The Broncos had plenty of other foibles during the narrow loss to open the season, but Fangio’s decision to forgo using a timeout or two during Tennessee’s last possession has drawn plenty of criticism. The Titans held the ball for 2 minutes, 48 seconds of the final 3:05 before Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 25-yard game-winning field goal.
The Broncos had three timeouts remaining when the Titans opened the drive, and they didn’t use any of them until there were two seconds left in the game. Gostkowski had missed three field goals and one extra point earlier in the evening.
“I didn’t think the ‘ice the kicker’ was worth it because he had been struggling anyway,” Fangio said. “I did miss calling a timeout after the second-down play from the 29-yard line, when [Derrick] Henry got 13 yards down to our 16. I should have called timeout there; that was the one I missed.”
The play Fangio referred to had started with 1:33 on the clock, and the Titans didn’t run another play until there were 49 seconds left in the game. That was a span of 38 seconds the Broncos could have used a bit later, when their final possession ended on their 43-yard line — one or two completions from field goal range.
Fangio, who is the Broncos’ playcaller on defense, was asked if having no preseason games affected the mechanics of that type of end-of-half or end-of-game situation when the defense is on the field and he is calling plays — or if the decision to part with Mitch Tanney, the team’s former director of football analytics, in the offseason was a factor. Tanney was on the headset from the coaches’ box during games for just such scenarios during his time with the team.
“Could be all of that,” Fangio said. “It was totally my fault there, I had too much thought there on what I was going to call on defense. I missed it. … All the coaches chip in on that, the offensive coaches when we’re on defense … [but] it was just my miss on that one, nobody else’s.”
Asked if it was important for him to admit a mistake, given that’s what he demands of his players, Fangio quickly said, “Absolutely.”
While the timeout whiff has been a heated topic of conversation outside the team almost since the second the game ended, the Broncos had a substantial list of other issues in the loss. Quarterback Drew Lock fumbled two snaps and missed a potential touchdown throw to Nick Vannett two plays before an ill-fated shovel pass attempt on a fourth-and-goal from the Titans’ 1-yard line in the closing minutes of the first half.
Rookie wide receiver Jerry Jeudy had two of the team’s three dropped passes, including one with just over four minutes left in the game that could have sealed a Broncos win. Linebacker Alexander Johnson had a personal foul penalty — a penalty Fangio said Tuesday was a “highly questionable” call — that negated a Michael Ojemudia interception.