Johnny K. Woo texted me seconds before it actually happened.
"Dumbest decision in the history of football...or at least up there."
I instantly texted back as the playclock was going down.
Frankly, I didn't believe it was happening. The Patriots were just trying to draw the Colts to jump offside right? They couldn't seriously be going for it leading 34-28 on 4th-and-2 with 2:08 left. Hold on...
The sports world will be buzzing about Belichick's decision for two main reasons. The first reason is obvious...the decision was ridiculous. The second reason is because the unthinkable decision was made by Bill Belichick. Bill Freaking Belichick. The genius. We're all a bit hesitant to question him. He's earned carte blanche in the minds of most fans and media members to do whatever he wants.
But let's not forget a couple of past decisions Belichick has made. In Super Bowl XLII, the Patriots led 7-3 midway through the third quarter facing a 4th-and-13 on the Giants' 31-yard line. Easy decision. Kick the field goal. Belichick decided to go for it, and Tom Brady's pass was incomplete. Final score: Giants 17, Patriots 14...think the Pats could have potentially used those three points? It has always amazed me how that decision wasn't discussed in greater detail.
In Week 3 this season against Atlanta, the Patriots were leading 13-10. Belichick decided to go for it on 4th-and-1 from his own 24 midway through the third quarter. The gamble worked, but the decision was still foolish.
Unlike those last two decisions, which didn't get a ton of attention, tonight's will be discussed ad nauseam. You can make a legitimate case that Belichick's decision cost his team the game.
We knew we wouldn't get much of an explanation from Belichick's presser. Predictably, the phrase he repeated over and over again was some form of "We thought we could win the game on that play. We thought it was a yard we would get."
First, not to be overly picky...but it was not ONE yard. It was a full two. And because of that, a running play wasn't even an option. The distance did come into play, considering the Patriots completed a pass SHORT of the marker.
Second, he didn't address the consequence of NOT making the first down. If they didn't get two yards, they would be giving up the ball on their own 28. The risk was enormous.
I wish the assembled media would have pressed Belichick a bit more on what he thought of his defense. Rather than simply asking that question once and listening to a non-responsive "We thought we could pick up a yard" and then moving on, the assembled reporters needed to follow up with the gruff coach. As uncomfortable as that would be.
That was the crux of this decision. As much confidence as Belichick has in the Pats' offense -- and rightly so -- the bigger issue at play here was that he displayed a truly alarming lack of support for his defense.
Belichick's reputation suffered a hit in this game. Such criticisms in the past have been of possible cheating, his personality and his wardrobe. For the first time since he was the head coach in Cleveland, he now will be under more scrutiny regarding true football decisions.