Did Bill Belichick Make the Right Call?

INDIANAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 15: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots watches play in the fourth quarter of the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 15, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Colts won the game 35-34. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Well, there has been a ton of discussion about whether Bill Belichick made the right call in the instant classic game between the Patriots and the Colts this past Sunday night. Because of that, I thought I’d compile a list of links to several stories (with synopses of some) to get many different takes on this. At the end, I’ll throw in my own thoughts on the call.

Tedy Bruschi’s take: It was an insult to the defense.

Gene Wojciechowski: Belichick flunked his open-book test

Mike Nadel: It’s what Belichick does.

Ron Borges: Maybe temporary insanity?

Advanced NFL Statistics: Statistically, the 4th down call made more sense.

More after the link.

Gregg Easterbrook (Tuesday Morning Quarterback): Right call.

Steve Politi: Einstein had headscratching mistakes, too.

Anthony Stalter (The Scores Report): Belichick out-thought himself.

David Whitley (nfl.fanhouse.com): Nothing wrong with call.

Neil Paine and Chase Stuart (Pro-Football-Reference.com): It was the right call, statistically.

I think that’s enough links for now. Feel free to add links relating to this topic in the comments.

I have read through several discussion and statistical analyses, and I do not think that there is a foolproof definite answer on this question at all. As much as we want to say unequivically that it was the wrong call or the right call, and for whatever reasons, it’s like I’ve heard game commentators say time and again. If it works, it’s the right call. If not, it’s the wrong call. In this case, it almost worked, because, if Faulk had secured the catch cleanly, he likely would have had the first down. As was he bobbled it, was pushed back before he secured it, and was marked short. Perhaps Belichick should have accounted for the pressure of the situation, the noise, etc. and taken the safe call. But, he did not. And, who’s to say that it really was the safe call. At the start of the 4th quarter, New England had a 17 point lead. Peyton Manning had already directed two touchdown drives of 79 yards each. But, on the other Colts drive prior to this call, Manning had been intercepted.

I think it really comes down to this: it’s called a crazy call because no other coach would have made the call. Certainly, no coach without the organizational clout that Belichick has with the Patriots would have made that call. I also think that it shows that Belichick believes that the offense is the strength of his team now, moreso than the defense. He put the game in the hands of his offense, believing that they had a better shot at gaining two yards than his defense did of stopping the Colts’ offense from scoring another touchdown. So, maybe Bruschi was right. Maybe he did insult his defense.

If it had been me, I would gone with the quick kick and hope for one of those 60-70 yard rollers like the one Randall Cunningham got back in the day. But, that’s why he get’s paid the big bucks, to make those decisions.


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