Bill Belichick is second guessing himself.
It has been well documented the New England Patriots did not play well in the AFC Championship game where the Denver Broncos beat the Patriots 26-16. This was due to injuries (including Patriots corner Aqib Talib being injured by Wes Welker on a hit that should have been flagged, but wasn’t), QB Tom Brady not being sharp throughout the game, the offensive line not giving Brady enough time in the pocket, the defense breaking instead of just bending and the Patriots needing a receiver to help stretch the field.
Belichick thinks a decision he made in the third quarter contributed to the loss.
With the Patriots trailing 20-3 late in the third quarter, Belichick, aka “The Hoodie,” decided to go for it on a fourth-and-3 at the Patriots’ 29-yard line instead of giving place kicker Stephen Gostkowski a chance at 47-yard field goal attempt. Brady was sacked and Denver took over on downs.
Belichick said the following when speaking with WEEI:
“Those three points would have been good to have at the end of the game if we would have made the kick, which we would have had a good chance to.”
Will all due respect to Belichick, who may go down as the best NFL head coach ever, he shouldn’t be second guessing himself. Well, maybe on the play-call, but I love that he elected to go for it. Don’t get me wrong, I understand what Belichick is saying — if the Patriots had kicked the field goal (and therefore the extra point after their second touchdown in the fourth quarter), the Patriots would have been down six. The Patriots ended up cutting the lead to 10 by scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The Patriots went for two instead of kicking the PAT after their second touchdown to try to cut the lead to an eight-point (and therefore one possession) game. The Patriots then failed to recover an onside kick.
Let me say it again — I love that Belichick decided to go for it. Even if what I have detailed above happens, the Broncos would have gotten the ball back with 3:07 left, up six. The Patriots would either have had to try an on-side kick (as they unsuccessfully tried anyway) or kick it to Denver and hope they could stop the Broncos and leave enough time on the clock to score another touchdown. With the way the game was going, neither scenario looked likely. Not impossible, just improbable.
With the Patriots down 17 late in the third quarter Belichick had to go for it in that spot. The defense didn’t really do a bang up job of slowing down the Broncos’ high-powered offense. The Patriots’ offense wasn’t keeping pace with the Broncos, and field goals were not going to help the Patriots win the game at that point. In addition, there is no guarantee the Patriots would have recovered an onside kick (they failed to recover the one they tried) or that the defense would have stopped the Broncos from either scoring or taking too much time off of the clock.
For the record, I also loved it when Belichick decided to go for it on the now infamous fourth-and-2 play against the Indianapolis Colts in 2009.
This had better be a case of Belichick taking the blame instead of putting the blame on the players as he has been known to do. I really hope this doesn’t deter him from being aggressive in the future. Being intelligently aggressive is one of the things that makes Belichick great.