Monday Musings: Tom Brady bails out Bill Belichick's bad decision
Tom Brady's last-second heroics took the focus away from a terrible decision by the league's best coach.
For the New England Patriots, the Fourth-and-Jackass sequel turned out much better than the original.
The sequel to coach Bill Belichick's original horrible late-game decision to go for it on fourth down in 2009 against Indianapolis came Sunday when he did it again. Only this time, Tom Brady bailed him out with an amazing touchdown drive in the closing seconds to beat the New Orleans Saints 30-27.
Here's the situation from the Saints game. New Orleans led 24-23 and the Patriots faced a fourth-and-6 from their own 24 with 2:50 left in the game and New England in possession of two timeouts, plus the two-minute warning.
Belichick decided not to punt and instead Brady threw an incomplete pass. That led to a 39-yard field goal by Garrett Hartley to make it 27-23. The Patriots used one timeout on the Saints' drive to the field goal, but the Saints saved them one by throwing incomplete on third down, a play that would cost them when they got the ball back after Brady threw a pick on the next series.
Why did Belichick go for it there on fourth down? If it's just 1 yard, maybe you go for it, but not at that distance. He had timeouts. You punt the ball, stop them, get the ball back, and all you need is a field goal to win it. By going there, it means you almost certainly will need a touchdown -- if you get the ball back.
Here's what Belichick had to say on the decision: "We were trying to pick up the first down. It was fourth-and-six. If it was fourth-and-13 or something like that, we wouldn’t have done that. But it was fourth-and-[six], we felt like we had a shot at it and I think we did have a shot at it, we just couldn’t make the play. There was 3:29 left, we felt like if we didn’t make it, we’d have to stop them and then we’d need a touchdown."
It was a bad decision that Belichick got away with because of Brady. When Brady threw his pick with 2:16 left, most assumed the game was over. But the Patriots used the one timeout they had left, the 2-minute warning and then got a stop to give Brady the ball back with 1:13 at the New England 30. Eight plays later, he hit Kenbrell Thompkins for a 17-yard touchdown pass to win the game. Brady bailed out Belichick.
Fourth-and-jackass II was much more a hit than the original for the Patriots.
• I thought the Saints did a poor job of trying to win that game at the end. Why throw it on third down? Why not adjust on the last drive? Moments after people were raving about Rob Ryan, he didn't change a thing as Brady went right down the field. This one will sting for the Saints. But the coaches need to look in the mirror too.
•Jimmy Graham came into the game with 37 catches and led the league with 593 receiving yards. He left with 37 catches and 593 yards. The Patriots did a great job of taking Graham away. He was targeted six times, but did not have a catch. He had one in his hands late, but it was knocked away. The Patriots used Aqib Talib on him a lot in man coverage, and helped over the top. But Talib went out with a hip injury, and the Saints still couldn't get it to him.
•On our halftime show, I was asked if the Packers would consider trading for Hakeem Nicks or Kenny Britt since Randall Cobb and James Jones were hurt Sunday. That's not the Packers way. Ted Thompson is a draft-and-develop guy. He loves draft picks. So, it would be a shock. It appears that Cobb and Jones aren't as hurt as originally thought anyway.
•That Chiefs defensive front can get after it. The 10 sacks of Terrelle Pryor Sunday was a dominant performance. Tamba Hali had 3 1/2 of the sacks as the Oakland offensive line had major troubles. It led to big problems for Pryor, who is fast but couldn’t run away from that pressure. The way to beat Peyton Manning is to pressure him and that's why the Chiefs just might be able to beat the Broncos down the road. Kansas City has 31 sacks, which is more than they had all of last season.
•Having said all that, I don't like their offense at all. It's too limited. Playing that way can get you to a postseason. It won't win once you get there.
•One of the things I wanted to see this week was how 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick would play against a good Arizona defense. He has struggled some this season, but got it rolling against the Cardinals. He threw for 252 yards and two touchdowns. He went to Vernon Davis twice for scores, one a 65-yard strike.
•Chip Kelly might have a quarterback dilemma. But if he truly wants to run his offense, he should play Mike Vick when he's healthy. But Nick Foles played well against Tampa Bay Sunday. He won't make it an easy decision. I'd go with Vick -- for now.
•Greg Schiano has to know he's done. The defense isn't good now either. Can they blame that on Josh Freeman?
•If the Bengals don't develop a killer instinct when they have a lead, it will come back and bite them down the road. Leading 24-10, they did everything they could to give the game to Buffalo. They didn't try and put them away. They played not to lose. That's a formula for failure, but they were able to pull it out in overtime.
•So that's what A.J. Green can do when you get him the ball? Might be wise to do it more, Cincinnati.
•Lions rookie tight end Joseph Fauria looks like Jimmy Graham on the field. He had three touchdown catches against the Browns and looks like a future star. He's another of the new-breed tight ends like Graham who have the receiver look more than an in-line blocker type. That style will be more and more prevalent in years to come.
•Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon will be a star. He had 14 catches for 190 yards against Denver. If he kid stays away from trouble, he can be a big-time receiver. When he was suspended for the first four weeks, he worked his butt off to get in better shape. He trimmed his body fat. He stayed in communication with the team and that commitment is paying off. In Blackmon and Cecil Shorts, the new quarterback coming in 2014 will have a nice combo outside. Chad Henne did a decent job for the Jaguars at quarterback, and it would be a shock to see Blaine Gabbert back on the field again.
•How many of you buried Cam Newton? I said last week that the Arizona tape showed him taking a beating behind a bad line. It wasn't him. He bounced back to beat the Vikings with three touchdown passes. He also completed 20 of 26 passes for 242 yards.
•Ravens coach John Harbaugh made some questionable decisions against Green Bay. Down 3-0, he went for it on fourth-and-1 at the Green Bay 3 in the second quarter. At home, you kick. Tie it up. That's especially true of a team that can't run it. The decision to throw at the end of the half cost them three points when Joe Flacco lost a fumble that led to a Green Bay field goal. Situational coaching is terrible around the league, and Harbaugh added to it.
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