The League

Jeff Nelson
Panelist

Jeff Nelson

Sports Correspondent and the Wes Welker/Dante Hall of flag football.

Great move, Bill

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To be clear, I don't like the Patriots. I was rooting for the Colts on Sunday night and will root for them again, should they face the Patriots in the playoffs. I am also not a Bill Belichick fan. Sometime admirer, yes. But not a fan.

That being said, I loved his fourth-down decision more than I can probably articulate. Immediately after the Patriots failed on third and 2, I started to preach the merits of going for it to my wife, then leapt from the couch in excitement when the offense came back on the field.

I certainly understand why nearly every coach would punt in that situation, and quite frankly, if I were a coach, I might have punted, too. I'm not sure I would have had the footballs to go for it, even though I would have wanted to.

The luxury Belichick has -- something most coaches do not -- is infinite job security and three Super Bowl rings, so he was able to make the right call. And going for it was the right call.

Basically, he had to weigh which of these two options was preferable:

1) Counting on his defense to stop Peyton Manning with 80 yards (if not less) to go and two minutes remaining.

2) Counting on his offense to gain two yards.

Option one is the safe, conventional route, seemingly impervious to criticism. There's a chance the Patriots defense would have made a stop, or the clock would have run out, or the Colts offense would have made a mistake. It happened earlier in the game and certainly could have happened again. I understand why virtually everyone would choose Option one.

Yet Option two is still better. Manning has reached a point in his career where he always seems to finish those drives. He had just done it on two of the Colts' last three possessions, and this was not a 13-7 lead the Patriots were protecting. This was 34-28, a high-scoring, offensive game. Belichick's odds of gaining two yards with his offense had to seem better than preventing the Colts from gaining as many as 80 yards.

Regardless of odds or percentages or conventional wisdom, though, Sunday night's decision came down to personal philosophy. Would you rather be the defender or the aggressor? Would you rather have the fate of your football team in your best player's hands, or their best player's hands? Would you rather sit back and essentially hope everything works out, or take action and try to make everything work out?

I still don't like the Patriots, and Bill Belichick's personality still grates on me. But on the night he made what most will consider the biggest mistake of his Patriots tenure, I wished more than ever that he was the coach of my team.

By Jeff Nelson  |  November 16, 2009; 11:16 AM ET  | Category:  Indianapolis Colts , New England Patriots Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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You can't be serious. Maybe you should have ran the first down for him or maybe he should have ran it himself. Such a huge EGO...What did your wife think about you and Belichick's fantasy call?

Posted by: Tjoel | November 16, 2009 3:33 PM

Jeff's analysis is bang on. Remember when the Vermeil's Chiefs went for the TD against the Raiders with three seconds on the clock, down by three, instead of kicking a FG for overtime? They went for the win, because the offense was hot and the defense sucked. Right call. This was too. Risk taking pays off sometimes, and sometimes it doesn't. A calculated risk pays off more often than not.

Posted by: NotABlogger | November 16, 2009 6:24 PM

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