Bill Belichick is a genius. In fact, he’s so much of a genius that he cost his team a win on Sunday night by making one of the dumbest decisions by a head coach in quite some time.
The Patriots absolutely dissected the Colts for 58 minutes tonight. Tom Brady threw for 375 yards and three touchdowns on 29-of-42 passing, while Randy Moss (nine catches, 179 yards, 2 TDs) and Wes Welker (nine catches, 94 yards) abused an injury-riddled, inexperienced secondary on their way to taking a 31-14 fourth quarter lead.
Then Peyton Manning worked his magic to cut Indy’s deficit to 34-28 with just over two minutes remaining. But all the Patriots had to do was pick up two first downs (something they had done with ease the entire night) on their ensuing possession and put the Colts away for good. Instead, Indy’s defense rose to the challenge and stopped the Pats on a 3rd and 2 from New England’s 28-yard line to force a punt.
Or what everyone thought would be a punt, that is.
Instead of punting and making Manning drive the length of the field, Belichick decided to call a time out (the second of the drive) and go for it on fourth down. What ensued was a 1-yard catch by Kevin Faulk, a controversial spot of the ball and a turnover on downs for New England. Four plays later, Manning found Reggie Wayne for a 1-yard touchdown pass to give the Colts a stunning 35-34 victory.
Now, I don’t fault Belichick for being who he is: An aggressive decision-maker and a coach that not only likes to beat his opponent, but rip their soul out of their bodies and do a tap dance number on it. That’s who he is and that’s what he does. He’s won multiple Super Bowls with that strategy and he’s not going to change his philosophy now.
But the problem with that strategy in this case is that it just wasn’t a smart football decision. Belichick has to punt the football and trust his defense in that situation by forcing Manning to drive the length of the field to win. There’s nothing wrong with being aggressive, but that was just a flat out stupid decision by a head coach that knows better.
Granted, if the Patriots picked up that first down and never gave the ball back to Manning, everyone would be lauding Belichick’s fearless style. I get that, and I don’t want to lose sight of that fact because the media can be two-faced in scenarios like these. And in Belichick’s defense, with the way his offense had been moving the ball all night, gaining a first down on 4th and 2 must have seemed like a lock and why give the ball back to Manning after he just carved up your defense the previous two drives?
But the Patriots didn’t pick up that first down and there was really no reason not to punt the football in that situation. It wasn’t like they were at midfield – they were at their own 28-yard line and if their gamble didn’t work, Belichick had to have known he was handing a win over to the Colts. Furthermore, for Belichick to burn two timeouts before making that decision and leaving himself without the option to stop the clock had his offense not picked up the first down was just as stupid.
I’ve never seen a team dominate like the Patriots did for 58 minutes, only to lose on a decision like that. New England will surely rebound and I wouldn’t doubt it if we saw these same two teams play in the AFC Championship Game in the same stadium. But nevertheless, this was an awful decision by Belichick and he cost his team tonight.
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Posted in: NFL
Tags: 2009 NFL Week 10, Bill Belichick, Bill Belichick Colts-Patriots game, Bill Belichick fourth down call, Bill Belichick fourth down decision, Bill Belichick goes for it on fourth down Colts, Colts beat Patriots, Kevin Faulk, nfl week 10 scoreboard, Patriots Colts recap score, Patriots vs. Colts, Patriots vs. Colts score, Peyton Manning, Randy Moss, Reggie Wayne, Tom Brady, Wes Welker