Under almost all circumstances, the defense's job is to keep teams out of the end zone.
Notice I used "almost all circumstances" there above, because this weekend, in TWO games, situations popped up where defensive coordinators found themselves in position where they actually wanted the opposing offense to score so their offense could have one last shot at scoring.
The first situation happened in the Indiana vs. Penn State game. Up 1 with a 1:47 left to play, the Hoosiers had just one timeout. With the ball at the 9-yard line, Penn State handed the ball off to Devyn Ford who found plenty of space off the right side of the line and jogged untouched into the end zone. After watching the play again, you'll clearly notice some Hoosier defenders clear the way for Ford to find the end zone.
Here is that moment. Indiana head coach Tom Allen shared after the game that there is a signal they give from the sideline to tell players to allow the offense to score.
After Indiana got the ball back and marched down the field and went for two to tie the game and send it into overtime, the Hoosiers later went for two and secured the win.
After the game, James Franklin said that the situation highlighted above is one that they worked on during practice and then talked about again on the sideline before the offense took the field. The plan was to take as much yardage as they could, and then go down. Franklin also added that he could have done a better job preparing his guys for that situation, but also wants to stress that the game wasn't about that one singular play.
Similar circumstances unfolded in the NFL the next day in the Lions vs. Falcons game.
Down 14-16, with just over a minute left and in pretty much automatic territory for an NFL kicker at the 10-yard line, Falcons running back Todd Gurley took a handoff and broke a (half-hearted) tackle before attempting to fall just short of the end zone. Seems bizarre to expect a player who wants to score everytime they touch the ball to fall down before reaching the goal line, right? But it was in an effort to continue to bleed the clock and kick the easy field goal for a win.
However, Gurley's momentum kept him going forward, and as he stumbled, he turned and the ball clearly crossed the goal line, leaving over a minute on the clock.
Not what they wanted to happen.
That meant that Matt Stafford and the Lions had just over a minute to drive the length of the field, and after a few big completions and a review that upheld the call on the field, the Lions spiked the ball to kill the clock with two seconds left. That meant they had one last shot at the end zone for the win.
As time expired, down 22-16, Stafford found his tight end a few yards into the end zone to tie it up. The Lions excessive celebration pushed the PAT attempt back 15-yards, but the extra yardage didn't matter as kicker Matt Prater knocked it through for the win.
Two really similar situations, and the offensive staffs in prime position to capture a win with smart football found themselves 0-for-2.
If there is anything the coaching community can learn from these two rare situations happening in the same weekend, it's this:
Defensive coaches - make sure you've talked about a situation where you WANT the offensive payer to make it into the end zone to give the ball back to your offense.
Offensive coaches - Make your expectations of the ball carrier crystal clear in these situations. Take practice time to cover them. Cover them again on the sideline if possible before taking the field. For James Franklin...even that wasn't enough, so perhaps cook in another layer of preparation, maybe having offensive players remind the ball carrier AGAIN before the snap.
I know I'm not the only head coach out there who hasn't touched on situations like this with my respective offensive and defensive staffs, but you better bet I will be dedicating some time to it moving forward.
Stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.