tennessee's head coach. He instead asked his defense, which had been putrid for much of the season, to get the football back with a chance to pull the game out.
The Titans paid the price for that decision, as not only did the Ravens add three more points with a Justin Tucker field goal, they also chewed six precious minutes off the clock, leaving quarterback Ryan Tannehill only one more possession to try and tie the game. It ended with a Marcus Peters interception when Kalif Raymond fell down that snuffed out the Titans season. The preceding fourth-down decision left plenty of questions with the Titans finding scoring opportunities so difficult to come by after building 10-0 lead.
Vrabel, Stefanski and now LaFleur all now have the long off-season to ponder the fourth-down decisions they made. Chances are, it will be replayed in their minds over and over for quite a long time..