Before I get into the following rant about Bill Belichick’s coaching blunder in the Sunday night showdown in Indianapolis, I will say that I think the Patriots’ veteran coach is one of the best in the business and I would welcome him taking over the reigns of my favorite team any day of the week.
But, and this is a big but, he took a calculated risk and it was the wrong move given the circumstances and he cost his team a victory. Don’t let any of the blow-hard TV analysts or newspaper writers tell you any differently either because some Belichick supporters claim it was the right move no matter the outcome. I beg to differ.
With the Patriots holding a six-point lead and facing fourth-and-2
from their own 28-yard line, Belichick did the unthinkable, he went for it. It wasn’t an attempt to draw the defense offsides with a hard count and it wasn’t an attempt to take the delay of game penalty to give his punter more room to punt. The Patriots not only went for it, but prior to the game-changing gamble, Belichick burned his team’s final timeout with more than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, a move usually reserved for guys named Saben or Kotite, not by future Hall of Famers. The move backfired not once but twice, as the Patriots came up short on the 4th-down play and weren’t able to challenge the spot of the ball because the team had no time-outs left. Talk about double trouble.
Belichick supporters claim that because the team goes for it on fourth down more than any other team ever makes the decision acceptable but that argument compares to driving home after you’ve had one-too-many beverages. It’s a gamble that we’ve all pulled off without issue many times but the one time it doesn’t work out, there’s going to be major repercussions.
Sure the Patriots are the best at converting fourth-down chances (I believe it’s something like a 80-percent conversion rate) but there’s a time and a place for everything and your own 28-yard line is definitely not the place. Punt the ball and make Peyton Manning march 75 yards for the winning score always trumps risking it and affording him a chance to only need 28.
The move also questions Belichick’s belief in his defense. How are the guys standing on the sideline supposed to feel when they watch their coach decide against a punt in that situation? Belichick’s bold move not only lost the game but it will likely take weeks, if not longer, before those guys on the defensive side of the ball will be ready to sell out for him again. Those type of confidence-related issues tend to fester and I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see a drop-off in productivity on that side of the ball in New England for several weeks.
I’ve always said Belichick is the ballsiest coach around and I’ve applauded his bowling-ball sized onions on many occasions. But let’s not candy-coat this one. He f-ed up and he f-ed up big time.