Bill Belichick certainly played a major role in New England’s stunning 35-34 loss to Indianapolis Sunday, but the fourth-down gamble is not the mistake he made.
Up two possessions in the fourth quarter, right after Randy Moss scored his touchdown to make it 34-21, the Patriots defense was clearly giving Peyton Manning and the Colts offense any underneath passing pattern they wanted. Obviously, this makes sense. Let the Colts drive, but make them wear down the clock.
Unfortunately for New England, the Pats were unable to take significant time off the clock through defense, breathing life into Indianapolis’ lungs.
Belichick should have made the Patriots utilize the schemes they had been using for the majority of the game, holding the Colts to a reasonable 21 points.
However, Belichick’s major mistake came during the ensuing drive, after Pierre Garcon burned Leigh Bodden (who did play a solid game) on a slant-and-go pattern for a touchdown.
Belichick decided to move away from the formula of offense which had put up 31 points in three-plus quarters against the league’s No. 1 ranked defense. Whether or not he was trying to run the clock out, the running game he tried to use was clearly ineffective.
Belichick decided not to utilize his teams’ strength (passing) against Indy’s weakness (pass defense), and instead he used his weakness (running), playing right into Indy’s defensive strength (run defense).
New England was unable to burn any significant time off the clock with only its subpar running game (wouldn’t it be great if Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor were available, maybe the running game would have succeeded) trying to get the job done.
Every possession New England had in the fourth quarter was slightly dysfunctional. The offense sputtered, but Belichick did not think to go back to the Patriots’ strength and get Wes Welker or Moss involved in the game.
Then, his second mistake (which is not as major because if he doesn’t commit the first mistake, the game never gets to this point) came with 2:23 left, when he used both of New England’s remaining timeouts before the end of the two-minute warning.
Obviously, the 4th-and-2 call to go for it was questionable, but I stand by Belichick's decision.
No, it’s not because if he makes a decision, I deem it correct. It’s because the Patriots defense was without Ty Warren, Jarvis Green, Rob Minkovich, and Tully Banta-Cain, resulting in an exhausted front seven without one of its best pass rushers (Banta-Cain).
For the full article, visit New England Sports Online.