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Bill Belichick And The Art Of Second Guessing

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Wasn’t that a truly awesome way for the New England Patriots to lose Sunday night? Even for their nonplussed fans, “awesome” can mean “taken aback by awe” or simply “speechless,” which they are.

With a six-point lead and just over two minutes left, the Pats’ decision to attempt converting a 4th and 2 on their own 28-yard line fell just short, relinquishing the ball to Peyton Manning and his Indianapolis Colts, who perfectly milked the clock into a delicious parfait, securing the 35-34 win and staying perfect (9-0) this season.

Naturally, the blame went on the hooded shoulders of coach and area villain Bill Belichick, whose decision to go for it instead of conservatively punting it away bit him in the bum which, for the next week, is what he has become.

But … would a punt have avoided the loss? Certainly it would’ve marginalized the risk. Kicking it away would’ve forced the Colts to go, let’s say, 72 yards instead of 28 with two minutes and one timeout. Even with Manning’s rich fourth quarter history, 70-plus yards with that slice of time is asking a lot.

We all look at that decision, the subsequent outcome, and say, “well, duh, of course they should’ve punted.” But I — and I’m sure many others, too — look at the play, and look at that fourth-down play. Had Patriots running back Kevin Faulk secured Tom Brady’s pass where he was standing (the 31-yard line), it’s a first down, and Belichick’s decision would go down in the game notes as brilliant, dastardly, and demoralizing. Then he would’ve lined up in a “victory formation” shaped like a middle finger.

Instead, the veteran running back with typically reliable hands bobbled the ball, and when Faulk was driven to the ground to the 29-yard line by Melvin Bullitt, he finally grasped the ball and was ruled down a yard short.

What are the odds Faulk makes that catch cleanly? Nine times out of 10? Eight?

What are the chances Manning would’ve driven for a touchdown had the Patriots punted? 20 percent?

This ought’nt be a defense of Bill Belichick’s decisions, nor is it. So I’ll just completely pin the blame on Kevin Faulk.

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About Suss

  • I’ll pick E: The Colts

    It was a good call to go for the win. They just didn’t execute it right.

  • Maddy Pumilia

    They should have punted. I don’t understand the reasoning for going for it. Why would you even risk letting Peyton have the ball on the 28 yard line?

    Belichick should have put more faith in his defense being able to stop a 70 yard run.

    They deserved to lose.


  • The dude

    the Patriots defense was being shredded in the 4th quarter. BB had no choice but to go for it, Manning would have scored no matter where the punt ended up. the real problem was the previous scoring drive – nobody could stop Addai, who is old and slow now. pathetic.

  • He had faith in his offense and another yard would have sealed the game.

  • Adai old and slow? Say what? He’s only a 3rd or 4th year player. What’s that make him – 25 or 26? Not exactly a graybeard, even by NFL running back standards.

    I’ll agree that he hasn’t been particularly effective the past couple of years, but that is more the function of the blockers.

    The Colts offensive line is built to protect Manning which they have done quite effectively for years. Since Manning’s arrival the Colts have never had better than a mid-quality running game. But Manning doesn’t seem to suffer from it too much.

    The Colt’s worse problem in the recent past – even during their Super Bowl year – has been stopping the run. However, this season, with the exception of the Miami game and their use of the so called “wildcat” offense, the Colt defense has done a respectable job.

    The Pats still have one of the most potent offenses in the league. Their problem seems to be more on the other side of the ball. Injuries have thinned out their linebackers and secondary. Those playing late in the game Sunday night were pretty well shot by late in the forth quarter. Bilichick’s gamble may well have been the best option.

    But, all I can say is, I’m glad he made the decision to go for it. It worked out really well – for the Colts at any rate. 🙂