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In Wilbon's World

Belichick's arrogance

Ask yourself if Vince Lombardi, with his team leading by six points, would have gone for it on fourth and 2 from his own 28 with two minutes to play in the game? You think Don Shula would have made that call? Tom Landry. No, of course not.

Let's recap: Down six, on the road, you can force Peyton Manning go 70 yards for the win if you punt. If you go for it and fail on fourth down, Manning needs just 29 yards to win the game. It's a no-brainer right? Ask yourself if Chuck Noll would have gone for it in such a situation. Joe Gibbs? Bill Walsh. No, of course not.

But no great coach, no head coach with multiple Super Bowl victories, would have made that call -- except the most arrogant great coach of them all, Bill Belichick. And the decision to try and pick up those two yards in Indianapolis last night instead of punting, fittingly, is the most arrogant end-of-game decision I've ever seen in 40-plus years of watching pro football.

Not surprisingly, Tom Brady said he loved the call; would you really expect the Golden Boy QB to publicly second-guess his coach in the moments immediately following one of the most dramatic endings in modern NFL history? But you'll forgive me if I take my cue from one of Belichick's former players, Rodney Harrison now of NBC's "Football Night in America," who has the guts to talk it like he played it. Harrison was honest enough to tell the viewers that his old coach, a man he respects and loves, made a "the worst decision" he'd ever seen.

It was arrogant. It sounded logical enough when Belichick said later that he figured that one fourth-down conversion was going to win the game. The Patriots would make the fourth down, keep Manning on the bench, take a knee three times, then punt with 30 seconds left or whatever, and win the game.

See, the problem with that is fourth-and-anything is no gimme. Quarterbacks fumble snaps. Guards step on quarterbacks' feet. Backs miss blocks on blitzing linebackers. Receivers drop passes. Officials make bad spots. The other guy makes a great tackle. All the time. That's why coaches are so hesitant to go for it on fourth down even when they absolutely have to, even from the other side of mid-field when they're trailing. They're loathe to do it.

Belichick simply figured his play run by his guys was absolutely certain to pick up the necessary first-down yardage. Yeah, he wanted to keep Manning off the field, but I'd bet everything I own that was a secondary consideration. The Patriots D had already grabbed two interceptions off Manning in the game. And if you have that much respect for Manning, don't you want him to go 70 yards minimum to win the game?

Oh, this was Belichick having watched his team go up and down the turf in Indy, feeling like he did two years ago when the Patriots were undefeated going into the Super Bowl, saying to himself, "We control the events here. All of them." So he went for it.

If the play works, we're in awe of the Patriots again. They're 7-2, they knocked the Colts from the ranks of the undefeated again, they're looking like the best team in the AFC again, what with Brady healthy and firing rockets to Randy Moss. If that play works you could have cued the Gladiator music because the Patriots would have been on their invincible train once again.

Of course, we'd feel exactly the same way if the New England punter had kicked it, oh, 50 yards on fourth down. That would have put Manning 80 yards from glory, not less than 30. And as great as Manning is, going 80 on the Patriots is difficult stuff.

Even in the worst-case scenario -- a miraculous long TD drive -- Belichick would have demonstrated that he has some confidence in his defense after giving them the chance to do what they'd done so often during this thriller: stop Manning. The Colts hadn't punted so many times in the first half since the early '90s. The Patriots defense wasn't playing like a bunch of chumps. Their coach should have had more faith in them.

But Belichick wanted to steamroll the Colts. Other coaches know he doesn't respect their teams and, in many cases, dislike him intensely for it. Oh, Belichick says all the magnanimous things during mid-week and postgame news conferences so he'll have some cover when he goes out to hang 50 or 60 on somebody. This isn't wild conjecture. Every coach in the league, even the ones who used to work for Belichick, knows he wants to cut his opponent's heart out and step on it at the end of the game.

He's not satisfied with winning the game; he wants to rub the other guy's face in it. He's a great, great, great coach and also he wants to see the other guy squirm. So what better way to end the evening than put his foot on Indy's throat and remind the Colts what team is ready to reclaim the AFC?

Don't get me wrong, it made for wonderful theatre. Brady/Belichick/New England have for an entire decade. And I wasn't taken entirely by surprise that Belichick shoved all his chips to the middle of the table. The moment NBC went to commercial break and Brady was still on the field, having called time, I started dialing up friends because I knew Belichick was going for it. It's who he is at this point.

But if I wonder if anybody in the Patriots locker room is going to roll his eyes the next time Belichick starts talking about the advantages of playing field position football, and about playing smart football. I've had enough conversations with Belichick to know that while it sounds like a cliché, he's slavishly devoted to putting his players in the best possible position to win.

Except Sunday night, Belichick's actions said to hell with field position, with playing smart football. He put his defense in position to fail because they weren't about to stop Peyton Manning from moving the Colts those 29½ yards to win the game.

Is it going to hurt the Patriots in the end? Probably not. Nobody's taking away those three Super Bowl trophies. Belichick isn't going to be denied entry to the Hall of Fame. But for one night, Belichick killed own team, not the opponent. That, if nothing else, makes what happened Sunday night in Indy an affair worth remembering.


Michael Wilbon

 |  November 16, 2009; 8:07 AM ET  |  Category:  NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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HUH? I mean -- He knows his team, he know's the DL is gassed and he knows that Manning is hot. Maybe it's not ARROGANCE. Maybe he was PROTECTING his team -- even if it angered his defense. Why is it when people who are quiet and confident and do what they think is right have to be torn down and accused of being arrogant. He did what HE thought was the best thing to win the game. What does Lombardi, Landry and anyone else have to do with that? Where do you get these assumptions?

Posted by: washinFLA | November 19, 2009 3:38 PM
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In the rarified era of great quarterbacks a couple or three come to mind when thinking about late game heroics and the abiltiy to act so seamingly with will. Elway, Montana, Unitis and add Manning (the older brother) to the list. It isn't that Belicheck did not trust his defense. He knows Manning lives for this very situation. Like a junk yard dog going after a steak, he devours teams that chance to put the ball in his hand with the game on the line. I don't care if it is 28 or 99 yards. With 2 minutes left, Manning rules. If the Patriots are gulty of anything, it was horrible clock management. Belichick-Arrogant, Yes. But come on Wilbon, you're being a little harsh in this instance. He made a judgement call in a game that his defense and his offense kept him in. Both played well and his decision to go with the offense was at most a coin flip. I thought it was a good call.

Posted by: Magee1 | November 19, 2009 10:53 AM
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There's something I don't understand here...why are so many people jumping down Wilbon's throat??? If you had your own blog you could write your opinion's down for the world to see too. Heck you can start a blog of your own for free people!!! Get off his tail...he's paid to write and his blog is just an open forum to agree or disagree.

I agree with Wilbon! Bill "Beli-gance" was way out of control on Sunday. Any other time he would have trusted his defense. This was personal against Payton, not respect. He doesn't care about the new coach of the Colts enough to exercise his "evil powers" of domination against him. He wants to keep Payton away from completing an undefeated season like his "golden-boy" Tom Brady. And Tommy-B himself agrees with "Beli-gance" because he wants to one-up Payton too!

They tried to pull off one of those situations in Madden 2010 as if the Colts were being controlled by the games A.I. "Not so fast"...even on the video game it's better to punt in that situation than to have the computer stop you and score to win the game!

Posted by: haycoach | November 19, 2009 8:30 AM
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If I was in Belichick's shoes I would of punted the ball and trusted my defense to stop Manning instead of there being a chance of giving the Colts a shorter field to score on. The bigger issue is the Patriots poor use of their timeouts. As for Mr. Wilbon's column, I think it was a bit arrogant and disrespectful of Belichick but, not totally out of line.

Posted by: confroom | November 19, 2009 12:36 AM
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ok, wilbon, we get it. you hate bill belichick. you've never made any bones about it, either in print or on tv. there can be no other explanation as to why you refer to the fourth-and-2 call as "the most arrogant, end-of-game decision i've ever seen in 40-plus years of watching pro football." for someone as intelligent, worldly and knowledgeable as you, this seems especially peculiar. do you really think he made the call because he's arrogant and wanted to steamroll the other team and thus put his own self-interest ahead of that of the patriots as a whole? you can not agree with his decision, but to analyze it as such and come to the conclusion you have makes me wonder what your real intentions with this column were. as one of your biggest fans, someone who tivos your show every day so as to never miss it, i'm a bit disappointed. maybe bill belichick is arrogant. but that has nothing to do with his decision last sunday night. as a long-time follower of the nfl, you should be able to discern this.

Posted by: jmg2727 | November 18, 2009 4:27 PM
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Did no one notice the second-paragraph error? The Pats were up by 6 not down, but that isn't the worst in this poor second-guess diatribe.

Since Wilbon mentioned all the hypothetical things that can go wrong on a run let's consider all the things that can go wrong on a punt:

It can be blocked and returned for a TD.

The punter can mishandle the snap and lead to a TD or safety.

The punter can get off a shank, so that there is much less than 70 yards remaining.

The punt can be returned for a TD

In the 'old days' coaches often would punt on third down to allow a second chance if a fumbled snap occurred.

Posted by: desatonyp | November 18, 2009 1:52 PM
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hindsight2040 : It's all in the interpretation of where the ball is placed. The imaginary yellow line is not the "true" first down marker. Also, it was confirmed by both Al Michaels and Chris Collingsworth that Faulk was juggling the ball. Possession is clearly defined as control. The control part was clearly short of the first down. Do you doubt the opinions of Michaels/Collingsworth? ;-)

Posted by: twymant | November 18, 2009 12:20 PM
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Wilbon, I can usually follow you, but this thing with Belichick smacks of a personal vendetta. Sometimes the Monday morning QB'ing goes too far. The Patriots have two great squads, the Offense and the Defense. If Beli pulls the offense on the play, then he has a pissd off offense crying "You don't trust us, coach." Instead he and decided to give them the shot and the defense cried (maybe). It's only two yards, call it three to be absolutely certain. Everything you said that could go wrong on fourth down, could just as easily have happened on any of the first three downs. Fourth down isn't special, except for what you attempt with it, as with airing it out on first down, chancing an interception, or a sack, or a fumble, etc. The Patriots make fourth down far more often than not and far more often than any other team I know of in the league. So why not. I get the reasoning. I don't call it arrogant, I call it a realistic assessment of his team. It just didn't work out this time. If it had the pundits would have been yelling about Belichick's genius. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but for those who haven't played a sport at the professional level, or won anything like multiple Super Bowls, to slam Belichick takes some very large ones. Stick to basketball next time, you tend to be more right there than wrong. I don't agree with everything you there, but having played the sport at all levels and won far more often than not, I can make allowances. But, I miss George Michael, he'd never have let you get away with this blog without a few choice comments.

Posted by: flyfisher_20750 | November 17, 2009 11:32 PM
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Belichick's decision to go for it on 4th and 2 was NOT due to arrogance, but due to the clear and simple fact that Peyton Manning is in his head. Belichick knows how much trouble the Patriots have had trying to stop Manning in the Dome.

Back in 2003 the Patriots blew a big first half lead only to stop them at the end of the game at the goal line on 4th down. In the 2006 AFC Championship game, the Patriots blew a big first half lead, and late in the 4th quarter they had the ball on their own 44 yard line on 4th down and 4 and punted the ball. The Colts got the ball scored a TD, won the game, and went on to easily beat the Bears in the Super Bowl.

Now here we are, it's 4th and 2 on the Patriots' 28 yard line. Belichick's probably thinking his injury depleated defense won't be able to stop Manning in a hurry-up, two minute drive. He's seen this before. So he figures he's got a better chance with his offense who's racked up 470 yards and 34 points than with his defense.

Trust me when I tell you that with ANY other QB, Belichick punts the ball away in that situation. Even in his next day press conference, he's going on how the Addai once scored on a 70 yard dump pass. He obsesses over how quickly the Colts can score and it has rattled him to the core.

Arrogant? No. Scared of Manning? Yes.

Posted by: duffman1 | November 17, 2009 6:09 PM
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This play has gotten more scrutiny than the JFK assassination. In retrospect, it was a gutsy, but lousy call. If they make the first down, which they probably do about 75% of the time, it's a non-discussion and Belichick is hailed as a genius. Peyton Manning had plenty of time to move the team 30 yards, 70 yards or 90 yards. Figure Manning it's about a 60% chance that Manning drives the length of the field anyway. If they make the first down, NE gets a guaranteed win. Not making it, the Colts obviously had a huge advantage. Manning might be the best QB in history and Belichick didn't want to put the ball back in his hands. I'll agree that it was a mistake, but it's not the dumbest or most arrogant thing that I've ever seen, by a mile.

Posted by: randysbailin | November 17, 2009 3:41 PM
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hey mofares...
According to the Dictionary (Princeton publishing). The phrase "Golden Boy" is defined below:

a man who is unusually successful at an early age [syn: wonder boy] "

I do not see any "Racist" connotation.
In fact, Wilbon was dead-on in his reference to Brady.. He was VERY successful as a young QB.. I believe nearly the youngest to win a Super Bowl..
mofares wrote:

Golden Boy QB is a racist remark Wilbon...If anyone said something like that about a black QB you would have written twenty articles...Give me a break!

Posted by: mofares | November 17, 2009 2:46 PM

Posted by: SkinsneedaGM | November 17, 2009 3:15 PM
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If the Patriots "D" wants their Coach's 'respect', then maybe they should have gotten some 4th Quarter Stops.

Yes, the Pats had two interceptions and forced a bunch of punts in the first half. In the first half, Bill probably punts. But that first half Pats D wasn't on the field anymore.

In the fourth quarter, the Colts were ripping through the Pats D like it wasn't even there, and just had an 80 yard TD drive in less than 2 minutes. They Colts had made adjustments and were now dominating a Pats D that looked pretty gassed.

So what would you do, punt the ball, go prevent defense, and watch Peyton get to the Pats 30 in about 40 seconds? Belicheck can do the conventional, non-risky thing and then blame his players for failing. Or he can gamble and take all the heat. It may be unwise, and maybe it's arrogant, but it's also brave. (Remember Pete Carroll going for it in the Rose Bowl against Vince Young.)

The Pats D proved Belicheck was right to make the gamble. The way they played on the last drive, Peyton could have gone 90 yards if he'd needed to.

Posted by: dlgood | November 17, 2009 3:13 PM
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Golden Boy QB is a racist remark Wilbon...If anyone said something like that about a black QB you would have written twenty articles...Give me a break!

Posted by: mofares | November 17, 2009 2:46 PM
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Hey, mark_fitzhenry
Belichick hasnt been to the playoffs since the NFL instituted Defensive headsets so signals cannot be stolen. This was implemented directly due to what BB was fined for. Those 3 SB wins and his legacy are tainted.

He runs up scores, walks off the field before the Superbowl had ended (loss to Gints), continued to violate NFL filming policies even though warned.

Off field lack of gets better.. just read the Divorce warrant from the husband of BB's ex receptionist..


@LeahCima, who says the Pats' record isn't so great since he can't tape othger teams' practices:

1. The Pats were never found guilty of taping another team's practice. It was filming from an illegal location during games.

2. Since Mangini turned him in, the Pats' record is 34-9.

Find another cheap shot, please.

Posted by: mark_fitzhenry | November 17, 2009 11:13 AM
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Posted by: SkinsneedaGM | November 17, 2009 2:24 PM
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"they weren't about to stop Peyton Manning from moving the Colts those 29½ yards to win the game."

"going 80 on the Patriots is difficult stuff." "a miraculous long TD drive"

What is it about the extra 50 yards that makes Manning's job change from a certainty to difficult, even requiring a miracle?

Did Wilbon see how easily the Colts covered the 30 yards? What makes him think the other 50 would be so tough? Do these people even watch the football games they write about?

Posted by: Bentall | November 17, 2009 2:19 PM
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For those of us that look at the box score it goes against all logic. People like me go to count our win column during the fourth quarter. Playing the clock against the distance probably would of made more sense. In the end game the coach feels the trend in the game and does what thinks will when the game. This one goes beyond the numbers .......the probabilities don't account for coaching expertise, formations and heart.

Posted by: howard_sergio | November 17, 2009 1:24 PM
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That's the most arrogant headline I have ever seen!


Posted by: kkckjs6p | November 17, 2009 1:09 PM
Report Offensive Comment if he makes the down is he still arrogant?

Posted by: mark2008 | November 17, 2009 12:23 PM
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GUTS. The coach has guts! Don't mistake arrogance for guts! Win at all costs! In it, to win it! The Beli-philosohy!

Posted by: banks1214 | November 17, 2009 11:59 AM
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@LeahCima, who says the Pats' record isn't so great since he can't tape othger teams' practices:

1. The Pats were never found guilty of taping another team's practice. It was filming from an illegal location during games.

2. Since Mangini turned him in, the Pats' record is 34-9.

Find another cheap shot, please.

Posted by: mark_fitzhenry | November 17, 2009 11:13 AM
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The people ragging on Belichick ignore the fact that if they Patriots had gotten the first down, they would have won the game right there. And the decision looks much worse if you see the two sides of the coin as "Colts start at NE29" and "Colts start at own 30." There are really three parts to the equation.

Belichick decided (and I think he made the right decision) that the probability that (A) they could get the first down was greater than the probability that (B) his defense could stop the Colts from driving 70 yards in two minutes. He decided that the probability of B was 0, since the Colts had already driven 70 yards and scored in two minutes TWICE in the fourth quarter. He decided that the probability of A was more than 0, so he went for it.

It may look like arrogance to some, but it's really just analysis. Wilbon is right, any other coach with that SAME team would probably choose to punt. I think that would be the wrong decision. Those coaches would probably choose to punt partially to avoid looking stupid - you look a lot dumber if they score from your 29 than if they drive the whole field to do so. However, Belichick has shown before he could care less what everybody thinks of him.

Posted by: mldickens | November 17, 2009 11:06 AM
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You are so off Wilbon. I hate the pats and even I have to say this was the right call and it wasn't because of arrogance.

First of all the statistics bear out that this was the correct percentage play.

Second the momentum was all on Indy's offense side. It's a game of momentum, it doesn't matter what the Pats D did in quarters 1-3, they were getting CRUSHED in the 4th quarter and Bill knows exactly how devastating the colts 2 minute offense is. He didn't want to see it and can you really blame him given the momentum??

Third, you and many other so called experts have been indicating that this is a lack of confidence in the defense, but having confidence in his offense is labeled as "arrogance". What hypocritical donkey crap is that? In a high scoring game where it's clear which unit is performing and which is not, why don't you put your confidence and the ball with the best player you have, with the side of the ball that is performing.

It's not "arrogance" to put the game in your best players hands and not in the hands of your defense which has failed you all quarter, it's what a good coach would do.

Posted by: REXskins | November 17, 2009 11:02 AM
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This is a simple one:

If you can't keep the other team from driving 70 plus yards in under two minutes to win the game...YOU DON'T DESERVER THE VICTORY!!! And guess what?


Belichick's decision says it all! It was the only thing he could do, because his defense can't keep the other teams offense out of the endzone when it counts! And to prove this point...they let Payton Manning and The Colts drive all of the 29 yards before them to score the winning TD! So what would have been another 40 yards?

But of course you do have to do the smart thing here. You punt! Why? Because it's the best chance to win!!! Alot can happen in a final drive of the game. Having to go 70 plus yards allows for more chances to stop the Colts than a drive that only has to go 29yrds. And to another factor in this poor decision is "Payton Manning"! HELLO!!! Does anyone think if the shoe was on the other foot, Caldwell would have made the same decision? HELL NO!!! He's looking at Capt. Comeback on the other side of the field. You put your opponent as far from your goal as possile.

For all you out there who thought this was the right call...I ask you. Would he have made the same call if this was the playoffs?

Posted by: ekbinion68 | November 17, 2009 10:54 AM
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Here is what would have happened. The Pats would have given the Colts enough sideline passes to have them right back to the 29 1/2 with plenty of time left.

Posted by: gjrhine | November 17, 2009 10:50 AM
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Posted by: blazerguy234 | November 17, 2009 10:46 AM
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Mike, where's Tony? You need him to function as a sports writer. You flail around on your own and need him to bounce ideas off of.
Congratulations, for living in a neighborhood that the policemen who pull you over in (dwb, by the way) can't ("I shouldn't go here, but, will") "dream of buying in". Who is the arrogant one? Skewed logic, at best.

Posted by: KDSmallJr | November 17, 2009 10:40 AM
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On the money. What all the Belichick and Pats defenders/enablers miss is just because you can spin a plausible explanation for your decision, does mean it’s not an arrogant decision. Here’s the Webster’s definition of arrogant: “exaggerating or disposed to exaggerate one's own worth or importance often by an overbearing manner.” In this context, I’ll parphrase it to “I’m smarter than you and I’m not just gonna defeat you, I’m gonna humiliate you.” Pretty much fits my definition of arrogant. Wilbon got it right here - the motivation to go for it wasn’t brilliant risk taking, it was all ego and arrogance.

One of the reasons that sports has the revered place it has in our culture is that it can bring out some of the most wonderful qualities in people, and it can teach many important life lessons. Given the opportunity to lead and teach those quintessential American values and lessons, Belichick rather has chosen to be remembered as a brilliant, risk taking, tactician of the game; and more importantly a poor sportsman, a cheat, and an arrogant prick. At his inevitable and unfortunate induction into the football hall of Fame, Belichick will display the same grace and class that Michael Jordan showed at his induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame. It’s a shame.

Posted by: blackbear336 | November 17, 2009 9:02 AM
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everyone in the media and the reporter all you jerk miss the point. he went for the win, and when is going for the win a bad mistake or arrogance. he won superbowls and already won his divison, all he was doing was trying to tell the Colts that no matter how good your team are you can never beat us at our best and it didn,t work. there never nothing wrong for going for the win

Posted by: lostdogrwd1011 | November 17, 2009 8:15 AM
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I get tired of media heads touting their personal dislikes for some of the subjects they cover. Sure they have inside information and encounters with some of these athletes and coaches that we don't have, but I don't care about your personal feelings just as they do not respect the athlets/coaches right to be themselves.

All we know about these people is that they go out and play or coach. I seldom hear them talking about anything other than X's and O's.

Posted by: millineumman | November 17, 2009 7:58 AM
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One other thing: Belichick is one of the best NFL coaches. If he thinks that going for it was the best chance to win, who are we to argue?

When Bobby Fischer says the Sicilian is the best defense in chess, you have to accept that. When Jeff Meckstroth says you should open a weak 2 with 4 cards in the other major, you have to accept that.

So when Belichick says that in that situation, under the gun, going for it gave the best chance to win, you have to accept that. Maybe he is lying and now thinks it was a blunder, but I am not a good enuf NFL head coach to argue with him.

Posted by: PriorKnowledge | November 17, 2009 7:24 AM
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Peyton was going to drive for the score no matter where you gave him the ball. I think Belichicks resume allows him a little arrogance. As a struggling Redskin fan, I'd trade the entirety of our coaching staff for Belichick and his outsized ego.

Posted by: Parkerhill | November 17, 2009 7:15 AM
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BUT, being arrogant as a head coach of a football team is a good thing. I agree it was arrogant, and that is why he is so great.

How many people out there who say it was the wrong call, have coached a team to three rings?

You think Tiger Woods being double digits up in the last round would mail in a few holes out of sportsmanship? No sir. You crush your opponent. And then you let them know you crushed them. Next time you play them, you are already a touchdown or two over them.

You back yourself, and if it fails you cop it on the chin, like Belichick is doing right now. But the minute you question your judgement when you get paid big bucks to make calls, is the minute you get yourself on a road to failure. Just ask Jim Zorn.

Posted by: Berttw | November 17, 2009 6:39 AM
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This wasn't about arrogance. This was about getting a two-fer.

If he punted, his defense would have to stop Peyton Manning, one of the best QB ever. Yes, it would have been a longer drive, but 2:00 minutes is plenty of time.

But if you go for it and succeed, you win the game immediately. Even if you fail, your defense may still stop Manning. That's two chances to win the game rather than one.

Bridge players like me understand Belichick's logic.

Posted by: PriorKnowledge | November 17, 2009 6:38 AM
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Now, what is wrong with an arrogant coach again? Wasn't Michael Jordan the epitome of an arrogant player? I'm sure the coach is really concerned about what the media thinks about his decisions.

I am not a big fan of Belichick, but he's forgotten more about football than the combined knowledge of the people writing and replying to this article.

Posted by: TripleH44 | November 17, 2009 6:33 AM
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Arrogant? What does that mean?

That he will not kiss reporters where they sit?


But I think it is because he will not agree with them. He thinks he is the decider.

How quaint.

Oh, yes.

How arrogant.

Posted by: gary4books | November 17, 2009 5:46 AM
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Here are some statistics to back up his decision to go for it:

Posted by: blehargh | November 17, 2009 3:44 AM
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I don't think it was arrogant. I think it showed it showed the respect Belichick has for Peyton Manning.

By the late 4th quarter, the Pats defense appeared tired. Belichick obviously thought that he had a better chance to win the game by keeping his offense on the field and the ball in the hands of Tom Brady, instead of punting and having to put a tired defense on the field to stop Peyton Manning.

Was it the right call? In hindsight, no. But I don't think he made the call out of arrogance. Just the opposite. He made the call because he feared giving the Colts offense another chance late in the 4th quarter and figured he'd take a chance with the Colts defense.

Posted by: law_dog | November 16, 2009 11:25 PM
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I wonder if the Pats would have won if they were allowed to keep cheating? Their record is not so great since he can't record the other teams practices before he plays them.

Posted by: leahcima | November 16, 2009 10:27 PM
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It's a game!

Posted by: pdeblin | November 16, 2009 10:26 PM
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"Arrogant" would have been ignoring the pure statistics, which dictate that a team should go for it on 4th and 2. If anything, punting would have been arrogant - it would have showed that Belichick thinks he's smarter than cold, hard data.

And didn't Wilbon also praise Jim Zorn for being gutsy by "going for it" on 4th down, with a lead in the 4th quarter, after last year's Redskins-Saints game, to preserve a win? Give me a break.

Posted by: cali_snowboarder | November 16, 2009 9:23 PM
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Lot of interesting comments on this one. Last night when I saw the Patriots going for it on 4th and 2 I was surprised and thought they should punt. After giving it more thought, I don't blame Belichick for going for it (even though they didn't make it). It was 4th and 2, not 4th and 10. His decision to go for it wasn't arrogant in my opinion; of course there was a risk associated with going for it, but there would be risks if they punted it, too. Maybe Shula, Noll and Gibbs would have made a different call, but that doesn't necessarily make Belichick arrogant. It was a gutsy call that didn't work out, but I like the fact that there's at least one coach who's willing to take some risks.

Posted by: jcrotty | November 16, 2009 9:15 PM
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If you Post sports readers really want to get into the absurdity of this debate, see the NYTimes article on the computer program that agreed with Belichick.

Posted by: rogied25 | November 16, 2009 9:07 PM
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I wanted to write something long and drawn out to express how I feel about The Head Ball Coach's Ignominious Call... Instead I will just say....


Posted by: smith_avan | November 16, 2009 8:26 PM
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Ok, so why punt the ball at all in the fourth quarter? Why didn't he just keep going for first downs? Where is the logic?

Posted by: MILLER123 | November 16, 2009 8:12 PM
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I thought I was just sleepy and missed something:). I was shocked really shocked that this arrogant cheater would go for it at that place on the field.

Posted by: rlj1 | November 16, 2009 7:54 PM
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I don't know how anyone with any knowledge of football can defend this call.It was just plain stupid. If they make it they win. But if they don't make it, they almost certainly lose. The third, and much better option, would have been to punt it and probably win.

Posted by: TripLBee | November 16, 2009 7:19 PM
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Completely, utterly wrong, Wilbon. Belicheck went for the win. Didn't work out. His team was moving the ball up and down the field. I applaud the guts, and I would expect the Patriots to come out and play even tougher from here on out. Your analysis is utter and complete junk. Go back to the NBA.

Posted by: Handsome_John_Pruitt | November 16, 2009 7:00 PM
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By doing this, Belichick disprespected both the Colts defense and the Patriots defense. The result is only fitting: the Colts D stopped the Pats and the Pats D did not stop the Colts.

Posted by: didnik | November 16, 2009 6:37 PM
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I really don't understand any of this hoopla. Belichek obviously had more confidence in his offense getting 2 yards than his defense stopping Manning scoring a touchdown with 2 minutes and change. To suggest that this is the first time a coach went with this play is totally preposterous.

Check out this game between Cowboys-Eagles in 1995. Barry Switzer made the same call and lost the game to Philly. So this is not the first time such a thing has happened in the NFL and for God's sake this was the regular season and not a game they had to win !

Posted by: HarishR | November 16, 2009 5:57 PM
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You are just wrong. How can you assume that a Patriot's punt would put the Colts back at their 20? It is just as likely that it gets run back into Patriot territory, or is a 20 yard shankor even blocked. No matter the distance, Manning was showing that he could move it down the field in little time. The call made perfect sense. They make those two yards 8 out 10 times. Your attitude suggest extreme animus toward Belichick and the Patriots. Just why would you refer to Brady as "golden boy"? Are they supposed to lay down for teams that can't defend them? You want the NFL or Pop Warner? Your article is a major disappointment. You show little sense of objectivity in this column and for that I've lost a great deal respect for you as a sports pundit.

Posted by: jpdibuono | November 16, 2009 5:42 PM
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Posted by: donnolo | November 16, 2009 5:32 PM
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New England should beware of the Manning brothers. Don't they remember the Super Bowl?

Posted by: Gadder | November 16, 2009 5:18 PM
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I also remember a time before PTI when the POST had thoughtful insightful analysis and analysts. Too bad we use the FOX model of hubris and wild statements now.

Posted by: FormerMCPSStudent | November 16, 2009 5:13 PM
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Right call, wrong result. If the defense had been on the field most of the day, then all you have to do is remember the game film of Indy vs. Miami to see how easy the Colts can score given enough time.

"It is best to keep your mouth shut and be presumed ignorant than to open it and remove all doubt."

Posted by: FormerMCPSStudent | November 16, 2009 5:11 PM
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It is amazing to me that an arrogant punk a$$ sportswriter has the nerve to call ANYONE arrogant!

Posted by: whatyoutalkinboutman | November 16, 2009 4:59 PM
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Wilbon is wrong on this one. First of all the refs blew it.. it was a 1st down.

Belichick made the call because he could. At that point in the game, the Pats knew that they could play with the Colts anywhere come playoff time, so there was nothing to lose. I recall that Barry Sweitzer made a similar call against the Eagles (at the Cowboys 40 yard line) that also failed. Aikman would later go on to credit that call for giving them the confidence in themselves and believing in their coach. They won the Super Bowl that year. Could this call inspire the Pats belief in themselves?
Don't count it out.

Posted by: mrahaman | November 16, 2009 4:57 PM
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Belichick, Weis...dopes.

Posted by: jaho | November 16, 2009 4:48 PM
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I'm not a fan of the Pats or Belichick, but the only thing we know about this play is that it didn't work. If it works, he's not a genius; if it doesn't, he's not an idiot. In his professional judgment, which, given his consistent success, counts for something, his best chance to win was to put the outcome in the hands of his offense and a QB he trusts completely. Sometimes the other guys make a good play and stop you. Sometimes one of your guys makes a small mistake, e.g., bobbling the catch, and you fail. That's it. No broader conclusions can be offered from a single data point.

Posted by: salescoach | November 16, 2009 4:33 PM
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People who try to justify Belichick'S team leading by six points, and going for it on fourth and 2 from his own 28 with two minutes to play in the game are the same people who try to justify Sarah Palin being picked and going for the VPOTUS. It just doesn't fly.

Posted by: MILLER123 | November 16, 2009 4:33 PM
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Punt the ball, and it's maybe 60-40 that the Colts win. Actually, I'd argue the odds might be even more in favor of Indy, but I'm being generous to Wilbon's assessment. Go for it, with a 50% chance of making the first down and a 20% chance of stopping the Colts over 30 yards, and it comes out to 60-40 again -- but this time in favor of the Pats.

No call is going to win the game every time. But, with how easily the Colts strolled 30 yards to win it, and how they'd shredded the NE defense earlier in the fourth quarter, do you really want to argue that Peyton wouldn't have found his way to the end zone?

It's easy to criticize a risky call that doesn't work out. But sometimes taking a risk is the right call. I applaud BB, even though his team ended up losing. He tried his best to win, and stuck his neck out in doing so.

Posted by: jeffwacker | November 16, 2009 4:30 PM
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From a true Belichick hater...

Why do you have to read arrogance into calls? All those other coaches you mentioned wouldn't go for it because they have never had access to the odds makers who determined that it is better to go for it than to punt. That call does not require arrogance. It requires balls. By the way, it was the right call.

Posted by: scott3 | November 16, 2009 4:28 PM
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Nice to see BB fall flat on his face, but you have to wonder if it wasn't so much his defense that he had doubts about as it was his punter. Hansen is averaging 39.6 yards per punt this year. That's not exactly stellar.

Posted by: js_edit | November 16, 2009 4:07 PM
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It wasn't Belichucky playing with arrogance it was the first time he played scared. He knew that either way Peyton was gonna take em down the field. First time Belichucky played SCARED in my humble opinion.

Posted by: showtimelastyle | November 16, 2009 3:37 PM
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BB may have done this through arrogance (I, too, prefer "hubris"); fair enough. But his offence gained 489 yards while his defense had given up, at that point, 389 yards including two TD's in the 4th quarter. He's a defense guy and knew their state. Maybe he had more confidence in the offence gaining 2 yards than in the defense holding for 70 or so.

Posted by: michaelmagnus9 | November 16, 2009 3:27 PM
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The worst thing about pro football these days is that every little decision by a coach gets scrutinized so harshly. I'm ok with a little open ended scrutiny, "Did he make the right call?", but I'm tired of "Coach makes the dumbest mistake in the history of the game." There's a reason Wilbon never coached a pro-football game. Maybe Belichick felt like he needed to test his offensive guys, to put them through an emotional wringer so that they would be better prepared in the playoffs. This is not a might make the playoffs and needs every win it can get kind of team. This is a team that will likely make the playoffs and the only question is how far will they get. I guarantee that if they punt and Manning comes up short, they are telling themselves, well the rest of the league isn't that good and maybe they take it easy this week in practice. This week will be far from easy. Belichick as much as I don't love the guy, demands excellence for excellence's sake, not just because it is what is needed to win any given game. To be consistently excellent, to take control of your destiny and win the super bowl calls for a commitment to a higher standard than just good enough.

Posted by: bermudml | November 16, 2009 3:15 PM
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Right on target Michael!
Those knuckeheads at CBS Sports, FOX and even ESPN didn't say the word I wanted to hear last night..

"ARROGANT football Call from an ARROGANT coach"

... nobody on any network show I watched last night said it.

Deep down, I suspect very few people really like Belichick, and that even includes Brady. Belichick doesn't have to utter a word. His demeaner & actions speaks for him.

Posted by: porchfan | November 16, 2009 3:08 PM
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Who is "Michael Wilbon" is he a Know-Nothing Sports Writer or just a fill in for a real one ? ... How can you question any decision Bill Belichick or Tom Brady makes concerning football. Their record speaks for itself ...

Posted by: wasaUFO | November 16, 2009 3:01 PM
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I think you mean "Up six" in the second graph.

Posted by: strohminator | November 16, 2009 2:35 PM
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franzsch1, throwing completely unsupported percentages around doesn't make your argument more convincing. where did you get the 75-80% number? the actual number for the patriots on 4th and 2-or-less to go is 63%, and if you throw out the 4th-and-inches included there I'm sure the number is less than 50%. and how exactly did you calculate the 50/50 on manning driving 80 yards for the TD? just a gut feeling? putting a number on intuition does not make it more credible.

bottom line, while there's an adequate sample size for the patriots on 4th-and-2, and it's way less than the 75-80% you guessed, there's no corresponding number for manning driving 80 yards with 1:50 left. we simply don't know, but punting was definitely a surer choice than a 50/50 4th down conversion on the 29. go ahead and argue with wilbon's point about belichick's arrogance, but don't try to make a spitballed argument look scientific with spurious numbers.

Posted by: trackathlete | November 16, 2009 2:34 PM
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Who are these crackpots using Wilbon's analysis of this particular game as an excuse to rant against political and social issues? I don't agree with all of Wilbon's opinions, but some of these responses ought to be deleted not just for being tellingly off-topic, but also for being so ridiculously politically biased that they serve to undermine the perceived meritocracy in American sports!

I know some people out there are going to be extra sensitive to any story about how a leader characterized as being "great" made a decision which cost his team -- his people -- a win, a sense of security, and which cast doubt on his competence (because of destructive arrogance) and, therefore, his "greatness". Yes, it sounds like a haunting song we've heard before in a different place, but it's the troubling, recurring theme these crackpot complainers are responding to, and it isn't Wilbon's fault that in football, as in politics and all life, thoughtlessness and arrogance can cost you big time!

Posted by: iphoenix | November 16, 2009 2:29 PM
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I'm a big fan of wilbon but he has this wrong, as do nearly all of the other commentators I've seen except one guy above.

Belichik's job is to make the choice that gives his team the best shot to win. What are the odds of the pats offense converting a fourth and two? Probably 75 pct. to 80 pct. And if they do the game is over essentially and the pats win (and there's no certainty that they lose if they don't make it).

If you punt the ball to manning and give him 1:50 or to go 70 or 75 yards for the winning td against a tired pats defense, what are the odds that he scores and wins. About 50-50 I'd say.

So Belichik's approach gives his team about an 80 pct. chance to win. The conventional punting choice gives them about a 50 pct. shot (and even if you think there's only a 35 pct. chance or so of manning getting the winning td belichik's gamble still gives the pats a considerably better shot to win).

Belichik is arrogant and sometimes mean but not dumb. In this case his arrogance enabled him to make an unconventional choice I've never seen another coach make... one that risked getting himself pilloried if it blew up, as it did (and if they had lost conventionally no one would have pilloried the coach). But it was the better choice because it gave his team the better chance to win...

Posted by: franzsch1 | November 16, 2009 2:19 PM
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Punting is overrated just ask Hunter Smith.
Go for it!!!

Posted by: jercha | November 16, 2009 2:19 PM
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I haven't seen the postgame discussion yet, but it looked like Brady was the one that was insisting they go for it. Obviously BB is the coach, but if you have a Hall of Famer QB telling you that he sees a weakness in the Defense and that he can get the first down, then I think you back him up and give him the green light. Regardless, it was an awesome game!! DC fans cand only wish for such passion and execution from our Team

Posted by: freemarketeddy | November 16, 2009 2:17 PM
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This was only one of several bad decisions at the end of the game. Pats had 2 timeouts with roughly 2:30 to go and they burned both of them before the two minute warning. The second one, before going for it on fourth was the worst. At the very least, the Pats should have lined up on fourth down, seen if they could've gotten the Colts to jump offsides, *then* take the timeout. Instead, for some reason they took the timeout to discuss it first.

And the refs got the call exactly right. Faulk didn't catch the ball ahead of the marker, he bobbled it and batted it back behind the marker, *then* he caught it. But, if you really think that it was the wrong call then it just underscores the mismanagement by the Pats, since they wasted their timeouts and couldn't challenge.

Posted by: kenzoan13 | November 16, 2009 2:07 PM
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Like Wilbon, I, too, dislike Belichek's seeming arrogance and was gleeful when the play-call backfired, but if I'm objective about it, I don't fault him, for these reasons:

1) the play worked as designed and got the first down, but the Colts were saved by a horrendous call by the refs;

2) the Patriots D was completely ineffective throughout the entire 4th quarter and Belichek knew they wouldn't stop Manning again, so he decided to put the pressure on his offense instead.

A perfectly reasonable call, in hindsight. Thank God it didn't work though!

Posted by: cali_snowboarder | November 16, 2009 2:04 PM
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All you sorry whiners defending Bullicheck don't know math and logical reasoning.
Posted by: PSB1 | November 16, 2009 12:13 PM

But if they made the first down what would you say? And if you don't have anything nice to say about someone...........

Posted by: hessone | November 16, 2009 2:03 PM
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Write down Belichick and Brady as couple more white guy's Wilbon doesn't like. It's so obvious Wilbon is racist and goes out of his way to prove it. It's a black thing, you wouldn't understand. Where's a Capitals article?

Posted by: hessone | November 16, 2009 1:57 PM
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The only thing missing from Wilbon's vitriolic column was the obligatory cry of racism for BB making the disrespectful and arrogant call to go for it against an African American coach.

Don't even know why I bother reading this drivel anymore.

Posted by: costamesamike | November 16, 2009 1:49 PM
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In 2002, the Redskins played the Colts, got off to a big lead; but in the second half, Manning got hot. Marvin Lewis was the DC, and there was nothing, absolutely nothing, he could do to stop Manning. To make matters worse, Stephen Davis got hurt, and little used backup Kenny Watson was the runner. But miracle of miracles, Watson got the yards that kept the ball out of Manning's hot hands for all but the last 18 seconds.

Manning today is a better QB than he was in 2002. And in the game last night, needing two TDs, Manning went 79 yards in 1:47, and he didn't need a time out to do it. It's possible that Belichick watched that 79/1:47 drive and saw his defense make no mistake, saw them execute everything perfectly; and that perfect Belichick defense was no better than Marvin Lewis's 2002 Redskins defense at stopping a hot Payton Manning.

Belichick likely thought his best option was a Kenny Watson: keep the ball out of Manning's hands. Maybe he had more faith in his offense than the defense to win the game. That wouldn't be arrogance. Admitting to himself in the heat of battle that his defense isn't good enough to stop Manning? The great defensive genius, admitting that to himself his defense stinks. That's humility. Or, maybe he's gotten soft.

Posted by: etabby84 | November 16, 2009 1:44 PM
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That was the right call at that time. You just talk about it because the receiver mishandled the catch so no point of progress call. Getting two yards is easy for Brady and the Patriots. And if you punt, Belichick was thinking that either way Manning can drive down the field so might as well kill the enemy right there and then. It was Tom Brady as the quarterback and you have Moss and Welker around you. Why not? If Manning was not the QB on the other side, you could have punt. Punting was the conventional way of doing it. But Belichick is revolutionizing the game.

Posted by: iamdawalrus | November 16, 2009 1:42 PM
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It was a bad call however you cut it. First of all, there is the "Proof o' the puddin'" argument -- it failed and it cost the Patriots the game.

Secondly, there is the Pass/Fail odds argument. What is the percentage of making it on fourth & two, maybe 40%? What were the odds of the Colts coming back to score in under two minutes with only one timeout and seventy or eighty (or possibly more) yards to go for a touchdown vs. the odds of scoring from the 30 yard line? The odds were considerably GREATER that Manning would get his seven after a missed 4th down play given the way the players would feel than the odds of making that first down.

It was a very bad call, one worthy of Jim Zorn. The fact that the refs missed the spot is just one of about a thousand things that could have gone wrong to prevent that first down. A punt would have been much safer and would have given the Pats maybe an 80% chance of winning.

But I was rooting for the Colts anyhow, so nyaa nyaa nyaa NYAAAAA nyaa!

Posted by: FergusonFoont | November 16, 2009 1:40 PM
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Wilbon is hardly the first person to have figured out that Belichick is a flaming arrogant SOB. Not to mention, cheating, graceless, classless, and totally inarticulate. Good for Wilbon for shining the spotlight on this overrated jerk of a head coach.

Posted by: vztownes | November 16, 2009 1:32 PM
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Wilbon is exactly right....... like in this case where you can't depend on the refs to spot the ball correctly and they didn't.

And why didn't the genius call a play that would of gotten the Pats enough yardage without being close in the first place?

If the Manning and the Colts get the ball after a punt and drive 70 yards, score and win the game...... so be it. You tip your hat and congratulate the winner and you walk off the field ; but this call was just dumb and arrogant.

Posted by: cfeher | November 16, 2009 1:31 PM
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It's always funny watching Belichick arrogant ways turn him into a complete DUFUS!! To bad we didn't see his grimacing hand shake and him running away! We all know that inside he is totally mortified about his F-up:)

Posted by: LongTimeSkinsFan | November 16, 2009 1:30 PM
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You folks are going after *Wilbon* on this one??? I've given the man some grief myself, but I'm all with him here. That was the worst play call I've seen in all my years of watching football. It's an ironclad rule that you don't go for it on 4th Down in your own territory, except in desperation. And there's a very good reason why that's the rule.

Posted by: acoberst1 | November 16, 2009 1:27 PM
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What was the betting spread? OOOOOOOOOPS.

Posted by: whocares666 | November 16, 2009 1:21 PM
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Bill Belichick, rolls the dice - 4th & 1 - NE does not make it, therefore he an arrogant nitwit!
One week & 1 day earlier Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech, rolled the dice - OT, 4th and 1 on the 5, down 3 points. GT gets two yards and on next play goes in to win the game.

Paul Johnson is not a nitwit - his team is going to the ACC championship game.
What difference a yard makes!

Posted by: WillA4 | November 16, 2009 1:13 PM
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There are about a million ways you could look at the end of that game and there is always a flip side to every argument. Belichick goes for it says confidence in offense, but none in defense. The fact that his defense had given up long drives twice in the quarter said his team would get tired against a long field.

There is a theory that a slightly tired defense would actually be better served to start a possession with a short field to their backs. Corners can jam of the line due to safeties ability to play over the top with flatter angles knowing that a 45 yard pass ends up in row 14. Linebackers can then play shallower to keep the underneath routes controlled and make tackles.

One could argue that giving Manning 80 yards against a stressed and vulnerable defense gives him a bigger play bood and allows him to hit on 3 straight 15-20 yard passes and effectively gassing the safeties and corners so that in the red zone the defense is so tired the TD is inevitable.

It was a tough call and one could make an arguemnt for it either way.

Posted by: ruter23 | November 16, 2009 1:13 PM
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If Collinsworth was right, and if Belichek was right in that his defense was gassed, it is logical to conclude that the Colts would have scored whether from 70 yards or 29 yards. If this was the assumption, it would be best to go for it and try for a first down, should you fail, then perhaps there is more time on the clock to move into field goal range. If you are essentailly giving up on your defense and putting the game on the offense, Bill made the right decision.

Failing to follow convention takes confidence ... criticizing someone for their independent thought is cowardice. But hey it sells! Thx Mike!

Posted by: hakimallen | November 16, 2009 1:06 PM
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We know Wilbon. Belichick's not from Chicago, didn't attend Northwestern, probably doesn't return your phone calls or give you easy quotes, but please stop with the nonsense.

Belichick clearly thought that his offense gave him the best chance to win that game. After watching his injury depleated defense give up two very quick TDs in the fourth quarter, he clearly though that Manning in the two minute drill would do the same thing.

Is this arrogant? No. Can't a guy make a bad decision without being labeled arrogant?

Posted by: duffman1 | November 16, 2009 1:05 PM
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I'm still baffled as to why no one has mentioned the parallel of this being no different than going for the 2-point conversion to win the game when the extra point would tie it and send it into overtime. Coaches have done this before and aren't criticized for the call. Quite simply, HE wanted to end the game and not let Peyton capitalize on the momentum he had drawn up over the 4th quarter.

I personally thought it was a good call.

Posted by: FrankfurtFreddie | November 16, 2009 1:05 PM
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Arrogance understands arrogance, only in this case Bill Beilchick has something to be arrogant about. That doesn't hold true for Mr. Wilbon.

Posted by: bobbi2 | November 16, 2009 12:56 PM
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Talk about arrogant! Mr. Wilbon has become the most arrogant talking head on TV to the point it is hard to watch PTI except for Kornheiser. Belichick gambled, it didn't work, end of story. Wilbon, your hatred of coach Belichick is showing. Funny how I have heard you on TV proclaiming you have met him personally (and everyone else of note in the sporting world, according to you), and he is a charming guy. So why all the vitriolic hindsight hyperbole?

Posted by: bobbi2 | November 16, 2009 12:53 PM
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Mr. Belichick found out that some of the things we learn from experience we would rather not know.

Posted by: htgcr | November 16, 2009 12:52 PM
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From the previous drive by the Colts, I'm sure BB figured it would only take the Colts a couple of plays to achieve the same position on the field as a failed 4th down play. In which case, the odds of scoring a touchdown weren't that much different with or without the punt. BB didn't cause Mahoney to fumble away a TD or the bogus pass interference call that gave the Colts 30 more yards in the previous drive. Chalk this column up to Belichick hating.

Posted by: rtwngr | November 16, 2009 12:44 PM
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If Belichick thought he could make it at 4th and 2 in this situation, why does he not do it in every other situation? Why punt...ever?

Posted by: sheckydog | November 16, 2009 12:32 PM
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Wilbon is stung by his ignorance. What a coward! Go ask Shaq what it feels like to be a man.

Posted by: Yette1 | November 16, 2009 12:29 PM
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The word most applicable that Mr Wilbon could have used is "hubris" . I am certain Mr Wilbon learned its meaning at Northwestern. It applies perfectly to the situation last night.

Posted by: jmsbh | November 16, 2009 12:29 PM
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But the bigger issue is that the Patriots blew a huge fourth quarter lead. So, while I never would ever make that decision, can you blame him for not trusting his defense?

Posted by: pizzagoal | November 16, 2009 12:22 PM
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On the other hand -

Colinsworth said several times that he thought the Pats D was gassed and that lay at the root of the decision. I can see the logic of that - if BB thought his D was done, that the Colts would get a TD almost no matter what, then it was imperative to get a first down because any other outcome results in a Colts TD.

Posted by: michaelmagnus9 | November 16, 2009 12:21 PM
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I think Wilbon is wrong; the spot can go wrong in a lot of plays. I'm no Patriots fan, but I think Belichik made the right move. The average patriots play gets more than the couple of yards they needed, and at that point first down would have won the game. So the odds were much better than 50% that going for it would win. On the other hand, 2 minute drill, 1 timeout and the 2 minute warning, Peyton Manning and 70 yards? At home in the dome? If NE punts, I think the odds are better than 50% that Indy wins.

I think Wilbon got the call wrong. Belichik made a good call.

Posted by: georgekoch | November 16, 2009 12:17 PM
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Arguably the Pats did execute. They got the reception. Take away the bobble & its a first down. But the refs got it right & the Colts got the short field. I, for one, really enjoyed seeing Belicheck's face after Indy scored. Looked to me like he was trying not to cry.

Posted by: bsimon1 | November 16, 2009 12:16 PM
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So many words to state the obvious. Even uglier than the coach's decision is the orgy of self-righteous criticism by sportswriters. When was the last time you read a newspaper commentary about the arrogance of a mainstream journalist? Even the worst NFL coaches are more reliable than the jottings of reporters.

Posted by: ronpaul2008com | November 16, 2009 12:15 PM
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"It is all my fault. I thought my men were invincible."

Lee on Pickett's Charge.

Posted by: michaelmagnus9 | November 16, 2009 12:14 PM
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FYI. Logically speaking, it was the worst coaching call possible in that situation, since punting may have (and most likely would have) allowed the Pats to stop them, punting could only have been a better choice, but not a worse choice.

All you sorry whiners defending Bullicheck don't know math and logical reasoning.

Posted by: PSB1 | November 16, 2009 12:13 PM
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Regarding the arrogant Patriots, The Onion said it best:

Posted by: mr_bill_10 | November 16, 2009 12:12 PM
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Had Belachick's call been successful and the Pats ran out the clock because of their possession. He (would or at least should) have been praised as bringing guts,glory and bravado back into the game...I gotta think, that when the commentators are making the calls that is akin to Andrew Carnegie getting out of the market because his shoe shine attendant was giving stock tips...

Posted by: TNbybirth | November 16, 2009 12:09 PM
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It gave the Patriots their best opportunity to win. If that's arrogance, then Belichick is guilty. (And I don't like the guy.) Now as for my Denver Broncos...

Posted by: amaikovich | November 16, 2009 12:09 PM
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After reading some of the comments, I'm not sure if the issue is about Michael Wilbon or Bill Bellichik. I hope people can just simply state their own opinion without throwing personal attack and insults on Wilbon.

My opinion about Bellichik's decision to go for it on 4th and inches is that it fit's his persona perfectly. It is true that Bellichik is an arrogant coach and anyone who is a true football fan can see it. This is not the first time Bellichik's ego and disrespect for other teams has come into play, and if I were a gambler, I would bet that it wouldn't be his last. I'm glad he did though, because it ensured the Colt's victory, and confirmed the true character of Bellichik. It was a fitting end to a great drama.

Posted by: Labamba1 | November 16, 2009 12:06 PM
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Interestingly, most if not all comments that defend Bill B.'s decision are probabilistic ("...there's a X% if he did this, but Y% if he did that..."), with all numbers coming out of a hat. Not surpisingly, the results of the mathematical analysis supports their point and Bill B.'s decision.

Someone with time and interested in defending Bill B., please crunch up the actual numbers for the Pats under Bill B. *and* the numbers for the Colts under Manning. If it pans out, I'll believe you, otherwise, you're just making stuff up and Bill B. made a bad decision.

Posted by: rcgarza | November 16, 2009 12:05 PM
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Belichick is a classless jerk and a cheater, not a great coach. In my 30 years of watching NFL football, he is the only coach I've ever seen intentionally run up the score on teams, even calling timeouts and going for it on 4th down near the end of blowouts so he could score some more. What an ass. Last night's game was beautiful to watch.

Posted by: mr_bill_10 | November 16, 2009 12:05 PM
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This serves Belichick right. Now that he's not cheating anymore he's proving himself to be a real idiot. Arrogance abounds when your cheating everyone blind, but when he actually needs to outsmart a rookie coach, he proves himself incompetent.

Posted by: PSB1 | November 16, 2009 12:00 PM
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"Statistically" and "by gut" this was the right call? Are you people for real? Computer analysis says the reason Brady beat Manning in the past is because Dungy made worse decisions than Belichek. Brady doesn't have that "advantage" now that Dungy is gone. Don't believe me? Ask the football computer gods:

Posted by: roosoh | November 16, 2009 12:00 PM
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Mr. Wilbon,

You are right on. Thank you for laying out the facts in an easy to read, unemotional manner.
Though Coach B made one bad decision, we all know that the Pats will be there at the end of the season vying for the Super Bowl. They played a pretty darn good game against what many view as the best team in the NFC.
This won't haunt the Pats in the least. They will move forward with the focus they have become known for. Call it tunnel vision, but in their world, the world of the NFL, it seems to work.
Thanks again

Posted by: johnulee1 | November 16, 2009 11:52 AM
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Statistically it was the correct decision. Based on gut feeling it was also the right call, there was no stopping Manning at that point. This article is based solely on the author’s personal feelings toward Belichick, rather than about how the game was managed. It says a lot about the profession when a writer for one of the most prestigious periodicals still in business is incapable of presenting an objective piece. Please stop wasting my time with this garbage.

Posted by: mandm14 | November 16, 2009 11:51 AM
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Anybody who has the audacity to defend the call knows absolutely nothing... zilch, nada, zippo... about how the game of football is played and won. Nice column Wilbon.

Posted by: Jumpy66 | November 16, 2009 11:50 AM
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I think Belichick's decision was reasonable, certainly not as bad as people are indicating. Look at it from a probabilistic standpoint. I think if the Pats punted, and the Colts got the ball on say their own 30, that the Colts had a 60% chance of scoring a TD and winning the game. I think the Pats had at least a 50% chance of making the first down and if they did, probably a 90% chance of winning the game. If they missed the first down the Colts probably had a 90% chance of winning. With those numbers it says the Pats lose 60% of the time if they punt. If they go for it, assuming the prior probabilities, the Pats win 50% of the time. Therefore, with those probabilities, it is a good decision. Even if you disagree with the probabilities, they have to be ballpark. Bottom line is, it may have been a good decision, it may have been a slightly bad decision, but it is certainly not a horrible decision.

Posted by: oldjudge | November 16, 2009 11:47 AM
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Review shows the zebras got it right. The call was a good one. The execution was not is what fell short.

Posted by: MrScrat | November 16, 2009 11:44 AM
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the pats were not afraid of giving the ball back to the colts. they were afraid of giving the ball back to the ZEBRAS.
go back to the previous series when the colts scored a td in less than 2 min.
on that series the colts got a 30+ yd gift from the zebras on a completely bogus pass interference call. the defender had position on the ball and was LOOKING AT THE BALL. there is no way there is interference in that scenario.

wilbon hates brady for some reason. you'll have to ask him why. he doesn't understand that it's not just belichick makin the decision. what do you think those headphones are for??? on this situation there was a meeting of the minds (beli,brady, and their spotters upstairs) and they figured the safest way to insure a win was keeping possession given the recent calls by the refs. it was actually the only chance they had. a punt would have resulted in the same outcome, it would have just taken a little more effort from the colts and the refs.

Posted by: surlydoc | November 16, 2009 11:44 AM
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Krush01: I'm pretty sure those stats don't apply to situations where the team is only going for a touchdown because a field goal doesn't help them. If you look at game-ending drives only, I believe the number who score from the opponent's 28 is much higher than 53%. If the Pats were using those numbers, they were fooling themselves.

Posted by: OhNoNotAgain | November 16, 2009 11:43 AM
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It was a stupid gamble because it would NOT have won them the game if it worked. The Colts had 3 time-outs and the 2-minute warning remaining; the Pats would have needed at least one more first down to run out the clock. This was a stupid amount of risk for very little reward. But it couldn't happen to a more deserving team...

Posted by: OhNoNotAgain | November 16, 2009 11:40 AM
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Man, really pushing the website, eh? Mike, can't you generate enough pub on your own without the top spot on the Sports page and writing an inflammatory article that you can only hope gets people interested in your website (which most aren't). World Wide Wilbon indeed. Where's Tony?

Posted by: KDSmallJr | November 16, 2009 11:36 AM
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Does the hatred for Belichick have anything to do with the Redskins' awful performance?

This is a game, folks, with everybody trying to win. He made a calculation that the odds of his offense gaining a first down were better than those of stopping a Manning drive. Sounds about right to me.

Didn't work, but him doing something by the odds -- even if it is unconventional -- seems smart, not arrogant. Now if the Skins would win in the Fall instead of the offseason, maybe Wilbon could be rational...

Posted by: bill21 | November 16, 2009 11:33 AM
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The first thing I thought after THE CALL was what if Coach Zorn makes that decision. It makes my head hurt to think about it. As a fan I loved it.Belichicks defense was getting lit up. He saw a chance to to end it right there. I admire him for it. It's easire to loose that way then to watch Manning march 80 yard with 2 minutes and 3 time outs.

Posted by: pstotts15 | November 16, 2009 11:31 AM
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I liked the call to go for it. If they convert the game is over. If they punt the best Quarterback in the league has a time out and the two minute warning to stop the clock. The Colts can drive the length of the field faster and better than anyone in the league. It's not like your punting to some team with no offensive fire power. Everybody wants to be a critic when it dosen't work out. If the Patriots get the first down Belichick is a genius! He would make the same call today. He's had the balls to make the call. It wasn't about be arrogant. Didn't the Patriots win 11 games last year without Brady. Belichick can coach flat out.

Posted by: mole | November 16, 2009 11:29 AM
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Refreshing to see a coach think outside the box. Sure would have more exciting games if there was more originality instead of the copy cat league.

Posted by: ForceOfOne | November 16, 2009 11:27 AM
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What do punts in the first half have to do with anything? In the 4th quarter, the Colts had 2 79-yard drives; one in just over 2 minutes, and one just under 2 minutes.

I'm a fan of neither team, but I like the Pats less than the Colts, so am happy with the result. But I think more coaches should go for it in those situations. When my team lets a team like the Colts back into the game like that, and you're punting it back, it seems like it's almost a given that my team is going to lose. It happens a lot, and 2 minutes is plenty of time.

Posted by: dabberc | November 16, 2009 11:14 AM
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Still a very, very good team, but not as dominate since they can't review films of the other team's practices like in the past.

Posted by: alanbreeden | November 16, 2009 11:14 AM
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"great, great, great"?

he's okay. can't win and has never won without brady except for last year i guess. it happens. don't think he's ever made the playoffs without brady.

more like brady is a great, great, great quarterback.

Posted by: trufe | November 16, 2009 10:50 AM
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What's the matter, did Belichick turn down an interview with PTI? He is called a genius every other week, made what he considered a reasoned decision, and it didn't work. If this was Jordan or some NBA coach making the same decision, it would be "tough/aggressive/courageous". Bellichick? It's arrogant (which is a little like the pot calling the kettle black - this is a saying Mike, not a racist statement, please spare us). Where is Tony?

Posted by: KDSmallJr | November 16, 2009 10:49 AM
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I've heard often that Belichick is a horses ass but, personality deficiencies aside, I agree with his decision. It didn't work out for New England, but it ALMOST did. That 'terrible' decision failed by the slimmest of margins. But for a bobbled catch and a great defensive hit, the Pats would've had their first down--and the ball game. If they run that same play ten times, I say it's successful nine. Maybe nine and a half. How often can ANY team stop Tom Brady and the Pats' offense from gaining six feet? But, this time the Colts did stop them and Peyton twirled his magic wand--again--and snatched another victory from the jaws of certain defeat. I can't remember when I've seen a more entertaining NFL game. Hats off to all involved. That one will be very hard to top.
Also, Vince Lombardi DID go for it on 4th down, many years ago. Bart Starr faked a hand off, raised up, and fired a strike to a streaking receiver who took it to the house. It worked for Lombardi but not for Belichick. It's still a good call.

Posted by: ctenwith | November 16, 2009 10:49 AM
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Is it going to hurt the Pats in the end? Absolutely.

They now have no chance of home-field advantage. If they win, they stand a decent chance of a #1 seed (win out and 1 Indy loss). Two home games in January are a lot better road to the SB than a home game and then two road games (Cincy/Pitt and Indy).

Posted by: ah___ | November 16, 2009 10:46 AM
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When Darth Hoodious loses, children around the world sleep a little safer.

Posted by: EliPeyton | November 16, 2009 10:40 AM
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However, it made for an exciting finish, very entertaining, and entertainment is the only reason you'd watch a football game, as opposed to playing one. Fortunately, whatever drove Beli to go for it is an ingredient that I hope never leaves him. I mean, isn't pro wrestling all about having bad guys and good guys? How boring would it be if you didn't have guys like Beli to dislike?

Posted by: jharrington1 | November 16, 2009 10:11 AM
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Have to agree with Astamand. Whether you think it was a bad call to go for it on 4th down or not, its great to see Belichick fail. He is the most arrogant coach I have ever seen and it finally bit him in the rear in spectacular fashion.

Posted by: MeatSweats | November 16, 2009 10:10 AM
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It's a football game, folks. Just a game. I'm a lifelong Patriots fan and suffered through the (many) lean years. I love Belichick for his go-for-broke attitude. It sometimes works (field-goal drive against the Rams to win the Super Bowl) and sometimes blows up on him (last night). It's never boring, that is for sure. I think he thought, "I have a two-game lead in the division and this is our chance to take a shot at home-field advantage for the playoffs. I'm going for it." Yee-hah. I laughed, I cried, but I was not bored.

Posted by: MoBro13 | November 16, 2009 10:01 AM
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Wilbon calling someone else arrogant, Ha! It takes one to know one. Yes, Belichick is an arrogant jerk, but you know what -- so are you.

Posted by: dbunkr | November 16, 2009 9:51 AM
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Actually, I thought it was just plain old fashioned stupidity. He did something similar to the Pats when they lost to NY in the Stupor Bowl -- had them stop playing their brand of ball and become spectators. We'll just have to see if he learns from his mistake this time.

Posted by: kcbrady | November 16, 2009 9:48 AM
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It couldn't happen to a nicer guy, that Belichick was done in by his own big opinion of his coaching genius. Can't stand him. Glad to see him lose.

Posted by: astamand | November 16, 2009 9:41 AM
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Wilbon doth protest too much. Perhaps this is a case of the pot calling the kettle "arrogant" as Wilbon is one of the more arrogant guys around. This arrogance blinded him to the fact that the Patriots D had been wearing down in the second half and that Peyton had just gone 80 yards in less than 2 minutes on its last possession in the 4th quarter. If he had wanted to steamroll the Colts he would have been calling passing plays to run up the score on the drive before instead of trying to kill the clock and rest his D by calling conservative running plays. His game mismanagement boxed him into a bad situation but the decision was a calculated gamble putting the game in the hands of his best players. You can crush him today for poor game management by a coach (including burning all his timeouts so he couldn't challenge the spot on the 4th down play) but it's not arrogant to be unconcerned with what yahoos like Wilbon say about you when you are trying to win a game with your best players.

Posted by: M__M | November 16, 2009 9:40 AM
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It all comes down to a "show of no respect" by Belichick, a try at "embarrassing" the Colts on their home field. Bill has zero "class" and he proves it time and again with his actions on the field.
As for the refs and their ability to correctly "spot" the ball.... you can almost always tell the outcome of the games using "point spreads" dictated by Las Vegas. We all know the "big money" was on the Pats, I don't even have to see the big board to know how that went down.

Posted by: motiv8ed | November 16, 2009 9:39 AM
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So apparently nothing can backfire when you're punting, right? Bad snaps, blocked punt, good returns, bad punt, etc. And I'd still give Manning good odds of going the 70 yards.

It's scary how little about the actual statistics of football Wilbon understands.

Posted by: Wallenstein | November 16, 2009 9:31 AM
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Krush, before you start throwing random statistics around, I think you need to apply some common sense to your numbers.

The 53% success rate for teams scoring from the 28 is the average for the entire NFL. That means that when a horrible team like the Raiders makes it inside the 28, they are now part of these statistics. Considering how many other bad offenses there are that will fail to score, thus bringing the average down, you can assume that a high-powered offense like the Colts' scores considerably higher than 53% of the time.

The same goes for that 60% conversion rate on 4th and 2. If the Colts are an above average defense, you're going to have a less than 60% chance of making it. The bad defenses are raising the average by allowing it more than 60% of the time.

Posted by: esocci | November 16, 2009 9:28 AM
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Belichick made a bad call. He'd admit it too. To call him arrogant might be correct, but it seems there might be more than that reason to make a bad call. "Arrogant" is harsh, especially without showing more of a pattern of behavior.

Geez, how can you do a job and never make a mistake?

The spot-after-catch that one guy above mentioned is enough to say this was close. Had the Pats picked it up, you'd have to write a different story, eh?

Posted by: rowens1 | November 16, 2009 9:16 AM
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Mr. Wilbon, please check the New York Times "Fifth Down Blog" on this subject. They use real statistics and according to the blog the averages slightly favored going for it on fourth down. To summarize the blog:
On average teams make 4th and 2 60% of the time. On average teams score from the 28 53% of the time. So the combine opportunity to win is .60 + (.40 * (1-.53))= .79
(note that 1-.53 is the odds that a team will not score from the 28 and of course .40 is the odds that the Partiots or average team will not make the first down.

So, given the odds and perhaps the fact that the Colts had just driven 80 yards in 1 minute 49 seconds explains a rational decision.

Posted by: krush01 | November 16, 2009 9:09 AM
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See, that's another reason you don't go for it at your own 28 yard line.... it's better to rely on your defense to defend 50+ yards, than it is to depend on the refs to spot the ball exactly where it should be every time.

Posted by: AJohn1 | November 16, 2009 9:04 AM
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Bro, that was sort of Wilbon's point. That is was not a good decision because of all the things that can wrong, including a bad spot, WHICH HE MENTIONED IN THE BLOG.

Posted by: themantoyou | November 16, 2009 8:59 AM
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You are full of it buddy! I cannot really stand either Belicheat or the Posteriors, but the refs completely missed the spot as the receiver had it by over a half yard. Why don't you write about the idiots in striped shirts who, too often, determine who wins and who loses.

Posted by: hindsight2040 | November 16, 2009 8:53 AM
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