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Fox: Players’ shock led to kneeldown call

ENGLEWOOD – After Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones silenced Sports Authority Field at Mile High with a 70-yard touchdown catch 31 seconds before the end of regulation Saturday, Broncos coach John Fox looked around and didn’t see a team capable of marshaling enough strength to immediately counter-punch.

That led to his decision to have Peyton Manning take a knee from the 20-yard-line after the ensuing kickoff, which drew boos from a sold-out crowd that had endured sub-zero wind chills for over three hours to that point. The final 31 seconds drained from the clock, the Broncos went to overtime — and eventually lost.

“You watch a 71-yard bomb go over your head, there’s a certain amount of shock value, a little bit like a prize fighter who gets a right-cross on the chin at the end of a round,” Fox said. “You’re looking to get out of the round. That may not be the ideal time to go for the knockout punch.

“One of the things when you coach players and you’re around them … you get a little bit better feel for where they’re at. The look in their eye, it was pretty devastating. It just didn’t seem like the right time, it wasn’t the right look understandably to go for the jugular right about then.”

Fox’s boss agreed.

“Where the team was and the situation we were in, I thought it was a good move,” executive vice president John Elway said.

“We’ve spent a lot of time the last two days just talking about this situation, but our guys were shocked when all of a sudden you get 70 yards on them and they score when there’s 30 seconds to go in a game and now all of a sudden it’s tied up going into overtime, we’re in shock. And to me, that was a good move to be able to regroup, get our guys back together and start the overtime period.”

“You know what? I agreed with it,” wide receiver Brandon Stokley said Sunday, but cited a different reason.

“Just with the conditions, where we were on the field. The wind was kind of blowing in our face a little bit and they were getting after Peyton and in that situation,” Stokley said.

Fox said: “I think the wind more out of our sails was more a part of that decision than the actual wind.

“I’d do it again 10 times if it presented itself in that situation.”

The situation Atlanta faced a day later — down a point with 31 seconds to play — doesn’t compare, Fox said.

“It’s not close to that situation because you’re going to lose the game if you don’t score,” Fox said. “Ours is completely different. We live to fight for the next round. So, I think that was the thinking.”

On the previous series, when the Broncos ran on third-and-7, Fox defended the call to hand off to Ronnie Hillman, rather than send Manning back to pass.

“That’s a choice we made and honestly, I’ll do it again,” Fox said.

“Now, if I had known we’d give up a 70-yard touchdown, I might (do something different) on third-and-7. But you know what they say about hindsight. The situation was: we run the clock, make them use all their timeouts, they get the ball with 1:09, they’ve got to go 77 yards in 1:09. To make matters worse, they’ve got 70 yards to go in 41 seconds.

“I think if you gave a coach or a player that opportunity, 10 out of 10 times in the divisional round playoff game they would take it. The percentages prove true; it’s 97 percent of the time you’re going to win the game.”

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