Broncos’ Vic Fangio regrets not calling timeout during Titans’ winning drive: “I missed it”

Given 13 hours to review his non-usage of timeouts late in the Broncos’ 16-14 loss to Tennessee on Monday night, coach Vic Fangio blamed himself for not conserving precious seconds of the clock.

Fangio said Monday he should have called timeout with 1:28 remaining.

“I did miss calling a timeout after the second-down play from the 29-yard line when (Derrick) Henry got 13 yards to our 16,” Fangio said during a video conference. “I should have called timeout there. That’s the one I missed.”

Instead, the Titans didn’t snap it again until 49 seconds remaining and Stephen Gostkowski’s 25-yard game-winning field goal came with 17 seconds left, leaving the Broncos’ offense only three plays before time expired.

“It was totally my fault there,” Fangio said of not calling time after Henry’s run. “I had too much thought into what I was going to call next on defense and I missed it.”

If the first stage from learning a mistake is admitting a mistake is made, Fangio and the Broncos can now move on to Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh.

But Fangio’s timeout issue should have never been one. The Broncos’ offense had two chances to seal the game while leading 14-13 and failed both times. Even worse, they used only 3 minutes, 38 seconds, of the clock.

On the first drive, running back Melvin Gordon gained 12 and seven yards on consecutive carries. But safety Kenny Vaccaro run-blitzed unblocked off the edge to stuff Gordon for no gain on second-and-3. On third-and-3, outside linebacker Harold Landry beat right tackle Elijah Wilkinson around the corner to hit quarterback Drew Lock as he was throwing (incompletion).

On the second drive, there shouldn’t be a qualm with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur’s first-down call. He was trying to put the game away, but receiver Jerry Jeudy dropped an 8-yard slant route and he had open field in front of him. Two plays later, on third-and-10 from the Titans’ 42, Lock overthrew receiver DaeSean Hamilton for a touchdown after Hamilton got two steps on cornerback Malcolm Butler.

“There’s just a lot of little things that we could have done better,” said Lock, who was 22-of-33 passing for 216 yards and one touchdown. “I feel like it was promising. (We) made some plays, but we want to be an elite offense. With some of the things we did, including some of the things I did myself, it just wasn’t elite.”

Given yet another lifeline, the Titans began to capitalize.

The Titans gained eight, nine, five, six and 11 yards to move to midfield. Two plays later, rookie cornerback Michael Ojemudia was flagged for pass interference (16 yards).

Fangio’s first chance to call timeout was at the 2:16 mark — the Titans ran off 15 seconds before beginning the next play.

Fangio’s second chance came the play after Ojemudia’s penalty when Tannehill threw six yards to receiver Adam Humphries. The play was over at the 1:47 mark — the Titans ran off 13 seconds before beginning the next play.

The next sequence was Fangio’s self-admitted error.

Henry rumbled 13 yards to the Broncos’ 16. The play was over at 1:28. Fangio passed on the timeout and the Titans went into full bleed-the-clock mode, not snapping it again until the 49-second mark.

On the ESPN broadcast, analyst Brian Griese said after Henry’s run: “When is Vic Fangio going to use his timeouts, right? … You can’t let this (Titans) team go in score with no time left.”

During the offseason, director of football analytics Mitch Tanney departed the organization after serving as a game-day clock/timeout management voice in the coach’s box. Tanney’s position wasn’t filled and he is working outside of the NFL.

“All the coaches chip in on that, the offensive coaches when we’re on defense and vice versa,” Fangio said. “It’s easier when we’re on offense and I’m not calling the plays. It was my miss on that and nobody else’s.”

Gostkowski lined up for his field goal at the 20-second mark. Fangio said a timeout wasn’t considered.

“I don’t think icing the kicker was worth it because he had been struggling anyway,” he said.

Instead of having nearly a minute to run a few plays to get into Brandon McManus’ field goal range, the Broncos didn’t get it back until 17 seconds remained. They ran three plays before time expired.

Another squandered fourth-quarter lead in the books, Fangio’s challenge this week is to make sure this September doesn’t repeat last September’s 0-4 start and Jeudy learns to look the football in before turning up the field, Lock benefits from facing a defense that was within one win of last year’s Super Bowl and, well, Fangio assesses his decision-making in the final two minutes.

“Every game is a learning experience, win or lose, in this league,” Fangio said. “Your experiences are what you build on, both good and bad, and hopefully we’ll build on the good things we did in this game and learn from the negative things we did and move forward and keep developing into a good team.”

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