Oh no Mr. Roboto!
The New England Patriots perpetually stoic and arrogant head coach, Bill Belichick, finally got a little too smart for his own good.
Believe me, I'm not one to argue the intelligence of Belichick who is one of the best in the business, but on Sunday night, it was beautiful to see some of that cockiness blow up right in his face. For those of you who perhaps had to be up a little too early in the morning and got a little too fed up with watching the Patriots dominate the Colts in last night's primetime battle, the Patriots pretty much had the game locked up with a 17-point lead (24-7) with seven minutes to go in the first half. Belichick coached teams don't give up leads like that right? Especially against a franchise that he takes oh so seriously in beating, like the Colts. Plus, throw in the hotter than usual primetime lights of Sunday night football and Belichick was in his 'look at me, look at how good we are' element.
The Colts began to chip away at the New England lead before halftime as Peyton Manning found Reggie Wayne for a 20-yard TD pass for a 24-14 deficit at halftime. Tom Brady found Randy Moss for a five-yard TD early in the fourth quarter that pushed the gap back to 17 points, but Manning went back to work.
The Colts went 79 yards in five plays and found Pierre Garcon for a 29-yard score to narrow the lead and after New England got a 29-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski to push the lead to 34-21. Manning and the Colts bounced right back and Joseph Addai found the endzone with 2:23 remaining in the game.
The Colts trailed the Patriots 34-28 with barely two minutes to play, but they did have all three timeouts and the two-minute warning that would stop the clock as New England got the ball back. Indianapolis decided to kick the ball deep instead of trying an onside kick.
The Patriots faced a fourth-and-two situation from their own 28-yard line with 2:08 left in the game and had used their final timeout to discuss the decision after having inexplicably wasted their second timeout before running the first play after the kickoff.
Deep in its own zone, Belichick decided to forgo all conventional wisdom and statistics that says that a team should punt and force the other team to go the length of the field for a potential game-winning touchdown, and go for it. Basically, being cocky and overly aggressive, Belichick thought he knew better set up a play that had Brady throwing a short pass to Kevin Faulk that had worked earlier in the night. However, this time, Faulk juggled the ball a bit as Colts' safety Melvin Bullitt, who replaced Bob Sanders in the starting lineup, blasted Faulk short of the first down marker. Not only was the play call bad as the Colts made the stop in a very close play, but Belichick had strangely wasted his last timeout and couldn't challenge the spot of the ball in case it was going to be close to the first down.
We tried to win the game on that play," Belichick explained. "I thought we could make the yard. We had a good play, we completed it. I don't know how we couldn't get a yard."
Heads up Bill, you got the yard, however, but you needed two for the first down.
As soon as the Colts made the stop, the Patriots had already lost the game, you could just see that they were defeated mentally. A team that had always embraced the company line, i.e. Belichick's always calm, always cool demeanor had to be a little confused when he didn't bring out the punting unit and basically told his defense, that had already harassed Manning into two picks and had a number of hits on him, that he didn't believe they could stop the Colts. So instead of giving them that chance, he took it away and put their backs against the wall and gave Manning the ball with plenty of time and a short field. The result, a one-yard pass from Manning to Wayne with just 13 seconds remaining to give the Colts an improbable victory and a 9-0 record this season.
Afterwards, not even one of Belichick's best former players let him off the hook as former safety Rodney Harrison lambasted him on TV, saying that the decision to go for it was the "worst decision" he's ever seen Belichick make.
In this case however, the Colts can sit back for the time being and enjoy what is one of the stranger wins since the wild comeback against Tampa Bay several years ago. Right now, I'm just enjoying the image of a confused Belichick with his face in his hands after he realized that maybe he's not so smart afterall.