Takin' a T/O with BT—Bill Belichick and the Patriots Will See Another Day

xx yySenior Writer INovember 16, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 15: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots speaks to head coach Bill Belichick in the fourth quarter of the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 15, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Colts won the game 35-34. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

It's amazing the amount of time it takes to change something, isn't it?

One play. One pass. A matter of seconds. A handful of yards.

It was all of those things that changed a game that looked like a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat, please-for-the-love-of-God-hold-on win for the New England Patriots, to a state of rejoicing and 9-0 signs for Indianapolis Colts fans.

Good for the Colts. Good for Peyton Manning. Bad for the New England Patriots.

And very bad for Bill Belichick.

In the history of live TV, there's probably never been a play that's been questioned as quickly as that 4th-and-2 was last night. The minute Tom Brady and Belichick met on the sidelines as the timeout was called, people were fretting. People were judging.

I was pacing back and forth, wondering what exactly was going on.

Whether they had seen the game or not, everybody now knows what happened. You could check the highlights from this morning, read a paper or a blog, or just click on the status updates and tweets of Colts fans.

The man who sticks it to the opposition whenever he can, who flies in the face of football decency, and who defies the logic of many had his nose shoved in it last night in front of an international audience.

Belichick knows that. He didn't need reporters at the press conference to ask him about a do-over because he made it very clear he was aware of his actions and the situation.

But he also knows something else that got lost in the shuffle: It's not the end of the world.

At the moment it happened, it certainly felt like the world was ending. Living rooms in the New England area probably resembled a cabin scene out of Airplane or Airplane 2: mad panic, oxygen masks, and a lineup of people waiting to smack Belichick and yell, "GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF!"

It sucked. It was a terrible feeling watching that play unfold. It doesn't matter whether Kevin Faulk had the first down or not—the refs didn't think he did. Conversation over. Sequence over. And for all intents and purposes, game over—Manning saw to that.

But you know what? The New England Patriots didn't lose anything from it. Their closest competition for the AFC East crown, the New York Jets, lost earlier in the day, meaning the Pats had an opportunity to distance themselves further. 

Granted, the win would have tied New England with the Cincinnati Bengals for the second-best record in the AFC, meaning they could be battling for home field advantage, but the season isn't over: Even if they were tied, New England wasn't guaranteed a thing, and even though they lost, the Bengals have nothing more than the inside track on January football.

If anything, the Patriots may have gained something from it even if they lost the game.

In 2007 the Pats would've tried this play. Up by 19 or nine, they would have taken the shot along with the ridicule and questions that came with it. It all would have been the same.

Last year? There's no way that they even think about putting Matt Cassel in this situation.

Yes, it was said a lot last night post-game on the NFL Network, but the Patriots may have just cemented their swagger.

They tried it earlier in the season against Atlanta , and it worked. They tried it here and it didn't. They'll probably try it again too. That's just what the Patriots do.

Am I (and a lot of other people) giving Belichick the benefit of the doubt on this play? Sure I am. People all over the place are saying that it's because of the Super Bowl rings we accept this; that if Norv Turner or Rex Ryan tried this, we'd eat them alive.

You know what? Those people are right. It is the rings that make Patriots fans trust Bill Belichick more. He still messed up, but for him? Big deal. He went for it in a regular season game and missed. It happens.

The anger will resonate for a little while, but it'll likely fall by the wayside. It's like Clint Eastwood's Pink Cadillac— not very likely it gets remembered in the long run.

Then again, Eastwood also came back with Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino.

The curious thing in all of this, however, is the reaction of Colts fans. Patriots fans and impartials alike were bound to be confused and drowning in agony. But there are some Colts fans out there acting as if this was a monumental, beautifully orchestrated comeback instead of it being handed to Peyton Manning with 29 yards and two minutes to go.

Is it fairly likely that Manning could have driven the field for the game-winning score had the Patriots punted? Yes. But it doesn't change the fact that Manning had to drive a field slightly longer than the average kickoff return.

The only quarterback who couldn't engineer a winning drive from there would probably be JaMarcus Russell. And this, for many Indianapolis supporters, is a source of joy?

Please. Don't dishonor Manning by counting this among his best—he's had far better comebacks than this, and you know it.

Don't count your blessings before the end of the season either. Remember when the Jets won the week two Super Bowl?

Congrats to the Colts on going 9-0 and getting a big win, because gaffe or not, it's still a big win, and it was still earned.

It was a riveting, yet confusing way for it to happen.


Bryan Thiel is a Senior Writer and an NHL Community Leader for Bleacher Report. If you want to get in contact with Bryan, you can do so through his profile or you can email him at bryanthiel74@hotmail.com. Also be sure to check out his previous work in his archives .


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