While I was returning from my parents' house last night for dinner, I turned on the radio to listen to the Sunday night game. At the time, the Pats were leading the Colts 34-21. Game over, I thought. So, I switched to other stations. Around the time I got home, I switched back to hear the game called - 35-34 Colts. WTF?
Apparently, the game was decided on a 4th and 2, on the Patriots' 28 yard line, where the Pats' coach decided to go for the first down instead of punting. For those of you who don't know, this means that rather than kick the ball downfield to the other team, the Patriots attempted to move the ball forward by two yards. They failed, and the Pats lost.
Now, I have seen and heard from both sides of the debate - from those who thought this was a terrible idea, to those who don't - and all I can say is, it was an awful, mind-blowingly bad decision. Don't get me wrong, coaches tend to punt the ball way too often. Yesterday, Andy Reid, the Eagles coach, kicked field goals instead of trying to score touchdowns and his team lost because of it. And punting when the team is at the 50 yard line is equally bad.
But this was different. At 2:08, the Pats were up by six points - meaning that a touchdown and an extra point would win the game for the Colts with just two minutes left in the game. The Colts weren't just trying to score, but had to do so in two minutes - possible, but difficult. By going for it on fourth down, the Patriots cut down the number of yards the Colts needed to move the ball from seventy to thirty.
Moreover, even if the Patriots had gotten the first down, there's no indication that they would have been able to kill the clock - the Pats, after all, can't run the football, and the Colts had both timeouts and the two minute warning coming up. In other words, there was no guarantee that the Pats would've won the game had they gotten the first down. At this point, all Belicheck needed to do was milk the clock. Again, making the Colts go seventy yards (as opposed to thirty yards) was the right thing to do at that moment.