Look, it’s all fourth-and-2 here this week. And I suspect that some may view that as more of a warning than an invitation.
I understand. But at least dig in and give the mailbag a shot, even if you are suffering from fourth-and-2 fatigue. Lots of good email from both sides of the argument this week AND I manage to zipper in some Andrea Kramer talk, nominate a mayor for Cougar Town and defend Bruce Springsteen and the Wayans Brothers.
So join for me for a 5,000-word farewell to fourth-and-2. Why? Because to let go you must say goodbye. I think it was John Denver who wrote that. And if he didn't he should have.
To the ‘bag we go (and, as always, feel free to email away to email@example.com)
Look, the Dolts score from either 70 or 29 yards away. And the Patriots were more likely to make the first and win controlling the ball than they were in giving it back. It was at worst a 50-50 call that empowered the better half of the Patriots, the offense. I only would have run a misdirection, given the tendency of first defensive reaction. In Bill we trust.
A: And the “In Bill We Trust” crowd hasn’t let this little hiccup slow them down in the least. Good for them, I guess. I understand, I really do. As I wrote on Monday, this guy is the closest thing to Lombardi we’ll ever see. But he is human. And he made a huge mistake Sunday night. Maybe you legitimately disagree with me on that. OK. We’ll get into all that over the next couple of thousand words. But allow me a second to vent on a semi-related topic. What really bothers me is that there seems to be a pro-Belichick and anti-Belichick crowd in this town and you cannot cross the line. Ever. I mean, is it so bad to think that Belichick is a terrific coach that made one terrible decision? Half the people out there seem to think so. Let’s be honest: did anyone in the Boston media surprise you with his or her take on the call? Nope. The guys who worship BB defended him and those who have made a living hating him blasted the call. I don’t know how it got to this, but here we are.
IN BILL WE TRUST. What are you people bitching about? This is the absolutely right call. Kevin Faulk made the first down. But the zipbra blew the call. If the referee didn't blew the call, we would have praise Bill. IN BILL WE TRUST, he is the greatest coach ever.
A: Well, I agree that you can make the case that he’s the best coach in NFL history, Owen. At least in the top five. To win three Super Bowls, four AFC crowns and seven (soon to be eight) AFC East titles in this age of parity is all you need to know. He is absolutely at the table of the all-timers.
But all that has nothing to do with what happened Sunday night. A man stood on the sideline and had two choices to make and made the wrong one. You have to punt. If you fail to convert you are going to lose the game. There is no way that a shell-shocked defense is going to come back onto the field and stop the Colts. Not from the 28-yard line. Not after having their coach basically tell then that they aren’t good enough. Do I think the Pats could have stopped the Colts from scoring from the, say, Colts 25-yard line? Of course. The Colts punted seven times in the game and turned the ball over twice.
And I also think Faulk had the first down, but it really is a coin flip. That isn’t a blown call. Never would have been overturned.
Right call, wrong result. Though I do think that Faulk had the first down, but I agree that no one would have overturned it. I'm taking my chances with Brady getting two yards over a cooked D against Manning every time.
A: If you think it’s the right call that’s fine. But that means you think that the Colts were absolutely going to score if they got the ball back, right? No question. So by that thinking you would have been OK with the Pats going for it on fourth-and 2 from the Colts 12. Or on fourth-and-18 from the Colts three-yard line? Isn’t that right? Or when is it wrong? If you are convinced that there is no way the Colts DON’T score then you have to go for it in any situation and try and keep the ball out of Manning’s hands.
And I don’t know that the defense was “cooked,” either, Todd. They were in the prevent the drive before (the prevent does drive me crazy, though intellectually I understand it. Works more often then it doesn’t, but you never hear anyone talk about that. Just when it doesn’t. I just wish someone could come up with a witty cliché that describes how the prevent defense stops you from winning. Fingers crossed, maybe I’ll see it in my lifetime) so I’m not sure how taxed they were. The drive before that? One play (an INT.) I just don’t think that was a factor.
It was a good call to go for it on fourth-and-2. The patriot offense easily put over 300 yards on the colts defense, so why not two more yards. Was it Belichick's fault Maroney fumbled a touchdown or Brady threw an interception in the red zone? There was no way in hell the Patriots defense could stop Manning at that point. My only problem was if they failed the 4th down conversion, why not just let the colts score quick and easy, then get the ball back with one-minute left to kick the winning field goal 37-35 pats. Lets face it Callahan and Dennis, you two d-bags have always hated Belichick no matter what.
A: The offense put up almost 500 yards on the Colts, James, but that still doesn’t make it the right call.
I’ll go along with the idea that they had a 60 percent chance of converting the fourth-down play if you go along with the idea that the Colts had about a 50 percent chance of scoring a TD if the Pats punted and Indy started the drive with 70 yards to go. Just looking at those numbers it seems a pretty close call. But there is a third part, of course. The 40 percent chance that the Pats don’t convert, or, y’know, what actually happened. And given the situation (a mentally defeated defense, a confident offense, just 28 yards to go) I’m inclined to suggest that the Colts score a TD there seven or eight times out of ten. Way too big a risk. Remember, this isn’t the Lions defense we are talking about, either. The Pats are eighth in the league in points allowed (16.7) and second in yards allowed per game.
That was a weird Andrea Kramer outfit. She looked like the leader of one of the gangs in the “Beat It” video.
A: I’ve thought about the 500-zipper ensemble that Andrea broke out Sunday nearly as much as I’ve thought about the fourth-and-2 call, Danny. Did you notice that she wasn’t even on after that one appearance right before kickoff? They just used the scroll to show updates on injuries. I think there’s at least a 60 percent chance Sheila E. spilled something on Andrea’s original outfit and lent her a jacket. It’s the only plausible explanation.
When you try to prove to everyone that you are smarter than everyone else then the results are supposed to support that idea. Once again Bill proved to us that his is a dumbass! Or at the least a jackass. We like winning not proving points Bill!
A: Hey, the first words written by Ron Borges on WEEI.com in nearly a year! What a scoop.
Do I think Bill Belichick has a massive ego? I have no idea, of course, but I’m sure he might. OK, he does. Who am I trying to kid here? But, and here’s what really matters, I think his ego had nothing to do with fourth-and-2. I just think he really believed that he had a better chance to win going for it. And by the way, Belchick IS smarter than any other coach today. I still believe that. But if you coach long enough you will eventually make a monster blunder. And that’s what happened.
This was the single worst play call/decision I have ever seen in 40 years of watching football at any level.
So last year Bill lost to the Colts and missed the playoffs and the #1 seed by deciding not to go for it on 4th and 1ft on the Indy 10yrd line to go ahead with like less than two minutes in the game (and oh by the way Brady had just got the 1st down that was called back by Bill's last second timeout) and the Pats never got the ball back and NOW he is going to go for it on 4th and 2yrds on his own 28? So there goes the #1 seed again, let's only pray that it doesn't also come back and keep them out of the play-offs as well.
So that makes two years in a row where terrible decisions by Bill LOST the game against Indy, which everyone knows that is the game every year that will almost always determine the #1 seed for the play-offs.
Not saying we should have a different head coach or anything like that. There is no other coach I would rather have. I just wish he had made two different calls in two games since he has been he.
I just want to know if Brady asked Bill if he was crazy when he told him to go run the play, that was such a bad decision it was almost cause for a mutiny where offense should have just sat on the bench and refused to take the field. Indy had NO RIGHT to win that game at all, but after the pick in the end zone and fumble on the six-inch line, I think we all knew we were heading toward the "well if you let them hang around..." And for godness sake stop playing prevent defense in the last couple minutes when the other team can't score all game long when you play 'regular' defense!
A: Good point on the fumble and pick, Jeff. Maroney has gotten a pass over the last four days, but he runs that into the end zone and there is no fourth-and-2. Bottom line. I’m down on him again. That was a nice three weeks, but I’m ready for a divorce. It’s over. As for Brady? I can’t kill him for that pick. Sure it was a lousy throw, but he had a terrific game. Would you have signed for 29-42, 375 yards and three TDs vs. the Colts before the game started? Of course.
(By the way, here’s Brady’s regular-season numbers during the Welker/Moss era:
26 games (23-3 record)
7,621 yards passing (293.1 yards per game. Peyton Manning holds the NFL record for passing yards per game, at 262.2, just to give you some perspective.
69 TD/14 INT
More games with a passer rating over 100 (15) than under 100 (11)
Probably a “who cares” in the big picture of the other night, but if the Pats convert that fourth-and-2 I really think Brady moves to the top of the MVP list. Now I don’t think he gets a first-place vote at the end of the season. Manning clinched it with that drive.)
Everyone is bashing Bill Belichick, saying HE lost the game, saying HE let the team down with his decision to go for it on fourth down. I say, that is BS! I say, the TEAM let him down, the TEAM put him in the horrible position to even have to consider that decision. And, much to his credit, he HAS taken this completely onto himself, but can you imagine how he really feels?! His high powered, veteran, star studded offense gets a gift with a late INT deep in Colts territory, and the offense does not put the game away with a TD, and barely uses clock, and stalls and has to settle for a "keep Indy in the game" field goal. And this same high powered offense turns the ball over not once, but twice in the end zone! And finally, the offense, the studs of Belichick's team, have the ball and the game in their hands with a final chance to put it away, against a Colts D missing many key players, and what do the stars do, fail to make two crappy yards on successive plays!
I am sure Bill did not want to have to make that decision, but in his mind the stars on offense had a better chance of covering two yards then his obviously gassed, young, inexperienced and depleted D (who were missing some important people up front). Can you imagine HIS disgust that this offense could not make 2 yards against this D, and fail to do it twice! And how this star studded offense screwed up that fourth down play. Faulk needs 2 yards, he has got to go deeper than just the 2 yards, leaving himself no room for error. And what the hell was Moss doing standing next to Faulk? He should have been running off somewhere, taking D with him, instead it turned into a party of bodies around Faulk. The biggest issue I have with the coaching staff is blowing through the timeouts, so a challenge could not be made. They also left themselves with no room for error. I am not buying it, Belichick made the decision, but his "hall of fame" offense made the plays too put him in that situation, and they screwed up the final play to seal his fate. Like they did in the championship game against Indy, when they could not get a first down late that would have sealed it, or like they did against the Giants, who rendered them inept most of the game.
A: Yeah, Bob, Belichick gets paid a lot of money to coach football. He’s won Super Bowls and is going to breeze into the Hall of Fame. David Halberstam, among others, has written a book about how he changed the game. If you Google “Belichick+Genius” you get 823,000 matches. “Belichick+Dummy” nets you 63,000. Nice edge. And you have you seen Linda Holliday? Mayor of Cougar Town. My point, I guess, is that things are pretty swell for Belichick. I’m thinking he can take a hit for a day or two. He’ll get over it. I don’t think he believes the team let him down at all. And I don’t think he believes that he let the team down. That’s just not how it works.
I really don’t think Belichick went into that drive with the intent of going for it on fourth down. No way they pass the ball on second and third down if that is the case. Third-and-2 is a must run play if you are intent on going for it on fourth. At the very least it would force Indy to use its last timeout. Plus the punt team came out on the field on fourth down. Let’s be kind and just say that there was some confusion happening on the sideline. I think it was a gut call, I really do.
I had no problem with going for it on fourth-and-2 ... The defense, while playing a terrific game, was clearly gassed. If it is converted then the game is over. I had far more of an issue with the formation and the call. If you go with more of a bunch set with at least one back, you will give the illusion that you might be trying to draw them offsides. It also could give you the ability to play action to a tight end or a receiver on a slant. By spreading it out the Colts know that you are really going for it, and they are coming for you and you need to hit a hot route or a quick hitter.
A: I’ll get to Steve’s thoughts in a second, but back to the idea of the call being a hunch. I’ve read plenty over the past couple of days that suggest this was the correct move if you look at the percentages. Also I’ve read that Belichick has studied this stuff and is way ahead the curve when it comes to when and when not to go on fourth down. I’ll buy that. I suspect he’s done more reading on the matter than, say, Wade Phillips. So what I wonder is this: if it was the correct call statistically why doesn’t Belichick always go for it on fourth and short from that area of the field? I’m pretty sure the situation has occurred 500 times in his coaching career with the Pats, but I count two times where he went for it from inside his own 30. Sunday night and the Falcons game from September. So I guess he’s been wrong all the other times? Or was he wrong Sunday night? Has to be one or the other, doesn’t it?
(And the Falcons call is totally different. Middle of the third quarter vs. an NFC team with less than a yard to go. I think it was the wrong call but there was time to recover. And a yard to go means the defense isn’t sure if a pass or rush is coming. You think the Colts had any doubt they were going to pass the ball in that spot?)
I actually have no problem with the play that was called. Faulk has made a million big catches in his career, probably more than anyone in Pats history not named Troy Brown. Put it this way: if they had been DOWN six points and called that play on fourth down I would have been absolutely fine with it. I get that Moss and Welker are the big guns throwing to Kevin Faulk on fourth and short is never a bad call. If I had to rank ‘em, that was problem No. 180,000 I had with that series.
Too risky a chance, second he's basically saying “I have no confidence in my defense.” A slap in the face to them also. The only one I heard defending it was Smerlass and he's a Belichick kiss butt.
A: Well, Smerlas might take it easy on Belichick in the studio on Mondays but I know he’s not going to give him any free path to the hoop if they ever meet up in a charity basketball game.
Don’t worry about the “slap in the face” stuff. You know Belichick. He’ll have that defense in full “us against the world” mode on Sunday. This game has Pats 38, Jets 10 written all over it.
I have not been this confused regarding a sporting event since the Montreal screw job in '97. Was Belichick turning heel on New England? A Belichick heel turn?
Or considering his status with the rest of the continental U.S., was it a Belichick face turn?
A: It is true Matt that in wrestling parlance Belichick is overdue for a run as a good guy. He’s been a main-event heel for six, seven years now. His last time as a “face” was in 2001. But I just don’t think anyone outside of New England can like the guy anymore. A natural heel. He’s like the Stan Hansen of 21st century NFL coaches. He should come out on Sunday with a bullwhip and a pound of chew.
Way to go Bill. This was the right call.
What are the chances of getting two yards? Let's say 65 percent.
What are the chances if you punt that the Colts score? How about 35 percent?
Those were Peter King's numbers, and he called Belichick's choice a moronic one.
But according to this math, it was the right call.
If you punt, you have a 65 percent chance of winning (100-35).
If you go for it, your chances of winning are 65 percent-plus the chance the Colts don't score from the 30.
So the percentage play is to go for it.
The problem I have is why did Belichick line up shotgun on third-and-2 and fourth-and-2?
Do two runs there, and the Colts would have been out of timeouts, and the two-minute warning.
A: So again, Mike, every time over the last 10 years that Belichick hasn’t gone for it on fourth-and-short from that part of the field you’ve ripped him, correct? Because by your math he’s been wrong every single time, other than the Atlanta game.
And I’m not sure I trust all the numbers I’ve seen this week. Is there enough of a sample size to really show that going for it on fourth-and-2 from your own 28 will be successful 65 percent of the time? And do the odds change when you factor in that there is no chance the Pats are running on the play? Or that the Colts have the No. 1 ranked defense in the NFL? Or that there is also zero chance that the Pats go deep? When you look at the play, isn’t the better template a two-point conversion? I think so. Both are two yards and one play only, with the deep ball a non-factor. And the league two-point conversion rate? Usually around 45-50 percent.
I agree that there should have been a run on third down. Make them burn that final timeout. We disagree on the fourth down call, I think you punt and leave the Colts with no timeouts and 70-75 yards to go with 1:45 left the in the game.
(And as it turns out it was actually a bad break for the Pats that the near-INT on third down wasn’t picked caught and returned for a TD. Would’ve been down one with 1:50 or so left in the game with a timeout.)
I usually appreciate the reasoned, level-headed approach you offer in your columns, and I'm hoping, after a few days of mulling the situation over, you can offer me some perspective. Are you sure about your claim that Belichick's call ranks third among bad decisions by Boston coaches? Little's decision likely cost the Red Sox the World Series, as did McNamara's. Truth is, even with this loss the Patriots are probably just as likely to go on to win the Super Bowl. If they do, this call will be entirely forgotten. And if they don't, this call won't be the ultimate reason. In fact, I'm not even sure Belichick's mistake was the worst one made this weekend - it took your boy Springsteen half a set list before he realized he wasn't in Ohio, and Obama failed to remember the names of Reagan or Gorbachev in his address regarding the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Those two gaffes were just as dopey if not worse than Belichick's, don't you think?
A: First, a Springsteen defense. The guy is 428 years old and is wrapping up a two-year tour. Give him a break. I've been to fifty-plus Springsteen shows and I can tell you there is a pretty good chance the guy is battling middle-stage dementia. His teleprompter is about the size of Delaware and he still forgets lyrics to songs he's done for 35 years. So a little sympathy for the greatest songwriter/live performer this country has ever produced, okay?
I do agree that this loss doesn't do much to hurt the Pats chances of getting to the Super Bowl. Really, after watching that game on Sunday does anyone fear another trip to Indy? So maybe they wind up with the three seed instead of the one or two. What road game scares you? At Cincy? San Diego? Denver? (Though I give Denver almost no shot of making the playoffs. I think they are more likely to finish 8-8 than 11-5.) The team that would worry me the most is Pittsburgh, I guess. But I’d give the Pats about a 50/50 shot in an AFC Title Game in Pittsburgh. But, I think even with a win on Sunday night the Pats still wouldn't have wound up with the one seed. They still would have been a game behind and the Colts have, I think, the easier schedule of the two teams.
I actually think they are going to lose this week, but that's it. So if they had lost to the Pats that would put them at 14-2. And you have to figure New England loses at least once the rest of the season, right? Probably a week from Monday at New Orleans. So they would have still been a game back. But if you think the two seed and the bye is crucial (and of course it has been historically) then the loss on Sunday could turn out to be huge. But (a) I still think they could wind up with the two seed at 12-4 and (b) they could win a pair of road games in the playoffs.
I know he made your "Never Mute" list, but Al Michaels was shaky during that last drive. He had no clue what was going on with the timeouts and whether or not the refs could overturn the call. Not his finest hour and in fact was quite "Muteable". I'm sure Gil and Gino were on top of things, or at least were aware of what was happening.
A: I think Al might've had a rougher fourth quarter than Belichick, Dan. You could tell he didn’t think the Pats were going for it until the ball was snapped. He just seemed about a second behind the action for the next five minutes or so.
(Not that it would have ever happened, but NBC should have had Rodney Harrison and Tony Dungy in the booth with Al on Sunday. One-time only deal. Are you telling me that Collinsworth has better insight on the Pats or the Colts? )
As the Pats were coming out over the ball for a fourth-and-2 from their own 28, I smiled and shook my head in disbelief. I looked at my brother and said “You gotta love this guys balls, but this is just wrong.” I don’t care how you slice it. It is the worst decision by the best coach I have ever seen in my life.
BB had a frosted mini-wheats moment. The pragmatic coach in me says punt, but the “fearless genius” in me says go for it from your own 28.
Sorry little Bill, even if you think Peyton is going drive the field in 2 minutes, sometimes you have to make the other guy prove it. Here are things that Bill Belichick Ball Washers will likely point to in an attempt to re-direct this.
Faulk made the first down anyway. Don’t care; results don’t justify a bad decision. If you buy a roll of scratch tickets and scratch yourself five grand, that doesn’t make it a good business plan.
Maroney’s fumble is what cost them the game. I agree, two hands on the ball at the goal line Dorothy, but they were still in a position to win post fumble-ru-ski.
Belichick doesn’t think like other coaches. When the hell did 200 plow drivers from Billerica get psychology degrees? That and I don’t give a bleep how he thinks; he was w-w-wrong. Sound it out and then go sand your lots you townie meatballs.
The defense couldn’t stop Peyton Manning. Yeah yeah I know it was inevitable like global warming, or a craptastic Wayans Brothers movie. What game was everyone else watching? Other than Reggie Wayne, who caught everything, I didn’t think the rest of the Colts receivers were anything special and that includes Dallas Clark.
Lost in the whole damn thing is Sebastian Vollmer has cemented a starting job, and I think Nick Kaczur has lost his upon the return of Matt Light. Kaczur was the only player I thought was more terrible than Maroney and got absolutely dominated by Mathis last night.
Overall I think the Patriots outplayed the Colts in every aspect of the game and simply out-coached themselves in the most critical game of the season so far. I’m sure all week we will hear the BBBW calling to tell us Bill thought the D couldn’t stop Peyton, or Bill thought they could win the game right there. Or Bill thought they had a play to get two yards.
Well, pa-dukes had a saying when I was young and it applies in this situation.
Bill thought he farted, but he (pooped) his pants.
A: Great call on Vollmer, Jake. Looked like an All-Pro on Sunday against a guy that has been a nightmare for the Pats over the years.
Seven punts and two picks. To me, that’s not an offense that cannot be stopped. I would take my chances with a six-point lead and Colts needing to go 70-75 yards with no timeouts every single time. Don’t care if it’s fourth and an inch at the 28. I’m punting every time in that spot. And one final thought for the BBBW, as you call them, Jake. Imagine that it wasn’t Belichick that made that move over the weekend, but Norv Turner. Would you still be defending it? Or it would be fodder for Whiner Line calls and skits?
And I assume you are not including “White Chicks” in your craptastic list of Wayans Brothers movies. A seminal piece of modern art, and I think both Daniel Day-Lewis and Max Von Sydow should have been nominated for their work in the film.
Enjoy what will be essentially the AFC East clincher on Sunday. 38-10, Pats.