NFL Week 10: Atlanta Falcons Coach Mike Smith's Failed Gamble—History Repeated

Craig HortonCorrespondent INovember 14, 2011

Mike Smith gambled—and lost—against the Saints.
Mike Smith gambled—and lost—against the Saints.Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Yesterday the Atlanta Falcons lost a critical division game to New Orleans in overtime 26-23.

A game featuring the top two teams in the division, for undisputed possession of first place, lived up to it's billing.

Drew Brees and Matt Ryan both threw for over 300 yards. There were a combined 48 first downs. It included a clutch 85 yard Falcons drive to tie the game on the final play of regulation.

Yet for all that, the game still came down to one play.

On the Falcons second possession of overtime they faced a fourth-and-one on their own 29. Instead of punting and giving Drew Brees the ball, head coach Mike Smith elected to go for it.

The Saints stuffed running back Michael Turner and four plays later John Kasay kicked the winning field goal.

Mike Smith's big gamble failed. It was one of those football decisions that makes a coach a genius if it succeeds, and an idiot if it fails. To his credit, Smith accepted full blame.

It will be a call that will be a fiery debate over the next few days. Time will tell if it hurts the Falcons playoff chances or not.

However, it has happened before.

In 2009, in a nationally televised Sunday night game, the New England Patriots met an undefeated Colts team in Indianapolis.

With 2:08 to go the Patriots had a fourth-and-two from their own 28. New England led 34-28. Surely the Colts were on their way to their first defeat, and an end to their 17-game winning streak.

Bill Belichick and the Patriots decided to go for it.

Tom Brady completed a pass to Kevin Faulk, but it was short.

Peyton Manning now had the ball and three timeouts to work his magic. He drove the Colts to the Patriots one-yard line and threw a touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne with only 13 seconds left. The Colts won 35-34 to raise their record to 9-0.

Maybe Smith had forgotten about that game before he made his call.

Maybe other coaches, in a similar situation, will consider history before making the same call.