Setting record straight on Mora, comebacks

December, 31, 2009
12/31/09
7:13
PM ET
The line between bringing evidence to the table and piling on can get a little blurry when a team is struggling.

In this case, the facts bring clarity to an ongoing storyline.

Facebook friend Jimmy Leroy brought the subject to my attention more than a week ago. Jimmy wanted to know Jim Mora's record as a head coach when his teams trailed after three quarters. The information has appeared differently in different places, suggesting Mora's teams had never won in these situations. I found that difficult to believe. Sure enough, the first closely contested game I investigated -- Falcons-Chargers in 2004 -- showed Mora's team overcoming a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to prevail, 21-20.

The Seahawks are 0-9 in those games this season, however, so I reached out to ESPN researcher Jason Vida for some perspective. Jason contacted Elias Sports Bureau, which revealed that Falcons-Chargers outcome to be the exception, not the rule. However, I do not think this necessarily reflects horribly on Mora. His Atlanta teams were run-oriented teams. Michael Vick was a young quarterback and not very efficient as a passer. Those types of teams would naturally fare quite well when leading late in games, but if they fell behind, they would not be as effective in comeback mode as a team with a polished passing game.

Mora's Atlanta teams were 1-21 when trailing after three quarters and 25-1 the rest of the time. Holding Mora accountable for the difference would ignore the fact that the offense necessarily played to the strengths of the uniquely talented running quarterback he inherited. You can bet Mora's Atlanta teams would have been better than 1-21 in those situations if Peyton Manning had been his quarterback.

Mora's Seattle and Atlanta teams have a 1-30 record (.032) when trailing entering the fourth quarter. The rest of the league is 150-760 (.165) in those situations during that span (2004-2006 and 2009). As noted, Mora hasn't had especially efficient quarterbacks, although that was supposed to change with Matt Hasselbeck under center this season.

Four teams are worse than 0-9 in those games this season. Thirteen are winless. Three teams -- Indianapolis (4-1), New Orleans (2-1) and Dallas (3-2) -- have winning records in those situations this season. It's not like all the other coaches are working magic to erase fourth-quarter deficits. Still, an occasional comeback victory seems like a reasonable expectation.

From 2004-2006, when Mora was in Atlanta, only the Colts (5-6), Chargers (5-8) and Steelers (6-12) were better than Seattle (6-14) in those situations. Only the Texans (1-23), Lions (1-27) and Raiders (1-31) were worse than the Falcons. Bad teams would be more likely to trail after any quarter, not just the fourth. Mora's Atlanta teams generally were not awful. Their inability to win those games does jump out.

What does it mean about the coaching job Mora has done this season? Even he has said the Seahawks tend to think, "Here we go again" when things go wrong. Of all the potential problems facing Seattle, however, fourth-quarter coaching would have to rank well down the list.

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