ESPN: Bill Belichick Makes It Okay To Take the Wind

It finally happened. It took 34 games, but Bill Belichick obliged me.

As I've been writing all season in Clutch Encounters, I wanted to see a coach win the overtime coin toss and choose to kick the ball. As our own Aaron Schatz found out during the postgame press conference, Belichick's decision was purely about taking the wind.

Cursed by Marty Mornhinweg, maybe other coaches will see it's okay now. The new overtime system makes it very hard for the receiving team to win right away. While Belichick says it was all about the wind, I wonder if the strategy would have been different had Peyton Manning been playing better. At Insider we look at the myth of Manning in the cold.

Since many people seem to be getting these stats wrong, here's an updated table of every game Manning's played when the temperature was 40 degrees or less:

Some of these games I'm not familiar with at all, but I know the common trend in the 20-3 NE loss, last night's loss and the Baltimore playoff loss is Manning's receivers could not create separation, forcing tight throws into coverage with little-to-no YAC. The wind is a bigger issue than the cold itself, but small windows into the wind is the biggest problem of them all. We haven't seen the last of this with Denver's offense either.

As for New England, what the Patriots exhibited against Denver was their competitiveness. Most teams fail to make it interesting after 24-0, but the Patriots can. They had a similar game against San Francisco last year, tying the game after falling behind 31-3. It's comebacks like these that keep an incredible streak alive.

Including the playoffs, the Patriots have gone 57 consecutive games where they either had a lead/tie in the fourth quarter (or overtime) or trailed by one score (1-8 points) in the fourth quarter. Consider it the "no blowouts" streak, since they were technically one score away from their opponent late in the game.

That's one of the longest streaks in the Super Bowl era. The only longer documented streaks belong to Mike McCarthy's 2008-12 Green Bay Packers -- they went 69 games from 2008 until a 38-10 loss at the Giants last season -- and the 1988-92 San Francisco 49ers (63 games).

The last team to bury the Patriots was Cleveland in 2010. The Patriots could do no better than a 27-14 fourth-quarter deficit and lost 34-14. It's been all wins or close losses since then.

Sunday put the streak on life support, but we should know by now when Manning and Brady meet, conventional endings are not good enough. With two of the greatest competitors in NFL history, there has to be a comeback attempt. There has to be drama.

Maybe Manning-Brady XV will be the long-desired shootout, but eleven fumbles and one bold overtime decision are some of the defining moments worth remembering from XIV.

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Comments

31 comments, Last at 28 Nov 2013, 5:31am

1 Re: ESPN: Bill Belichick Makes It Okay To Take the Wind

Well, if you're going to allow up to 8-point deficits anytime in the 4th, I guess Seattle has the second-longest active streak at 43.

As for the decision, it was only made because there actually was a strong wind that happened to be blowing down one direction of the field; I don't know how many times that will be the case in overtime games.

2 Re: ESPN: Bill Belichick Makes It Okay To Take the Wind

"Well, if you're going to allow up to 8-point deficits anytime in the 4th, I guess Seattle has the second-longest active streak at 43."

Yes, that's right. That's also getting to be one of the longest streaks.

Even if there's not a strong wind, coaches need to understand the pros and cons of new overtime. The Packers handled that first drive yesterday as if it was the old system. Not going for it on 4th-and-goal from the two was downright foolish. McCarthy won the coin toss and was given the advantage of being able to end the game first, but he did not try to capitalize on it.

3 Re: ESPN: Bill Belichick Makes It Okay To Take the Wind

I think John Harbaugh had much more reason to take the wind in Chicago last week, but declined to do so. The winds were blowing much stronger (40-50 mph), and the offenses were much worse. But that's why he's a traditional, conservative, think-inside-the-box type HC and Belichick is Belichick.

12 Re: ESPN: Bill Belichick Makes It Okay To Take the Wind

"Harbaugh said he considered taking the wind, but decided not to because the coaches couldn't even agree on which direction it was blowing."

That's called covering his ass. The Bears didn't attempt a pass in the 3rd quarter, it was pretty obvious they were not interested in throwing in that direction.

And the Bears offense scored 7 points in the second half, vs. 3 points on offense in the first half. I'd hardly call that a juggernaut. But I guess they were slightly improving.

16 Re: ESPN: Bill Belichick Makes It Okay To Take the Wind

True. That doesn't seem like enough info to say if their offense was getting stronger or not. One thing is for certain: they scored all their points going in one direction, i.e. with the wind. I'm not arguing anything about the overall quality of the Bears offense, I'm just saying I think Harbaugh erred in taking the ball, Chicago didn't do much going in one direction all day. Comparing this decision with Belichick's, you should be comparing the Bears offense to the Broncos to make the analogy apt.

11 Re: ESPN: Bill Belichick Makes It Okay To Take the Wind

A lot of options in the passing game now that guys are healthy.
Vareen really adds a dimension to the Pat's passing game. Obviously the return of Gronk a few weeks ago was huge but the extra dimension added by Vareen's return is the final piece. They really don't have a decent pass catching back other than Vareen.

6 Re: ESPN: Bill Belichick Makes It Okay To Take the Wind

Irregardless of the wind (i.e. in a close stadium), the decision should entirely rest on how likely you think the other team is to get a TD on their first OT possession. If the receiving team gets a TD, they win. In every other outcome of the receiving team's first drive, the second team has the subsequent advantage. If they get a FG, you know you need to play 4 downs until you get to FG range and then you can go for a TD to win and failing that, kick the FG to stay alive. If they don't get a FG, then you get the first possession of true sudden death. If they commit a saftey, you win.

A strong wind only swings the logic further in your favor--not only because it decreases the chance of a first-possession TD, but also because it magnifies the subsequent advantages if that TD does not occur.

7 Re: ESPN: Bill Belichick Makes It Okay To Take the Wind

The key to receiving has to be the touchdown. If you receive the ball first, you need to be confident you can score a TD on the opening drive. If you are not, you want to kick away if you are confident you can keep the other team from scoring a TD on the opening drive. If the receiving team is held to a FG or no points, the kicking team receives a significant advantage. It knows if it only needs to play for a FG to win. If a FG was surrendered, it knows it needs to go for it on 4th downs at least until FG range is achieved. The kicking team has a superior information position.