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Ted Madden: Defending Belichick

by TED MADDEN / WFAA-TV

wfaa.com

Posted on November 16, 2009 at 2:17 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 16 at 2:21 PM

Quick reset from last night's Colts-Patriots game. Patriots up by 6 points, just over 2 minutes remain. Colts had one timeout left. Pats had a 4th and 2 from their own 28-yard line, and head coach Bill Belichick decided to go for it. The pass was bobbled and caught, but shy of the first down. Colts got the ball back needing only 30 yards to score the winning touchdown, which they did with 13 seconds left in the game.

In the post-game show, Rodney Harrison called it the worst coaching decision he's ever seen Belichick make. Tony Dungy said you have to punt there and play the percentages. I woke up to hear the Musers saying You have to punt the ball in that situation.  I disagree. I absolutely loved the call to go for it; loved it before the snap, and even after it failed I think it was the right call.

I'd love to know how everyone reacts if they make the first down, although I think we already know. Is Belichick a genius? Do we hear announcers say "That's why he's the best coach in football"? We'll never know, but we do know there wouldn't be the outrage that we are hearing from last night and today.

Point is, the decision is what needs to be criticized, not the result. And I thought the decision was a good one (side note: I had a huge Colts fan text me this: "I am sick of Belichick getting railed for it. I know that as a fan, I was excited when he was going to punt and devistated when he decided to go for it.") If you're a Colts fan, how do you feel when Belichick decides to go for it? How much of an "oh crap, he's going for it" reaction do you have? If you're a Colts fan, wouldn't you much rather have the Pats punt there and take your chances with Manning, 2 minutes, a time out, and 70 yards to go?

Dungy mentioned playing the percentages, but what are they? What are the chances the Pats offense make the 4th and 2? I would say, conservatively, somewhere in the neighborhood of 50%. What are the chances that the Manning-led Colts drive 70 yards for a touchdown in 2 minutes with one timeout? Maybe 40% -- but I might guess better than that. So if those percentages are close to accurate, then Belichick was looking at about a coin toss anyway, and he wanted to at least be in control of it.

Keep in mind the Pats threw it on 2nd down and 10, with the thought in mind that they were trying to get the first down and win the game and not just run the ball three times and force the Colts to use all their time outs. They completed the pass, so there was never another mention of that decision. But if Brady's throw is incomplete, we're probably hearing Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth wonder why you throw it and stop the clock in that situation.

If you think Belichick made the wrong decision, then criticize that and not the result. And I don't think the decision was nearly as black-or-white as most talking heads would have you believe.

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