Rob Ryan is in his 10th season as an NFL defensive coordinator, and the final minutes of games have haunted him almost the entire way.
Ryan took over as the Oakland Raiders' coordinator, fresh off a two-year stint with the New England Patriots as a linebacker coach and having just won a Super Bowl title with them. Ryan's new defense in Oakland had a good number of veterans, including some key parts from the Raiders' Super Bowl season two years before.
In his first game as coordinator, the Raiders tied the Pittsburgh Steelers on a touchdown and two-point conversion with 4:51 remaining at 21-all. But the Steelers got the ball back and slowly, methodically tortured Ryan and the Raiders with a 10-play, 54-yard field-goal drive that effectively ended the game with 7 seconds remaining.
It kicked off a largely successful career as a coordinator for Ryan, who has held that post with four different teams, but also one rife with late-game disappointments, letdowns and breakdowns. Ryan currently is the coordinator for the New Orleans Saints, and he has helped turn around what had been a putrid unit last season; it's likely they would not be in contention without this group's vast improvement.
But allowing the Carolina Panthers to drive downfield in the final minute Sunday was an agonizing defeat that now has the Saints really sweating a postseason spot, and it's the second time this season the Saints have watched a late-game collapse happen on defense on the road.
Here are some of the rest of Ryan's defenses' biggest failures late in games over the years (warning: the list is surprisingly long):
Ryan with Oakland Raiders (2004-2008)
2004, Week 12 (Denver Broncos): This actually was a Raiders victory, but a fluky one. The Raiders took the lead, 25-24, with 1:49 left over the Broncos, but Jake Plummer and the Broncos drove 44 yards in just over a minute before the would-be game-winning 43-yard field goal was blocked.
2004, Week 13 (Kansas City Chiefs): The next week, in a game tied at 27-27, the Raiders allowed the Chiefs to connect on a 70-yard TD pass to Eddie Kennison with 2:04 left for what would be a 34-27 loss.
2004, Week 16 (Chiefs): Hard to fault Ryan or his defense too much here. The Raiders blew a 30-28 lead with 1:07 left when Dante Hall took a kickoff back 49 yards into Raiders territory. Ryan's defense only gave up 16 yards on the next six plays, but the Chiefs were able to win on a last-second field goal.
2005, Week 2 (Philadelphia Eagles): The Raiders tied the game against the Eagles with 2:17 left, 20-all, on the road. But the Eagles, who would end up in the Super Bowl this season, drove 75 yards on 11 plays in just over two minutes for the game-winning field goal.
2005, Week 9 (Chiefs): Randy Moss scored with 1:45 left at Arrowhead to give the Raiders a 23-20 lead, but Ryan's defense allowed the Chiefs to drive 72 yards on eight plays, and instead of going for the tie, the Chiefs won it on a Larry Johnson 1-yard touchdown run as time expired. Ouch.
2005, Week 15 (Cleveland Browns): The Raiders clung to a 7-6 lead for most of the fourth quarter, but the Cleveland Browns drove 12 plays and 43 yards in the final 3:15 for a game-winning Phil Dawson field goal. The Browns won despite not finding the end zone, and a caveat: Sebastian Janikowski missed one field-goal attempt and had another blocked.
2006, Week 11 (Chiefs): Oh, those pesky Chiefs! Johnson stung the Raiders one more time with a touchdown run with 1:32 left, capping an 11-play, 80-yard drive to give Kansas City a 17-13 win.
2006, Week 12 (San Diego Chargers): The Raiders, who won two games all season and were in the midst of what would become a nine-game losing streak, somehow hung with the division-winning and Super Bowl-favorite Chargers, who'd win 14 games that season, for four quarters. But Ryan's defense bent one too many times, as LaDainian Tomlinson scored with 3:39 left for a Chargers victory.
2007, Week 2 (Broncos): The Raiders allowed the Broncos field-goal drives of 78 yards with 2:18 left to tie, and 52 yards in overtime to win the game at Mile High. The two drives took up a combined 24 plays and nearly 12 minutes total.
2007, Week 10 (Chicago Bears): The Raiders took a 6-3 lead over the Bears with 4:04 remaining, but they struck twice in the final minutes — first with a 59-yard touchdown pass to Bernard Berrian with 3:11 left and then a Cedric Benson TD run with 1:35 left after a Raiders turnover. The loss ran the Raiders' losing streak to five, with four of those games being one-possession games in the fourth quarter.
2007, Week 15 (Indianapolis Colts): Ryan's defense was getting the best of Peyton Manning for most of the game, but Manning led the Colts down the field on a 91-yard, 5:40 drive for the game-winning touchdown with under five minutes remaining.
2008, Week 3 (Buffalo Bills): The Raiders left 23-14 with just over six minutes left, but the Bills drove 69 yards in just over two minutes to make it 23-21 and then they took the lead with the game-winning field goal as time expired following a 46-yard drive in the final 2:29.
2008, Week 4 (Chargers): The Raiders tied the game at 18-18 with 2:47 left, but a long return gave the Chargers the ball at the Oakland 35. Ryan's defense stiffed and held the Chargers to a field goal. After the Raiders went four-and-out with JaMarcus Russell at quarterback, Tomlinson romped 41 yards two plays for the game-icing touchdown. Again, hard to put this one on Ryan.
2008, Week 11 (Miami Dolphins): The Raiders led 15-14 with 4:30 left, but the Dolphins drove 61 yards on 10 play over 3:52 to kick the game-winning field goal in the final minute.
Ryan with Cleveland Browns (2009-2010)
2009, Week 4 (Cincinnati Bengals): In his fourth game as coordinator in Cleveland under Eric Mangini, the 0-3 Browns led 20-14 with just over six minutes left. But they allowed Carson Palmer and the Bengals to drive 70 yards and hit Chad Ochocinco for what should have been the go-ahead score with 1:55 left — had the Bengals not missed the extra point. Instead, they won the game in overtime after a 67-yard field-goal drive with four seconds left in the extra frame.
2009, Week 11 (Detroit Lions): Two of the worst teams in football put on a show in what was one of the more entertaining games of this season. The one-win Lions, with rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford, drove 11 plays and 88 yards in the final 1:46, as Stafford — running the play with a separated non-throwing shoulder — hit Brandon Pettigrew as time expired following a 31-yard defensive pass interference call gave the Lions one final shot on an untimed down.
2010, Week 10 (New York Jets): Brother Rex Ryan and the Jets took a three-point lead on a field goal with 2:42 left, but the Browns tied it thereafter and sent it to overtime. The teams locked heads for most of OT, but Santonio Holmes caught a 37-yard touchdown pass in the final minute of the extra frame to win it. Mark Sanchez magic.
2010, Week 11 (Jacksonville Jaguars): After taking a 20-17 lead, the Browns allowed the Jaguars to drive 87 yards on five plays in 90 seconds and win the game on a Maurice Jones-Drew touchdown run with just over a minute left. This was the beginning of the end for Mangini and his staff in Cleveland.
Ryan with the Dallas Cowboys (2011-2012)
2011, Week 4 (Lions): Ryan joined Jason Garrett's staff in Dallas and saw a 14-point fourth-quarter lead evaporate in Week 1 against the Jets that was the fault of Tony Romo, the offense and the special teams; Ryan's defense was mostly excellent. But in Week 4 against the Lions, the Cowboys blew a 13-point fourth-quarter edge and couldn't stop Stafford and Calvin Johnson from connecting on a game-winning score in the final two minutes.
2011, Week 6 (New England Patriots): Ryan's defense confounded Tom Brady and the Patriots for the first 58 minutes with what was a brilliant defensive gameplan. The final two proved to be a different story. Brady led a 10-play, 80 yard drive in just over two minutes and found Aaron Hernandez (what ever happened to that guy?) for the game-winning score with 22 seconds left, leading to GIFs all the internet round of Ryan's priceless reaction.
2011, Week 13 (Arizona Cardinals): The Cowboys and Cardinals were in overtime when the Cowboys suddenly forgot how to tackle. LaRod Stephens-Howling caught a screen pass behind the line of scrimmage and ran 52 yards through nearly the entire defense for a walk-off score.
2011, Week 14 (New York Giants): The Cowboys led 34-22 with just over five minutes remaining but allowed the Giants to drive 80 yards in 2:27 and 58 yards in 1:26 to stun the Cowboys in the final minute for a devastating loss that would help the Giants win the division after the Cowboys lost the Week 17 rematch in New York, and eventually go to the Super Bowl.
2012, Week 9 (Atlanta Falcons): The Falcons drove 12 plays and 66 yards over five-plus minutes to kick what would be a game-winning field goal with 22 seconds left in a hard-fought game against a good opponent that dropped the Cowboys' mark to 3-5.
2012, Week 16 (New Orleans Saints): This one stung. The out-of-contention Saints led by 14 in the fourth quarter, but the Cowboys — fighting for a postseason spot — fought back to tie it with two touchdowns in the final 3:35. In overtime, though, the Saints drove 72 yards on seven plays on their first possession and won it on a Garrett Hartley field goal. It would be Ryan's penultimate game with the Cowboys, surprisingly getting fired after the season and replaced by Monte Kiffin by Jerry Jones.
Ryan with the Saints (2013)
2013, Week 6 (Patriots): Brady and the Patriots did it to Ryan again, this time with his new job with the Saints. After being held down much of the game, Brady took over at his own 30, with no timeouts left. Brady converted a key fourth-down pass to Austin Collie and then hit Kenbrell Thompkins (which created some hilarious Patriots radio magic) for the improbable game-winning score. And this time, the Ryan reaction GIF was even more priceless.
2013, Week 16 (Carolina Panthers): Ryan's defense was getting the best of the Panthers and Cam Newton for most of the game, and with Steve Smith out with an injury, the Saints had to feel good about protecting a 13-10 lead with less than a minute left. Nope. Newton drove 65 yards in a shocking 32 seconds, and the Panthers stole one from the Saints.
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