Oh the gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair! The Pats were within mere ticks of the clock of beating their archrival Colts, not to mention spoiling their hitherto perfect season but they blew it on a failed fourth down conversion. And it’s all Bill’s fault.
I agree, it was a helluva risky call. With about two feet to go, and deep in their own territory, the penalties for not completing the play were harsh: the Colts, rich with time-outs, would regain possession almost in the red zone. In that case, the winning touchdown was nearly inevitable. Why take such a chance?
But think about it. If you were coaching a team – name any team – facing such a situation with Tom Brady on the other side of the scrimmage line, what would you do? Tom Brady could be standing in his own end zone and with nearly two minutes to go, nobody would bet against his ability to march the ball down the field and make that necessary score. With time to spare.
Of course, those of us die-hard Patriots seem incapable of imbuing any other quarterback with Tom’s magic, but if there were one who could invoke the same nightmare scenario, it would be Peyton Manning. Punt the ball into next week and Manning, with enough time, could get it home.
Belichick’s decision was dangerous, yes, but not stupid. It was a calculated gamble, one that unfortunately didn’t pay off. Had it succeeded, Patriot’s Nation would be gleefully proclaiming that we knew all along he could do it.
Great coaches, and great teams, don’t play it safe. They don’t play it dumb either but that’s not what this was. Let’s all hope for the rule of unintended consequences to kick in. Forget playoff home field advantage for a minute. Let’s imagine that this heartbreaking loss has made the competitive fires burn even more fiercely. Let’s hope that the lesson learned is to avoid being in such a situation in the first place. A game was lost but not the season, and when payback comes, as it will, it will be all the sweeter.