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Everyone is baring their soul over the Belichick 4th and 2 call. A man once called one of the greatest coaches of football’s modern era is now being called a moron and a disgrace in some circles. While listening to Mike Francesa on WFAN on Monday afternoon, he stated that it was indeed Tom Brady that made Belichick. It’s almost as if this one play did more to discredit Belichick than even Spygate. Folks, everyone needs to take a nap.
First off, those beating the home-field advantage and how this crushes any hopes that New England has of getting to the Super Bowl, I offer up this important reminder. Do you know how many number one seeds have to made it to the Super Bowl out of the AFC this decade? Three. The 2002 Raiders, 2003 and 2007 Patriots are the only teams to make it to the Big Dance as a number one seed out of the conference where it is so impossible to win in someone else’s building.
Afraid to play in Indianapolis are we? The great Peyton Manning has dropped home playoff games before. Plus, after watching Indy’s secondary on Sunday night any Colts fan that feels comfortable going into a playoff game versus the Patriots (or Chargers for that matter) is simply not truthful.
Anyways, back to the matter at hand. Was it the right call? If I’m faced with a similar situation in Madden, I’m punting, let alone in a real game versus a team that is 9-0. However, before we start putting Belichick in the same light as Les Steckel and Rod Rust, let’s consider the following issues from last night’s game.
It was plainly obvious (and brought up during the broadcast in the fourth quarter) that New England’s defense was tired and had very little fourth quarter pass rush. Due to injuries and a lack of bodies to rotate in and out, the Pats looked gassed by game’s end. In fact, in the second half, Manning’s mistakes weren’t a result of Patriot pressure; instead, they were a reflection of two awful throws by Manning. So if you can’t see why Belichick was a bit shaken by looking at his defense, you’re crazy.
As per usual, the football talking heads are missing the boat on this call (Steve Young excluded). The problem isn’t the call itself for my money. The Indy secondary was awful on Sunday night and the Pats would have been in the 40s if not for a deadly fumble into the endzone by Laurence Maroney. So, I can see why he’d think my great offense can gain a measly two yards.
It’s the events leading up to the call that make it look awful. The Patriots had to burn a timeout because the wrong personnel was in the game on the first down, no gain run by Kevin Faulk. This was perhaps just as stunning as the fourth down call. After all, the Patriots had the kickoff and a TV timeout to figure out who should be on the field.
After an incomplete pass to Wes Welker on third down, the Pats burned another timeout to decide what to do on fourth down and here’s where the major problem for me is. You have to account for all situations and bad officiating is one of them. Just call it the “In Case We Get Screwed We Can Challenge This” clause. NFL officiating is about as reliable as basing your monthly income solely on potential lottery winnings.
So when Kevin Faulk makes the catch on fourth down and two and gets a very questionable spot, you’ve got to have the challenge to use. Under no circumstance can you put a game of that magnitude in the hands of any official. The Patriots completed the pass and were in position to seize the moment. However, when they got the bad spot, they’ve got to have some form of protection against the call and at least be able to challenge it. To me, a guy who prides himself on game management and attention detail failed in that particular department. That’s where my problem is, not necessarily with the call itself.
Thus, I’m not going to totally slaughter Belichick. He made a call that was somewhat illogical but I get it. He didn’t want to give the ball back to Peyton Manning at any point of the field.
These people, including some of his former players, saying Belichick slapped his defense in the face by going for it are a bit short-sided. If his defenders quit on him and don’t trust him as several former players have suggested might happen, then the 2009 Patriots don’t deserve to get within 100 yards of Miami, Florida for Super Bowl XLIV.
People railed on Belichick in 2003 when he cut Lawyer Malloy and said he’d never regain the trust of the team. How did that work out? If the 2009 Patriots are of Super Bowl stock then they will get past this bump in road and be back in Indianapolis should the Colts even make it to the conference title game.
Take heed Patriots fans. If the ’95 Cowboys can survive the Barry Switzer 4th and inches gaffe and still win the Super Bowl, then the same can happen to the Patriots.