Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC West [Print without images]

Monday, November 16, 2009
No problem with Belichick's decision here

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

PHOENIX -- The Seahawks-Cardinals game spanned 208 minutes Sunday, but I still made it back to my hotel room in time to catch the Patriots-Colts ending.

Great game.

Bill Belichick's fateful decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 fascinated me.

I wondered which team was more nervous before that play. The Colts' Peyton Manning had to be hoping the Patriots would punt in that situation because Manning had to like his chances with the ball in his hands.

Opportunities to second-guess Belichick come along rarely, but I'll back him on this one.

If a team with Tom Brady and Randy Moss cannot convert on fourth-and-2, that team deserves to suffer the consequences. But to suggest Belichick made a horrible coaching blunder fails to acknowledge reality.

The Patriots had gained 468 yards to that point in the game. They had converted seven times in 14 third-down opportunities, most with more than 2 yards to go. They had converted third-down plays needing 3, 2, 5 and 1 yard against the Colts in the second half alone.

Given the way the Patriots were functioning, Belichick reasonably could have expected Brady to convert a fourth-and-2 against that defense a high percentage of the time, perhaps three out of four. And if the Patriots managed to convert, they almost certainly would have won the game.

In Belichick's mind, then, the decision not to punt gave the Patriots a very good chance at winning the game. He played to win.

Punting with 2:08 remaining would have armed Manning with the football and one timeout remaining, plus the 2-minute warning. Going that route would have been playing not to lose. Good luck with that approach against Manning.

I won't skewer Belichick for making a 2-yard bet on Brady just because he failed to collect.

Update: More information validating the decision.