Belichick blows it
Bill Belichick is a fabulous football coach, but he didn’t give his team its best chance to win Super Bowl 42. Recall the 4th-and-13 decision in the third quarter? Belichick got a little arrogant. We’ll never know if it cost him.
New England led 7-3 midway through the third quarter and faced 3rd-and-7 from the Giant 25-yard line. Tom Brady dropped back to pass, tried to run away from the New York rush, but old pro Michael Strahan ran down Brady and tripped him up for a six-yard loss, back to the 31.
First of all, huge play by Strahan. Big, big, big. If Brady throws incomplete there, Stephen Gostkowski comes on for a 43-yard field goal, and the Patriots probably take a 10-3 lead and have 17 at game’s end. Instead, it was a sack, bringing up 4th-and-13, and that’s where Belichick blew it.
He had three options. And Belichick chose the one that made no sense. He went for the first down. Brady threw into the end zone, overthrowing Jabar Gaffney. The Giants didn’t do anything with the field position, punting after a couple of first downs, but still, no sense. Either of the other two Belichick options would have been better:
1. Try the field goal. Gostkowski is no Adam Vinatieri, a two-time Super Bowl hero, but he’s a solid kicker. Yes, it would have been a 49-yard field goal, but we were indoors Sunday night. Belichick horribly miscaculated this game. He must have believed the Patriots were going to come out of their scoring shell and would win this game, unless they did something stupid. He obviously had little confidence in Gostkowski and didn’t want to give the Giants the ball in good field position.
“It was a 50-yard field goal,” Belichick said. But if that was such a big deal, why not punt, which was option No. 2.:
2. Punt: If field position was such a big deal, if eight yards is so huge that it’s worth not trying for three precious points, then 11 yards must be mighty big, too. Punt that ball out of there and give New York the ball at its 20, instead of the 31. Belichick must have liked his fourth-down play, and in fairness, Gaffney might have found a seam, had the ball been delivered properly by Tom Brady.
But counting on a 13-yard gain was silly. New England was not a big-play offense against the Giants (or the Chargers, for that matter). New England’s longest play of the night: 19 yards. That’s right. The most productive offense in NFL history had its second straight game without a gain of at least 20 yards.
The Giant pass rush didn’t give Brady time enough to deliver a long pass. The Patriots weren’t likely to make the 4th-and-13. Gostkowski had a much better chance of success with his 49-yard field goal. Gostkowski had a better chance at a 59-yard field goal than did the Patriots of converning 4th-and-13.
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