Bill Belichick's Fourth-Down Decision Was Not a Terrible Call

Jordan SchwartzSenior Writer INovember 16, 2009

I am not a fan of Bill Belichick, but I don't think his fourth-down call was as ludicrous as everyone thinks it was.

Up six with just over two minutes remaining, the Patriots head coach decided to go for it on fourth and two from the team's own 28 yard line, despite the fact that New England led Indianapolis by six.

Generally a ridiculous call, I wasn't shocked that Belichick rolled the dice in that situation because his offense had put up more than 450 yards and 34 points so far, and Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has been nearly impossible to stop on potential game-winning drives over the past four years.

In Tom Brady's career, the Pats have about a 63 percent conversion rate on fourth and two or less.  That means by going for it on fourth down, New England had a 63 percent chance of winning the game right there.

Let's say, if the Patriots don't pick up the two yards and give Indy the ball at the 28, the Colts have a 90 percent chance of scoring a touchdown.  That leaves a 10 percent chance that New England still wins the game even if they fail to convert fourth and two.

So 10 percent of the 37 percent of the time that the Pats don't pick up the first down (3.7 percent), they still win.  Let's add that 3.7 percent to the 63 percent and we find that New England has roughly a 66.7 percent chance of winning the game by going for it on fourth down.

But what if the Patriots punt?

In that situation, Indianapolis probably gets the ball around its own 25.  Now here's the big question.  What are the chances the young, exhausted New England defense has of stopping the red-hot Manning from marching down the field and scoring the game-winning touchdown anyway?

Well, in that fourth quarter, he had already led the Colts on a 79-yard touchdown drive in just 2:04 to cut the deficit to 31-21. 

The next time Manning got the ball, he was picked off, but on Indy's third possession, he again went 79 yards for the score and this time, it took only 1:49.

Being very conservative, I'd say there was a one-out-of-three chance the Colts were going to get into the end zone if they got the ball back with two minutes left in the game, considering how incredibly clutch their quarterback has been over the past four seasons.

So a 33.3 percent chance the Patriots lose if they punt the ball away and a 33.3 percent chance they lose if the go for it on fourth down. 

Then why are many calling this one of the worst coaching decisions of the decade?


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Jordan Schwartz is Bleacher Report's New York Yankees Community Leader. His book "Memoirs of the Unaccomplished Man" is available at,, and

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