INDIANAPOLIS -- Fourth-and-jackass.
That's our name of a now-infamous play in New England Patriots history. Move over, Tuck Rule. You have company.
|Bill Belichick leaves a win on the field and a lot of questions needing to be answered. (Getty Images)|
His brain was more frozen than Ted Williams'.
Here's the scenario: Patriots lead the Colts 34-28 and face a fourth-and-2 from their own 28 with 2:08 left in the game. After a timeout, Belichick sent his offense back on the field, leading most to think he would try and draw the Colts offsides.
Belichick had Tom Brady throw a pass to Kevin Faulk, who was immediately tackled short of the 30. Colts ball. Four plays later, Peyton Manning hit Reggie Wayne with a 1-yard touchdown pass with 16 seconds left to give the Colts a stunning 35-34 victory at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Belichick's move keeps the Colts undefeated at 9-0 and almost certainly means that the Patriots will have to play in Indianapolis again if they are to get to a Super Bowl.
But that's for later. This is about his boneheaded decision in Week 10.
How can a coaching genius -- and I mean that about him with sincerity -- make such a bad move?
That's like Picasso flunking 10th-grade art.
It just shouldn't happen. If I didn't see it with my own eyes, I wouldn't have believed it.
Why, Bill, Why?
"We tried to win the game on that play," Belichick said. "I thought we could make the yard."
Uh, Bill. It was 2, making that mistake No. 1.
Recap: Colts 35, Pats 34
Thread: Colts-Patriots game thread
Thread: Is Belichick crazy?
Thread: NFL gave it to the Colts
Thread: What a game!
Thread: Manning is better than Brady
Thread: Defense lost it... not Belichick
One or two, does it really matter?
It's blind arrogance to run a play in that situation. Somebody said if the Pats had made it, he would have looked like a genius.
No, he would have gotten off the hook.
I asked Belichick after the game if he understood he would be questioned about his decision.
He mumbled under his breath. "They question everything," he said.
"What?" I asked since I couldn't hear him in the back of the room.
"Yeah," he said.
One group who wasn't questioning his decision was his players. They're as loyal as you can get.
"He's the head coach," Faulk said. "He makes all the decisions. We just execute them or not. To us, it was the right call."
To us, it was not, I said to Faulk.
You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone outside the Patriots locker room who would defend that decision -- even Belichick's family, I bet.
Yes, the Colts offense had come alive in the fourth quarter with two long touchdown drives, one in 2:04 and the other in 1:49. That would lead a coach to be concerned, especially with Manning on the other sideline. But why not make them go 69 instead of 29?
Punt the ball. Play defense. Take your chances, especially since the Patriots defense came into the game giving up only 14.4 points per game.
One Colts player said it was an insult to both teams' defenses not to punt there. Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney even went so far as to say that's the type of move you see in a video game.
"You go for it when you're not supposed to and something bad happens," Freeney said.
I asked Patriots defensive end Mike Wright if he took the decision as an insult to the defense.
"No, not at all," he said. "He made the decision. We had to go out and do our jobs."
Yes, it is a locker room full of good soldiers. They are robotic in their approach.
"What coach says is what's right for us," is cliché-speak in the New England locker room.
Nobody questions Belichick in there. And with three Super Bowl rings, it's hard to do so. In reality, this is probably the first time he's been questioned like this in a long time, probably dating back to his Cleveland days.
The thing is that his decision wastes 58 minutes of good football by his players. They had no business losing this game. They were ahead by 17 at the start of the fourth quarter, only to see it go to waste with Belichick's bad decision.
Does the Super jewelry give him a free pass here? Not a chance.
This was supposed to be a game about Manning and Tom Brady. And for much of it, it was.
Brady outplayed Manning for most of three quarters, but Manning owned the fourth. He threw three of his four touchdown passes in the final 12:14. Both quarterbacks finished with over 300 yards and Brady also threw three touchdown passes.
It was a delight to watch. I was all set to write about those two.
The Genius changed that with his un-genius move.
In the locker room after the game, Belichick looked like he saw Art Modell coming to fire him. He had a glazed look on his face. In a weird scene, he came back into the locker room before exiting to the bus, a backpack on his back, pulling his suitcase behind him. He stopped for a second to tie his shoes, and then walked away, not making the wrong decision to walk out with his shoelaces flopping around.
That can cause someone to trip. If he made the same smart decision on the football field, spending a moment to make the right decision, he wouldn't have tripped out there either.
Instead, we saw what the NFL can do to even its brightest coaches. It brought Bill Belichick to his knees.
If he doesn't have all those victories, all those titles, he'd be run out of Boston faster than Manny Ramirez.
As it is, we're left to sit here and question one of the worst football decisions ever made, truly stunned by the fact it came from the guy who made it.
Like the Tuck Rule Game, Fourth-and-Stupidity will live a long time in New England -- unless the Patriots can win a Super Bowl and make us all forget it.
I still can't believe I saw what I did.