Buddy Ryan’s “Polish Goal Line” Defense

polish goal line defense

RIP, Buddy Ryan, inventor of the “Polish Goal Line” Defense.  Supposedly this play is from Buddy’s 1993 playbook when he was defensive coordinator for the Houston Oilers.  The play was a goal line defense for use at the end of a half when there were fewer than 15 seconds on the clock and the offense was inside the 5 yard line.  Look at the defense and count the players–14 defenders!  The idea was that the extra players would prevent a score, the offense would lose valuable seconds off the clock and the defense would only be penalized half the distance to the goal line.  In effect, the offense would only get one chance to score, rather than potentially multiple chances to score.  

Absolute genius, and I don’t see why teams don’t try this trick more often.  Well, not more often, actually EVER.  I can’t find an example where the play was ever used, by Buddy or anyone else, at least not on purpose.

The Giants were accused of using a variant of this trick against the Patriots at the end of Super Bowl XLVI.  Rather than let the Giants run the clock out and then chip in a winning field goal with no time left, the Patriots let Ahmad Bradshaw score a touchdown, to give the Giants the lead with a minute left.  This left as much time as possible on the clock for Brady to try and score a touchdown to win the game.  With 17 seconds left and the Patriots on their own 44 yard line, Brady went for a Hail Mary.  The pass was incomplete and the Giants got called for having 12 men on the field.  Some argued that this was intentional, citing Buddy Ryan’s famous Polish Goal Line play.  The Giants were only penalized 5 yards, but the Patriots lost a valuable 8 seconds off the clock.  

So two questions.  First, why don’t teams ever pull this stunt on defense in a critical game with time running out?  Sure, the NFL would certainly come up with a new rule to prevent the tactic, but you could get away with it at least once or twice before that.  

Second, why stop at 12 players, or even 14?  I guess with 12 players you could act like it was a mistake, but I say just throw 9 or 10 extra guys in there on defense, stop the play and take the 5 yard penalty!  Own it, and look like a defensive genius.  Especially next season, when you could say you were doing it in honor of Buddy Ryan!  

Talking to Jake about the play last night, he asked “What’s Polish about it?  Is it because the Polish gave up territory so easily to the Germans in WWII?”  Don’t think that is exactly what Buddy had in mind, but yea, kinda sort of, maybe.

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