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Situation - New England 34, Indianapolis 28. 2:08 left to play. 4th down, 2 to go. Ball on New England 28 yard line. What do 99.9% of coaches do in this situation? The smart thing. Punt and rely on defense to secure victory.
Instead, during a nationally televised game between AFC powerhouses, Patriots Coach Belichick decided to go for it in an attempt to keep the ball away from Peyton Manning. They held Indy's attack in check until the 4th quarter. Two fourth quarter 79 yard scoring drives in 124 seconds or less gave Belichick reason to doubt his defense and plenty of reasons to pause. New England's coach pulled the trigger... go for it. The 4th and 2 gamble failed as New England missed converting a 1st down by inches. Manning then directed a short game winning drive with ease. Final score: Colts 35, Patriots 34.
Belichick's move was being criticized well before the ball was even snapped. And now his decision is being ripped to threads across internet blogs nation wide. We live in a generation of second guessers. Not much goes without scrutiny anymore. Sports is no exception.
All of what I've read and listened to has ripped into Belichick's failed decision. But, what if it had worked? I'd venture to guess Bill's call would've been hailed as a valiant move by the NFL coaching genius. I can hear it now... "What a move by legendary coach Belichick... his decision kept Peyton Manning off the field and secured victory!" Perhaps something like "Belichick does it again!"... or "..there's a coach who understands his offensive talents and game plans." Or, "Balls of steel, Pats gamble knocks Indy from unbeaten status." yada yada yada. Believe me, had the 4th & 2 gamble worked, most would be singing praises. But, it didn't and commentators, fans, bloggers, former teammates are piling on. Why not? It wasn't a good move, went against all odds, theories etc. He went with his gut but Brady & Co. failed to execute.
Belichick's decision should be a wake up call to his team. His go for it gamble squarely tells defensive players their coach had no faith in their being able to defend against another Peyton Manning quick strike 4th quarter touchdown. Patriots have a recent history of successful late game 4th down plays intended to play keep-a-way. It didn't work out last night. Instead, there's been a mini bully pulpit pointed at New Englands coach. Let's not crucify the guy over a regular season game without much implication other than a loss. Going for it on 4th down and short was already in Belichick's plans. Manning had just engineered two quick strike scoring drives to rally Indy back into the game. The Colts attack was too much for the Patriots to defend and momentum was clearly on Indy's side.
Just like thousands of other viewers, I thought Brady lined up under center just trying to draw Colts defensive players offsides. I criticized that too. New England didn't have any timeouts left. A delay of game penalty could have given the Colts better field position which made no sense. Then came the snap... and the great play by Colts defense.
If the ball wasn't on their own side of the field then going for it would have been a near no brainer. My two cents says there was too much of a risk in handing my opponent the ball at the 28 yard line. If my team had just failed on 3 previous plays then why think a 4th would work?
It's a catch-22 situation. Belichick didn't think of what if we don't make it? He went for it because of 2 quick strike scores against. Ok, so what if the 4th down play doesn't translate into a first down? Manning from the 28 to win the game against a defense not trusted to stop him from going 60 or 70? Hello?