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November 16, 2009

Belichick's folly

Really, how often has anybody been able to second-guess a decision by Bill Belichick in a big game? He's one of the best strategists in the history of the NFL and there he was last night, looking like he was going to turn green after going for it on fourth down inside his own 30-yard line with a six-point lead and two minutes left in a great showdown against the Indianapolis Colts.

The Pats came up short and basically served up the game on a silver platter to Peyton Manning, who was in the process of directing one of the greatest comeback victories of his career.

The postgame analysts, including former Colts coach Tony Dungy and NBC rookie Rodney Harrison, unanimously blasted the decision. Harrison, who played for Belichick called it the worst decision he ever saw his formere coach make, and -- based on the outcome -- it certainly might have been. Belichick basically gave his defense a huge vote of no confidence by choosing not to punt and force Manning to go the length of the field.

What's worse, he burned his final timeouts unwisely, leaving him unable to challenge the spot on a very close fourth down play.

I can't defend the decision, but I think I can understand it. Manning had just turned the momentum in favor of the Colts with a lightning-quick drive for a touchdown. He made the Patriots defense look tired and helpless. Belichick gambled that Tom Brady could get him two yards and put New England in a position to burn most of the remaining two minutes. He gambled and lost very big, but it's very possible Manning would have gone right down the field again.

One thing is certain. It was a truly great game between the two best teams in the AFC. And the Colts will arrive in Baltimore next weekend still undefeated and working on an 18-game regular season winning streak.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 6:00 AM | | Comments (28)
Categories: Just football


Maybe now with a 3 game lead the Colts can relax enough to let us win next week.

I think it's far from certain that the Patriots are good enough to be called one of the two best teams in the AFC. They were but they are getting old. Old "Shirtless Bill" found that out the hard way last night.

I think it's far from certain that the Patriots are good enough to be called one of the two best teams in the AFC. They were but they are getting old. Old "Shirtless Bill" found that out the hard way last night.

I think it's far from certain that the Patriots are good enough to be called one of the two best teams in the AFC. They were but they are getting old. Old "Shirtless Bill" found that out the hard way last night.

Statistically, Belechik's call was correct. See the following:

I think it's funny that people are now saying that Belichick has "lost his touch." All his moves looked great when the Pats benefited from the infamous "tuck rule" (Charles Woodson stripping Brady) and his kicker nailed a 50-yarder in a blinding snow storm. Now, opposing receivers pin desperation bombs to their helmets (Tyree in the Super Bowl) and he comes up inches short on a well-executed play, and now all of a sudden he's an idiot.

I didn't like him before (never liked him) so I don't mind the bashing, but it's amazing how small breaks that coaches have nothing to do with (see Bill Parcells reputation because of Scott Norwood being Wide Right) identify certain guys as winners and others as losers.

I loved the call.

Indianapolis Colts kicker Matt Stover (3) celebrates his game winning extra point with Pat McAfee during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots Sunday, Nov. 15, 2009 in Indianapolis. Colts beat Patriots 35-34.

Starting to regret that decision yet Ozzie?

These were the same sort of decisions 'Belichick the Brain' used to make with the old Cleveland Browns. Yea, some genius he is! This ranks up there with Bill Buckner, Bucky Dent in Boston sports lore!!!

These were the same sort of decisions 'Belichick the Brain' used to make with the old Cleveland Browns. Yea, some genius he is! This ranks up there with Bill Buckner, Bucky Dent in Boston sports lore!!!

Posted by: Mike | November 16, 2009 10:04 AM
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Last I looked "Belichick the Brain" has three Super Bowl Rings as head coach. You have Tom Brady, Wes Welker and Randy Moss; if you can't come up with two yards, something is wrong. If you look at the play, if the receiver wouldn't have bobbled the ball, he would have had the first down, and all the talk about Belichick would be moot. I think it was a great call considering the opposition. If the opposing qb was Jason Campbell, you can best believe Belichick would have punted. I also find it ironic in Baltimore there are fans who whine about 'vanilla' offense and never taking chances. Everyone can be a Monday morning qb on blogs. One more thing for all you "experts" out there. One play does not make a game.

My 1st season book was in 1957. This is the worst coaching decision these old eyes have ever seen. The only thing I can figure is belichick thought the Colts only needed a FG. Unbelievable!

In case anyone wasn't looking, the brilliant defensive genius Rex Ryan lost game number 5 with the Jets yesterday.

The call was right. The stupid move was burning the timeouts and not being able to challenge the spot. Belicheck knew MAnning would lead a drive to score if he got the ball back w/ a reasonable amount of time. Even with the bobble, the guy had the 1st down. Doubt they would have overturned the spot, as questionable spots rarely do, but they should have at least had the t.o to try

he made a very bad call. despite the bad call how much has he done wrong as coach of the pats. hard to argue with his overall performance in new england. but is was a terrible call.

it was a very bad call. but hard to be critical of his overall performance in new england.

Posted By "Good Call Bill":

"if you can't come up with two yards, something is wrong" ...

Well, Good Call Bill...looks like something is idiot! With 2 minutes left on the clock and having to score 7 and not make a GREAT QB go 70 yards to win.....not 29!

Belichick BLEW IT with arguably one of the worst calls in NFL history! Now....get back to your 7th grade classroom!

I've been watching the NFL for 45 years. I've never seen a call like that. 4th down and 2 inches, fine. Not 2 yards.

I'm among the few who thought it was a great call. If he made it, they'd basically win. Since they failed, he'll have his critics. His only mistake was wasting that timeout. We all know that Manning would have gone 80 yards for the score within 2 minutes. He may have been hoping if they didn't get it, Manning would score in a minute and they would have a minute to get a FG. Manning countered that by wasting the clock. Great strategy by both teams.

Also to give my own team props. Some critize the play of MJD for stopping at the 1. I also thought that was a terrific play.

It was the right call. The upside? Brady has converted 63.5% of 4th and 2s, and the NFL rate is around 60 percent. If they convert, the game is over. You put the game in the hands of your offense, which had easily outperformed the defense this game.

The downside? If you don't convert, Peyton has to only go 30 yards instead of 70. Nobody does the 2 minute drill like Peyton, giving him 4 downs with time not being an issue, he would be very tough to stop.

Some people say "Defense wins championships." I say "If Peyton has the ball for the last possession down less than 7, you lose"

Some more stats to back it up, NOT EVEN factoring in the pace of the game and the fact that Peyton Manning is the other team's qb.

I think you are way to quick to judge Belicheck on this and probably way to willing to listen to Trent Dilfer on NFL Blitz. It appears that most media members are quick to grasp at the first questionable incident in order to flame the man. I'm no fan of the Patriots or Belicheck. This was not a bad call. Gutsy and indicative of the offensive talent he has on his team.

And of course Harrison and Dungy are going to spin, spin, spin. They've been on the spin side of every hot issue this season. They are not exactly the scholars of NFL analysts.

Randy-- Tony Dungy not a scholar of NFL analysts. You are kidding, right?

"Scholar" isn't a word used much in connection to TV analysts. This isn't knowledge, say, of quantum physics we're talking about, but knowledge of a professional sport.

Dungy's a Super Bowl-winning and soon-to-be Hall of Fame head coach with the seventh-highest winning percentage in NFL history; in the context this certainly qualifies as a scholar when the subject is football.

I can't believe you'd write something like that.

Randy-- Following up on what I just wrote about Dungy, I don't think he was spinning at all when he questioned going for it on fourth down inside one's own 30. That's just consistent with his conservative coaching philosophy and is conventional wisdon when it comes to that situation.

And in no way do I think he was trying to show up Bill Belichick. He was just calling it as he saw it.

Having said that I think you and others who have argued in favor of Belichick's move also have a valid point. The Patriots have a young defense not long on depth and they had been out on the field for much of the fourth quarter.

Al MIchaels and Chris Collinsworth made note of the fact that the Pats' defensive line was looking gassed by then and if they weren't able to get a decent rush on Peyton Manning, then it's pretty much a given that he's going to move the ball down the field. So from that angle I can understand Belichick's decision. Still....

Would you rather have Manning and the Colts on your 28 or their 28? The more times the Colts are made to run a play, not only is more time is taken off the clock, but the more chance their is of a fumble or an interception. Belichick's decision gave his defense very little margin of error, which is why punting--though less gutsy--was still more prudent.

I know this seems difficult to swallow, but Cincy is better than New England and Cincy is clearly one of the two best teams in the AFC.


It isn't true that the NE defence was "out on the field for much of the fourth quarter." By the time Belichick went for it on 4th down with 2 minutes left, the NE defence had been on the field for about 4 of the 13 minutes that had elapsed. In addition, the NE defence was only on the field in the 3rd quarter for about 4 minutes.

Far from being a tired group, if the NE defence was suffering from anything it was from too many splinters in their butts from spending most of the 2nd half sitting on the bench.


Sorry. Meant to include this link in my previous post.

Scroll down for the complete play by play and note the elapsed time. Look for yourself if you like but I'll save you the trouble. The NE defence was on the field for just a few seconds over 15 minutes in the first half, and just 8 in the second.

If this was a tired group, then NE has a serious problem with conditioning.

I wouldn't have made the decision Belichick made.

But I understand it.

Every announcing crew and pundit always says as its key to the game, "Keep the ball out of Peyton's hands." Hey, that's what Belichick attempted.

Remember, NE's defense had let a 17-point, fourth quarter lead already dwindle to six. And that defense didn't exactly distinguish itself on the final 28 yards either.

It's easy to be a 20-20 hindsighter. This decision in this game against this QB wasn't wrong. It was different.

And I wouldn't have bet a nickel against Peyton driving Indy 70 yards for a TD (and that's assuming a good kick and a poor return, neither of which was a given).

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About Peter Schmuck
Peter Schmuck wants you to know that, contrary to popular belief, he is more than just a bon vivant, raconteur and collector of blousy flowered shirts. He is a semi-respected journalist who has covered virtually every sport -- except luge, of course – and tackled issues that transcend the mere games people play. If that isn’t enough to qualify him to provide witty, wide-ranging commentary on the sports world ... and the rest of the world, for that matter ... he is an avid reader of history, biography and the classics, as well as a charming blowhard who pops off on both sports and politics on WBAL Radio. That means you can expect a little of everything in The Schmuck Stops Here, but the major focus will be keeping you up to the minute on Baltimore’s major sports teams and themes, whether it’s throwing up the Orioles lineup the minute it’s announced or updating you on the latest sprained ankle in Owings Mills. Oh, and by the way, that’s Mr. Schmuck to you.

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