Steelers Miss Playoffs: The Real Reason Bill Belichick Threw Final Game

John NeumanCorrespondent IJanuary 5, 2010

HOUSTON - JANUARY 03:  New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick looks on from the sidelines at Reliant Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

Bill Belichick is the master of deception: using wide-receivers on defense, video recording teams’ plays, and fixing playoff scenarios to favor his team.


Late in the fourth quarter, Belichick pulled Tom Brady against the Houston Texans and sent an inexperienced rookie quarterback from Michigan State (Brian Hoyer) into the game on the drive that would have tied the game.  The Patriots had played hard for three quarters and even lost their superstar wide receiver Wes Welker for the entire playoffs with their efforts. 


So why would a team battle so hard all day and throw the game in the last quarter?  The answer is the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Everyone knew that in order for the Steelers to get into the playoffs, they would have to win their game and hope for a New England victory over Houston to preserve two of the three possible playoff scenarios. 


The only other back door the Steelers had (if New England lost) was depending on Denver, New York, and Baltimore all to lose their games.


The Steelers game ended minutes before the New England game where they beat out Miami 30-24.


The Steelers were winning, 24-10, during the third quarter, and it was apparent they would win the game.  The Patriots were up, 20-13, heading into the final quarter of their game.  Belichick knew the scores and the playoff circumstances.


In the fourth quarter, Belichick made questionable substitutions and Houston marched down the field with ease and would score three consecutive touchdowns.  The Patriots gave up 13 points, including a shutout in the third quarter, up to the final quarter when the big 21-point “let down” happened.


Belichick put a stamp on a Houston victory when he pulled Tom Brady on the drive that would have tied the game.


Further proof, in the final game of the 2005-06 season, Belichick was in another situation with the Steelers – if he had beat the Miami Dolphins in his final regular season game, he would have had to play Pittsburgh in the first round.  If he lost, he would play the Jacksonville Jaguars, an opponent the Patriots have outmatched and dominated.  Belichick inserted his backups and  even attempted a drop-kick with his third string quarterback.  He lost the game, 26-28 to Miami, avoiding a playoff game with the Steelers.


This season, Pittsburgh was playing excellent ball in the late few games with wins over Minnesota, Green Bay, and Miami.  They were coming on strong approaching the playoffs.


Belichick wanted no part of the Steelers.  He didn’t want to play physical football, so he did his best to avoid it – losing to Houston  -- eliminating the Steelers from the 2010 playoffs.