Hindsight is always 20/20, at least that’s what the adage will tell you. Bill Belichick would have you think otherwise, at least in his perfect world. But when the Patriots head coach made the decision to go for it on 4th and 2 with 2:03 left on the clock from his own 28-yard line last weekend against the Colts, I wasn’t thinking about how genius or insane the call was. Nope. There wasn’t a crevice of thinkspace that was dedicated to thinking that had the Pat’s converted the opportunity the game would have been-for all intents and purposes- over. Get the first down, run out the clock, game over. Or, if they didn’t convert New England would be surrendering the ball to All-World quarterback Peyton Manning, down by 6, at home, with only 28 yards to go for the go ahead touchdown. Nope. That is what hindsight is for.
When Tom Brady got to the line and set the offense, the scene wreaked of one of those generic scenarios in which an offense will hustle to the line on a 3rd or 4th and short only to hard count the defense in an attempt to draw them offsides. Or in this instance, at least get the Colts to burn their final timeout. And then…almost as quickly as my thoughts could even begin to process the scenarios of what exactly this play meant in terms of the outcome of the game, the ball was snapped. The pass was completed to Kevin Faulk, he fell short, the rest is as they say history. As the dust settled on what had just happened and before fully comprehending the eventual impact that the play was bound to have on the game (like clockwork, Manning took the field and threw a game winning touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne), I kept repeating three words to myself…”Only Bill Belichick.”The Pats blew a huge opportunity to make a statement in the AFC and the Colts walked off the field still undefeated with an 18 game regular season win streak still in tact.
In the week since the game, just about every sports columnist has made an attempt to rationalize Belichicks decision as abnormally genius, insightfully stupid or just about everything in between. For me, its hard to justify it as anything other than arrogant. Look, what happened…happened, and if they did convert everyone would just be hailing at how much smarter Belichick is than every other coach in the NFL, or maybe the call wouldn’t have been this much of a debate in the first place. He made a decision, he went with it. If the play had been converted, it would have been the right call. The Pat’s didn’t and it wasn’t.
The entire scenario spoke of Bill Belichick in a nutshell. We all know the persona. You love him or you hate him. He’s the best game planner in the league or hes a cheater. He is well revered by his peers or his lack of injury report details drives you up the wall. Spygate was just a bad coincidence or he was preaching the equivalent of coaching steroids. I know this was just another play in a long NFL season, but the undertones (at least in my opinion) spoke of something much more. He wasn’t just trying to win the game, we was trying to prove to everyone that he could win it in the most unconventional of ways. He was trying to make a statement …as if beating the Colts on the road wouldn’t be a statement enough. Simple arrogance.Was it really such a lock that if he had just punted the ball, Manning would have gone 70+ yards for the score? I don't think so. I mean, could you imagine if Eric Mangini tried to pull this off? Peace. Out. Get. Out. Of. Town.
Whether you agree with my take or not, certain things can’t be disputed. He has the credentials to attack the play without fear, and for this you must give him credit. The Super Bowl rings and pending playoff run sure ease the pain inside of the locker room and come a few weeks all of this will be quieted down and blown to the wind. When all is said and done, Belichick will go down in history as one of the most strategically enigmatic coaches of all time and only he would attempt to make this kind of proclamation when the season was potentially at its most fragile breaking point… 4th and 2. On the road. Up by 6. On his own 28-yard line. 2:03 remaining. Colts win streak on the line. Don’t hold your breath.
Match play: This weeks key matchups
Cleveland Browns (1-8) versus Detroit Lions (1-8)
Ok, so I wont be watching. I’ll actually be doing the complete opposite by blatantly ignoring this matchup of two of the leagues worst teams. Its like watching a compound fracture happen in slow motion. You close your eyes and continue to blink rapidly in hopes that you will see everything except the snapping of the bone. In this case…the entire game will play the part of the bone snapping. I can only hope Calvin Johnson finally goes off. He’s due.
Oh yea…Cleveland only has 5 offensive touchdown on the entire season.
Verdict: Lions win
Randy Moss, WR, New England versus Darrell Revis, CB, NYJ: Part Deux
Well the first matchup lived up to the hype if you were a Jets fan as Revis held Moss to a measly 4 receptions for an even measlier 24 yards while also hauling in a pick on a pass that was intended for Moss. But something tells me that this time will be different. Moss and Tom Brady really seem to be on the same page right now as Brady has looked more and more fluid in the pocket lately. The Jets came into that week 4 matchup with a lot of confidence, as they were undefeated. This time it’s a bit different and their defense hasn’t been nearly as intimidating as it was earlier in the year. Wes Welker, who missed the first matchup of these two teams, is back and will help a great deal in alleviating some of the coverage schemes aimed at slowing down Moss downfield. While Moss may not have a humongous game, a much more respectable performance should be in store this time around against one of the leagues premier corners. Remember, with Moss all it takes is one big play to get your moneys worth.
San Diego Chargers (6-3) versus Denver Broncos (6-3)
AFC West supremacy will be on the line in this matchup of two teams that seem to be playing all too familiar roles. Every season the Chargers stumble out of the gates only to catch fire in the second half of the season and take down the division crown. This year looks to be much of the same. However, what is somewhat surprising is how fast the Broncos have fallen back to earth after getting out to a strong 6-0 start. The defense that had been playing so well to begin the year is now giving up yards and points as teams continue to exploit the deficiencies in stopping the run. Broncos QB Kyle Orton will either be out, or will play on an ankle that has some torn tendon issues. Either way its not a good situation. I would like to think the Chargers will win this one in a route, but at home Denver is sure to make a game of it and possibly even pull out a win if their defense can rekindle some of its early season flair.
Bruce Gradkowski INT’s or syllables in his last name: Push
Beanie Wells carries: 22
Number of times you will hear a Black Eyed Peas song as stadium music while watching a game on TV: 9
Aaron Rodgers sacks taken or Cleveland Browns points scored: Rodgers sacks
Miles Austin touchdowns: 2
This weeks 300 yard passers: Kurt Warner, Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Donovan McNabb. On a limb- Matthew Stafford
Rushing yards leader: Thomas Jones
Receiving yards leader: Desean Jackson
Breakout player of the week: Beanie Wells
Cowboys, Lions, Packers, Steelers, Vikings, Giants, Saints, Jaguars, Ravens, Cardinals, Chargers, Patriots, Bears, Bengals, Texans