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16 Nov 2009

Audibles at the Line: Week 10

compiled by Bill Barnwell

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

Please also note that we do not write the e-mails specifically to produce this column, which means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Raiders fan, not so much.)

Chicago Bears 6 at San Francisco 49ers 10

Aaron Schatz: In the dictionary next to the word "petulant" you'll find a picture of Jay Cutler after he threw a pick right to San Francisco DT Aubrayo Franklin in the red zone. Sure, your man was open, Jay, as long as we ignore the three guys between you and him.

Tom Gower: I don't have anything interesting to say: Alex Smith struggles more under center, Frank Gore is good, Cutler is good but prone to Brett Favre "I can make that throw" syndrome...

Mark Roman had a very nice tackle on Greg Olsen on a 3rd down stop.
Not to wade into a minefield, but I wish Ron Winter had provided an explanation on the Crabtree replay review-whether the incomplete stood because he stepped out of bounds before controlling the ball or whether because Crabtree lost the ball (under the going to the ground rule).

Mike Kurtz: Going to have to watch part of it on DVR. Incidentally, it's sports night on 30 Rock. We got a Canadian Football League movie (fight for every meter on all three downs!) and a show called "Sports Shouting" (with a crawler that reads "Unsure that the Jaguars still exist")

Doug Farrar: I have to say, I think the way this broadcast was set up was completely dishonest and an insult to the intelligence of everyone watching the game. The elephant in the living room has become a blimp. I don't expect Millen to flagellate himself over and over for what he did in Detroit, and I understand that personnel knowledge isn't required for a career in broadcasting, but COME ON. He's introduced at the beginning of the broadcast as a "Four-time Super Bowl Winner, and back in the booth", as if that era never existed. Then, when Millen's talking about Rod Marinelli, he absolutely refuses to mention that he hired this guy to be a head coach once -- oh no, can't bring that up, people might remember! I really think he'd be better off making a self-deprecating reference or two, and then getting on with it. Do NBC, ESPN, and the NFL Network really believe that if it's never mentioned, people will forget that the guy making all those observations is the same guy who probably put together the single worst extended stretch of team management in NFL history? I respect Millen's accomplishments as a player, and I'm not looking to discount what he may bring to the booth -- that's not even my point. I just think it's inexcusable for three different networks to pretend that his time with the Lions doesn't exist.

Aaron Schatz: This thing is a car crash. What an ugly, sloppy game. Some of it is good defensive play by the lines, sure, but there have just been tons of stupid penalties, receivers slipping on the grass, and passes thrown nowhere near anyone. Blech.

Tom Gower: I can't let this one play go.  Michael Robinson catches the little pass from Smith on 3rd down as the 49ers are driving, stumbles and falls and catches, then gets up and RUNS OUT OF BOUNDS.  At the 3:47 mark, so inside the 5 minute rule where the clock will stop on out of bounds plays.  I don't know how much the rest of the game changes there-if the Bears use a time out on SF's possession, or what, but that was a severe lack of game awareness by Robinson-you have the first down, and making sure the clock runs is much more important than 2 or 5 marginal yards there.

Cutler throws his fifth interception to end the game…

Aaron Schatz: Well, this is one place where I think we have to hand it to our friend K.C. Joyner. He was absolutely right. Jay Cutler's decision-making skills are pathetic. That last pass, I mean, not only is Olsen covered, but Cutler throws the ball behind him, which is where the defender is, instead of throwing it in front of him where Olson might have to make a great play but at least he would be the only guy who could get to the ball. Blech. Double blech.

Mike Kurtz: Part of it is that Olsen is the only reliable red zone target Cutler has. He's like his binky ... things went completely south, Cutler felt the pressure of the situation, started running and heaved to Olsen because he probably thought -- in the few seconds he had to put together a plan -- that was the only shot he had.

Sure, it wasn't a great decision, but I'm not sure that particular situation is a good measure of his decision-making skills in general. That's not to say that they're good, of course.

Bill Barnwell: I think Cutler makes that throw because he thinks it's the last play of the game. I don't think he knows that there's actually :03 left when he throws and not :01, and thinks that he has to get a throw off.

Doug Farrar: From an offensive standpoint, the Bears reminded me of the Redskins in this game. They're playing so conservatively with the pass, Cutler was checking down even when it was to his advantage to read and throw deeper. Even when he had time. Nate Clements is out, the 49ers are 29th in DVOA against #1 receivers, you're not getting throttled on every play even though your offensive line isn't that good -- what's up with the Captain Checkdown stuff? I watched Cutler bump into Matt Forte on a draw, and it just occurred to me once again -- he's simply not comfortable in this offense. If you give up what the Bears gave up for Cutler, you'd think there would be some kind of meeting of the minds, but I don't see anything in this offense that differs radically from the "there is only Chicago Bears Quarterback" offenses, except that they can't run the ball anymore.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23 at Miami Dolphins 25

Bill Barnwell: When it comes all-KCW time, Sabby Piscitelli deserves mention. He's looked awful when I've watched him play, and Ronnie Brown just abused him on a 50-yard run.

Mike Tanier: Isn't Piscatelli still looking for the stuff that got stolen from him?

Bill Barnwell: It's too bad it wasn't a pass play, or else I could say "Yeah, it's pretty clear he thinks it's in the backfield." Oh well.

Much later on...

The Martz Award should go to Dan Henning, who made an absolutely awful call by having the Dolphins run a play-action pass deep in their own territory, which Chad Henne promptly threw to Quincy Black. Bucs came back and scored, giving them a one-point win they never should have had.

Mike Tanier: Dolphins game ain't over yet.

Bill Barnwell: Well, until the Buccaneers took a personal foul penalty after the touchdown (that FOX couldn't find any footage of), forcing the Bucs to kick from the 15, and the Dolphins promptly drove down the field for a game-winning Dan Carpenter field goal.

That's followed by a great moment of announcer cliche, as the play-by-play guy notes: "All the Miami Dolphins talked about was that killer instinct, how they needed to finish people; they made it interesting, but it looks like they finished the Tampa Bay Buccaneers here today."

Huh?! They threw an interception on their six-minute drill and lost the lead before the largesse of the other team allowed them to score. That's the opposite of a killer instinct.

Detroit Lions 10 at Minnesota Vikings 27

Vince Verhei: Detroit's front seven is having surprising success. Brett Favre has been under a lot of pressure, and they've mostly bottled up Adrian Peterson. Even on Peterson's long touchdown run, the Vikings got no push to the left, and the backside end should have had him in the backfield, but he is Adrian Peterson, so he slipped a tackle and zipped out the backdoor into the end zone. Unfortunately for the Lions, their secondary is having less success, specifically covering Sidney Rice, who is having a monster day.

Minnesota has more than 300 yards in the first half, but only 10 points, thanks to a failed fourth-down conversion inside the 10 and a couple of lost fumbles. One came on another long Peterson tackle-breaking run, but Phillip Buchanon was able to run him down and punch the ball out at about the 15, and the Lions recovered in the end zone. On the ensuing drive, Lions kick a field goal right before halftime to make it 10-3. Bryant Johnson dropped a difficult but catchable ball in the end zone on the drive. It was the first time all game Matt Stafford had any kind of protection.

Jacksonville Jaguars 24 at New York Jets 22

Doug Farrar: The Sanchize throws an early pick to Rashean Mathis in tight coverage after rolling bootleg left and throwing downfield against his body. Dude, you are not Matt Stafford. Quit thinking you have a Howitzer for an arm.

Bill Barnwell: Thought that the Jets would bottle up Mike Sims-Walker by leaving Darrelle Revis in coverage against him. After a fourth-and-4 conversion on a screen to Mike Thomas, Jets end up with Lito Sheppard against Sims-Walker, and he promptly burns him for a TD.

Mike Tanier: Oh man, the Jags tried to let the Jaguars score, so they could get the ball back, and MJD fell down Westbrook-style on the one yard line! It was a bunch of guys falling down. It was hysterical!

Bill Barnwell: And then Sione Pouha tried to steal the ball from the center.

Cincinnati Bengals 18 at Pittsburgh Steelers 12

Bill Barnwell: Bengals kickoff return was sprung by a really bad missed hold on Mike Logan, the first guy downfield. We've also had two missed extra points (one block, one aborted snap) in the first 20 minutes of Sunday.

Mike Kurtz: Special teams needs to be abolished. For serious.

Cincy's secondary has had a great day thus far (granted, pretty early). Roethlisberger doesn't really have anywhere to go, and thus far he's opted to eat the ball over throwing risky passes,making the pass rush look pretty good.

Cincinnati's power run blocking is just having its way with the Steelers' d-line. On an earlier play, they just shoved the entire line to the left, and just now, every single o-lineman won his battle. This is giving the Bengals some breathing room in the passing game, and they're looking good.

Doug Farrar: They’re really good at getting a big mudslide going one way or the other and just wiping out everything in their way.

Mike Kurtz: I wish CBS would show more of what the Bengals are doing. Roethlisberger has looked completely frozen in the red zone, even with tons of time. No red zone coverage is so good that it holds up against multiple pump fakes and 6 seconds in the pocket.

Pittsburgh's play calling is really unimaginative. They've thrown one or two screens, one of which was an awful bubble screen. They've run, but mostly up the middle out of obvious running formations. Lots and lots of naked shotgun, which has led to either mediocre returns or complete disasters.

Doug Farrar: I did like the way they used Heath Miller on a short run early in the fourth quarter. The Steelers are so good with using bunch formations to set up extra blockers on running plays, and on this play, they sent Miller right to left in a pull. Didn't really work because the Bengals' d-line is very solid today, but I liked the idea.

Mike Kurtz: It's looking like an evenly-played game will end up as a Bengals' win. They had a better game plan, and more importantly they executed it much better. Steelers DBs dropped three interceptions and Roethlisberger failed to get the ball in the end zone in four trips to the red zone. What a mess.

Rob Weintraub: Needless to say I'm ecstatic about not only sweeping the hated Steelers, but doing it the old-fashioned way, outhitting and outblocking them.  Mike Ditka called it a "blatant case of identity theft" which I thought was pretty funny.  While the D-line is getting lots of credit, and deservedly so, it was the outstanding coverage once again that made the rushers look good.  If there are a better pair than Hall and JoJo right now, I'd like to run a deep comeback on them.  Pittsburgh habitually kills us with routes that show outside and slide inside, either by design or ad libs during Roethlisberger scrambles.  The Bengals did a fabulous job of dropping into those passing lanes (often zone blitzing), and the corners stuck with their men like glue--even third CB Morgan Trent.  Roeth sprayed the ball more than usual, which was partly the rush and partly I don't know what--short week blues, perhaps.  What I liked was that Mendenhall and Ward both got clocked early and weren't factors thereafter.

Dare I blaspheme, but solid as Keith Rivers is, his backup Brandon Johnson is better.  He was a Defeat machine in reserve last season, and he has been everywhere the last two games.  Eventually, I expect Rivers to move inside, once Dhani takes a trip and doesn't return. 

Despite the KO return by Scott, and good punting by Huber, Cincy still has kicking issues--Huber bobbled a snap on an extra point that could well have cost us the game.

Someone asked earlier about Palmer's offhand handoffs. He sprained his thumb in week four, been using his right hand to hand off since.  It looks tres bizarre, but they haven't had an issue so far.

Anyone else wonder why Mike Singletary was coaching the Bengals?  First time Marvin has donned the specs, and he morphed into the pants-dropper.

Would be 8-1 but for the BS deflection in the opener vs. Denver.  If that ends up costing us a bye down the line, I'll be pissed. 

New Orleans Saints 28 at St. Louis Rams 23

Doug Farrar: Well, it appears we have ourselves a ballgame, as Bulger throws a TD to Donnie Avery to tie it at seven early in the second quarter. A great insight into St. Louis’ season was the reaction of the kid who is supposed to run across the field with the Rams logo flag after every touchdown. After the Avery score, he looked around and hesitated before raising the flag and starting up, as if to say, “Was that really what I thought it was? Can I do this?”

Rams safety O.J. Atogwe is validating his rep as one of the better players few people talk about. He’s already picked off Drew Brees once, and caused a Marques Colston fumble as Colston tried to jump over him at the end zone. Touchback, and the Rams got the ball back down 21-17 in the third quarter.

Buffalo Bills 17 at Tennessee Titans 41

Tom Gower: Fred Jackson had a couple good plays on the Bills' opening possession against the Titans, including beating Old Keith Bulluck to convert a dumpoff on 3rd down early in the drive, and finishes it off with a TD pass to an open Lee Evans off the WildBill.  Not a particularly good throw, but it had enough on it and Evans was open enough it didn't matter.

Bill Barnwell: Remember when Vince was saying that the Colts shouldn't have Reggie Wayne throw the ball when they have Peyton Manning? The Bills should have no qualms about throwing the ball with Fred Jackson.

Tom Gower: Chris Johnson's first "how the hell did he do that" moment of the game: screen pass left on 3&5, 2 defenders between him and the line of gain, so he completely reverses field, running about 5 yards back, and gets a block from VY and some shielding from Nate Washington to find an alley and pick up 7.

Doug Farrar: He’s breaking it open against the Bills’ horrible run defense late in the first quarter. This could be a re-run of his performance against the Lions last Thanksgiving, where we seriously wondered if he’d bust 300 yards.

Tom Gower: Aside from the TD run (the first "Chris Johnson is fast" moment of the game), they really haven't had the sort of rushing lanes I expected.  Not at all like the Lions game where the plan was "ok, let's run misdirection the first 5 plays and maybe scale back a little bit if we're over 100 yards rushing or up 2 scores."

The Titans also pulled out the college option play this week, on 3&2 on the drive that just resulted in Bironas' FG to make it 17-7.  This time, they used it more intelligently-faking FB give and running the option boot.  VY sucked in the corner and made a proper pitch to Johnson for a 32 yard gain that set up the FG.

Bill Barnwell: Little concerned about the cheerleader they just showed heading into break in Buffalo-Tennessee. She sultrily blew a kiss to the camera. Cheerleaders wave or cheer. Strippers blow kisses. She might end up in a Hooters bathroom somewhere.

Tom Gower: Jairus Byrd gets his 8th interception of the season when VY overthrows Lavelle Hawkins on a seamer down field.  Hey, VY, when there's a single high safety, don't make high throws down the middle of the field.

The Titans have been screening a lot today and having a fair amount of success, as they did the previous two weeks.  You'll hear some people say this is something they should have been doing all along, but this ignores one fairly simple fact: they were a bad screen team earlier in the year-timing was all screwed up and the blocking was bad.  It really looks like they devoted some good bye week practice time to being a better screen team and it's paid off.

One formation note: the Titans have motioned Scaife into the backfield today to give a full house look a couple times today.  They haven't done much with it, aside from run a bootleg once, but we'll see.

Fish is showing up in Martz this week for a terrible challenge that VY was in the end zone on a scramble-he got the first down at the 4 or so and down to the 1, but was down a full yard short of the EZ and obviously so.

As Tom later noted, "For the record, Fish's explanation of his challenge: "No, what happened was that we had the wrong personnel on the field.  We were going to take a timeout anyway and so rather than just take a timeout I took a shot at the review and threw the red flag instead of calling time out.""

Interesting decision-Titans lose 4 on 3&6 from the 29 and are called for holding.  Jauron elects to decline the penalty and let the Titans try a 51 yard field goal down 7 rather than let them try again on 3&16 from outside FG range.  Bironas hits from 51, and the Bills are down 10 with 3:23 to play.

Doug Farrar: Well, that’s a scouting malfunction. Bironas was 7-for-7 from 40 to 49 for the season coming into this game. No attempts from 50 or more until today.

Denver Broncos 17 at Washington Redskins 27

Doug Farrar: Brandon Marshall has two long touchdown receptions in the first quarter. Both were off deep throws from Kyle Orton, and I don’t think there was a Redskins defender within five yards of Marshall on either play. Insert “I wonder who will be taking Greg Blache’s playsheet next week” joke here.

Bill Barnwell: Dan Dierdorf is a legend. This is an exact quote from the game audio.

"Quinton Ganther is not a stranger to taking a lick or handing one out, either! He's deserved a little...he deserves a blow on the sideline."

Followed by three seconds of silence. Is he Tobias Funke?

Hunter Smith throws a 35-yard touchdown off a fake field goal. Bench Campbell for him! He sees a heavy rush every time he's out there! He can handle the pressure.

Aaron Schatz: The Washington fake was really ridiculous, because the Redskins came out in that fake formation and motioned Suisham out to wide receiver, and Denver took a timeout because they were unprepared for it. So they come back after the timeout and Washington does the same thing again, they send Suisham out to wide receiver, and Denver looks like they have no idea what's up, snap to Hunter Smith, and Mike Sellers is running all alone on the left side, touchdown. What the heck? You guys called a timeout -- and decided there was no way they would try that again?

Chris Simms enters for an injured Kyle Orton...

Bill Barnwell: Chris Simms has been awful in Washington -- 2-of-7 with a really ugly duck of a long throw for a pick. It's really easy to denigrate backups when they come in on the spot -- the historical performance of backups when coming in with no notice, I suspect, is way worse than when they start a game -- but he's looked just terrible.

Jason Campbell, on the other hand, looks frazzled. It's not new news or anything, but just the adjective that comes to mind watching him play. The talent's there, but it's easy to see how you can separate the numbers from how he looks.

Aaron Schatz: This game is surprisingly close as we get into the fourth quarter, 17-14 Denver. I think people are probably surprised to see Washington playing hard. We had all sort of decided, "Oh, the Redskins have given up on Jim Zorn." In fact, Washington would be winning this game if their safeties didn't completely suck without Chris Horton in the lineup. I didn't see the first Brandon Marshall deep touchdown, but the second deep touchdown was a play-action. The linebackers and both safeties, Doughty and Landry, were sucked in by the play action. Carlos Rogers goes to pass Marshall off to the deep safety and hey, wait a minute, there is no deep safety. They're all looking around at each other like the Titans in the Titans-Patriots game a couple weeks ago, like, um, what the hell coverage were we playing this time? Then a couple drives later, the whole thing happens again. Denver play-fakes, Doughty looks like he's playing run all the way, but for some reason Landry jumps towards a short route on the left side like he thinks he's gonna jump a route and pick off the play, except Orton NEVER EVEN PUMPS TO THE LEFT. And there's Eddie Royal running all by himself on the right side because Fred Smoot has no safety help. Alas, Orton overthrew him a little, or they would have had another absurd long touchdown. Like I said, I didn't see the first Marshall touchdown but I'm guessing the same thing happened.

And Ladell Betts is having a game. Looks pretty darn good, and the Redskins line -- with Levi Jones signed off the street and starting at left tackle shortly thereafter -- is actually getting some big holes against the Denver front that's been so good this year. Interestingly, D.J. Williams got hurt at one point and the Broncos switched to a four-man front at that point.

Doug Farrar: Chris Simms had some pretty epic pocket presence FAILS late in that game. Washington's front four was kicking his ass all over the place.

Aaron Schatz: Yes, the second half of this game was yet another point for the "Wow, we all misjudged Kyle Orton" column. The difference between Orton and Simms when it comes to pocket presence was quite obvious. In addition, the theory behind the Pittsburgh and Baltimore wins was "OK, teams have discovered how to defend the Broncos... they aren't running well and Kyle Orton can't get it over the top, so just defend all the intermediate routes and you're golden." I think Orton showed in the first half he can get it over the top if you are nice enough to not have a safety there. The problem was:

1) Chris Simms really COULDN'T get it over the top when he tried, and...
2) Wow, the Broncos defensive front doesn't look anything like it looked in those first few games. The defensive line coach is going to be watching the film of this game and really shaking his head. That awful Washington line and their backup running back were having their way with the Broncos.

Kansas City Chiefs 16 at Oakland Raiders 10

Bill Barnwell: JaMarcus Russell runs a perfect hitch-and-go with Louis Murphy...that's wiped out by a tripping call. Poor guy.

Raiders-Chiefs with one of the worst plays of the year. Raiders line up to go for it on fourth-and-1, but JaMarcus Russell bobbles the snap and gets stuffed. One problem? The Chiefs called an icing-the-quarterback timeout right before Russell snapped the ball. In all fairness, I guess it worked.

The Raiders, given a second chance to convert from the same spot, choose to punt instead.

Tom Gower: The Chiefs-Raiders game just went to halftime, about 108 minutes after it kicked off.  Not just badness, interminable badness!

Bill Barnwell: There was maybe the greatest example of fumble recovery being luck since the Derrick Mason/Ken Hamlin incident last year in Oakland-KC; the ball must've gone 20 yards and been in six people's grasp before someone fell on it and it stayed there.

Tom Gower: Shockingly, Gamebook has it as being recovered a mere 13 yards downfield.  I thought it was more like 20-25.

Seattle Seahawks 20 at Arizona Cardinals 31

Doug Farrar: On their first drive, the Seahawks are praised by Dick Stockton for getting out to midfield from their own 15 before their drive stalls. That is a veritable definition of "the soft bias of low expectations".

Tom Gower: So, Seneca Wallace lines up in the slot, then motions out of the slot into the shotgun QB position next to Justin Forsett.  Which position was previously completely unoccupied, aside from the indirectly-lined up Forsett.  Oooh-kay.

Dallas Cowboys 7 at Green Bay Packers 17

Bill Barnwell: Green Bay-Dallas has just been an ugly football game so far. Missed open receivers, poor technique, totally blown blocks or missed assignments, and now three flags in four plays, including two false starts on that great Packers offensive line. A sack by a totally unmarked Orlando Scandrick was nullified by a stupid Mike Jenkins hands to the face penalty.

Lots of Bobby Carpenter early for the Cowboys. That can't be a good thing.

Marc Colombo broke his leg and is probably done for the season. Huge loss for the Cowboys, although it's surprising he lasted this long after beginning his career with years of injury misery for the Bears.

Of course, he's still more mobile than Orlando Pace.

Mike Kurtz: Rodgers is flushed, runs to the sideline and steps for a few yards, and there's some action after he's out of bounds. Ref comes up and says there are two fouls, a holding and then a late hit PF. Then he stands there for a bit, the announcers keep talking, the teams look vaguely confused. The ref comes on and says "Correction.." then explains that the holding was declined and the personal foul was on Green Bay.

That about sums up this game.

And then Rodgers starts jumping back and forth in the pocket, eventually starts running and has the ball punched out from behind, everyone jumps on it. Green Bay recovers, but I'm expecting Benny Hill to line up at H-back.

Mike Tanier: Spencer Havner touchdown! The Packers split him out in the far position as a wide receiver and he caught a little hitch at the goal line. What a creative use of a converted fullback. I love watching teams that have a plan in the red zone. Okay, now back to the Eagles.

David Gardner: In Green Bay, McCarthy just called his third challenge of the game, and Jeff Triplett went under the hood before realizing it. He then kindly announced that the ruling on the field would stand.  

Tom Gower: Sorry, Jason. Witten flinches while lined up in the backfield, the Packer D jumps up and starts pointing in his direction, and then he decides "Hmm, I'll motion out and line up in the slot, maybe they won't realize I false started."  Nice try, but no dice.

Mike Kurtz: Especially since at that point, the flanker was ALSO in motion, and looking at him like he was insane.

David Gardner: On third and goal, Roy Williams was on the winning end of a questionable pass interference call, and the Cowboys got a new set of downs from the 2. Romo looks for Witten in the end zone but instead finds Charles Woodson

Aaron Schatz: I'm sorry, but what was the point of Dallas running all those plays at the end down 17-0? Including a bubble screen where Miles Austin got whacked and a sneak for Romo? They were like a kid playing Madden who was pissed about getting clobbered by his more talented friend (let's call him "Ian Dembsky") and desperately tries to score points at the end of the game. Because, you know, in a Madden exhibition game injuries don't matter for the rest of the season. Unlike if you get hurt sneaking when losing 17-0.

Tom Gower: Obviously, to screw us owners of the Green Bay defense in fantasy by taking away our shutout points.

Philadelphia Eagles 23 at San Diego Chargers 31

Bill Barnwell: FOX just has a graphic at the top of their Eagles-Chargers ticker announcing that "HOT ZONE EXTRA" would be next. I have no idea what that is. There's only six hits on Google for "HOT ZONE EXTRA". Huh?

Tom Gower: I know I can't say this as a TEN fan, but thank you, thank you, thank you, Brian Billick.  In addition to writing an excellent book on the current NFL ("More Than a Game"), he said the Eagles are kicking "out of the shadow of their own goalposts," rather than the normal "shadow of their own goalline."  Goalline: chalk on field, doesn't cast shadow.  Goalposts: tall things, can cast shadow.

Bill Barnwell: Another example of the establishment-clause-run-amuck is Brian Billick referencing LaDainian Tomlinson saying that he needs "20-25 carries to establish his rhythm". So LT is only in rhythm late in the fourth quarter of games?

Doug Farrar: Brian Billick, we love you. We also hate you.

Mike Tanier: Reggie Brown just caught a pass!
And the Eagles just ran a reverse that was a crime against nature! Loss of six.

Bill Barnwell: Billick called it a double reverse. Demerit. McNabb inaccurate early.

Tom Gower: In our continuing adventures of Brian Billick: Love and Hate, he was talking about the empty meaning the pass rushing Shauns had to play coverage and first mentioned Shaun Rogers.  Yeah, the Chargers could really use him right now.

Mike Tanier: Lots of McNabb bombs (incomplete) early. A holding penalty on each and every punt. I have seen this game before. It always ends the same.

Bill Barnwell: The sideline reporter just mentioned what a big loss the injured DeSean Jackson would be for "...Phillies fans".

Tom Gower: Excellent two handed shove by Malcom Floyd there on Sheldon Brown to give himself position for the catch and set up the Chargers 1&G inside the 5.

Mike Tanier: Brian Westbrook does a good job in pass pro, blocking Brandon Siler. McNabb then scrambles right into Siler, who snatches McNabb like a Venus Flytrap while lying on the ground.

Aaron Schatz: Andy Reid. Third-and-1, down by the goal line. Do we sneak it? Run it? No, no, we roll out and nobody is open, because of course the Chargers know we'll pass because they have this thing called "film." Then fourth-and-1, down 21-6 with 21 minutes to go, they kick the field goal. Look, I'm sorry about last week, but historically Donovan McNabb has an excellent record on sneaks. You kick the field goal, you still have to score two touchdowns. Sneak the ball. Sneak the ball. SNEAK THE F'ING BALL, ANDY.

Bill Barnwell: The Eagles follow that with a big stuff inside their own 40 after a first-and-5 ... until they get called for offsides on third-and-2. Stupid, stupid, stupid play.

Mike Tanier: Eagles in November. Egads. Wake me when they start their panicky late season surge.

Tom Gower: That was a ridiculous bailout grab by Avant on McNabb's effort to throw an interception.

Bill Barnwell: Westbrook suffered another concussion, now his second in three weeks. That might be ballgame.

New England Patriots 34 at Indianapolis Colts 35

Tim Gerheim: Why do you suppose Andrea Kremer has so many zippers on her jacket?

Aaron Schatz: Really interesting here with the Pats starting out. Ty Warren is out (not good for Pats) and the Pats have started a 2-4-5 defense... but it's really a 4-2-5 because the linemen are both DTs (Wilfork and Mike Wright) and the OLBs were both pass-rush specialists (Burgess, who was a DE of course in the Oakland 4-3, and Tully Banta-Cain).

Angry about the challenge of the Reggie Wayne pass in the first quarter. That was a catch. On the replay, it is pretty obviously a catch. What on earth are the guys upstairs telling Belichick there? Look, in the first quarter, if you're going to challenge a play, that replay better be a slam dunk. You can't go wasting one of your challenge flags on a play in the first quarter that isn't a scoring play or one that you know will be overturned! Josh McDaniels did the same thing earlier today with a first-quarter fumble by Buckhalter that was really obviously a fumble. You don't want to get stuck in the same situation as Andy Reid last week, left with no challenges with a whole quarter left in a close game or whatever. Don't throw a "hey, maybe they'll see something unexpected on the tape" challenge flag in the first damn quarter. Aaaarrrggghhh.

Doug Farrar: And Jeff Fisher, too. Was there a memo to coaches this week that they’d get 2-for-1 on challenges?

Yeah, the formation stuff is interesting. The Patriots saying, “Phooey on your running game,” and the Colts replying with, “Yeah, phooey on our running game. Let’s go.”

I’d like to see anyone throw a better ball than Peyton did on the sideline pattern to Reggie Wayne with 9:51 left in the first quarter. Holy crap.

Mike Kurtz: It's fitting that this happens in Indianapolis, since the "wishful thinking" challenge was one of Dungy's signature moves.

Tom Gower: Don't forget Mike McCarthy, challenging Nelson being down at the 1 when it would have been 1&G.

Tim Gerheim: Except when there's an arcane rule involved, I hate when the officials elaborate on calls that they review but don't reverse.  When they say "the ruling on the field is confirmed," they're saying something that's irrelevant when they aren't asked to confirm the ruling in the first place, only to see if they can ascertain that it was wrong.  When they say that and explain what happened when the calls are clear, then when they say "the ruling on the field stands" like they're supposed to, it tells us that they can't tell so they're sticking with the ruling on the field.  Officiating suffers when when everybody, including probably the officials a little bit, starts to get confused of just what they're supposed to be doing out there.

Tom Gower: On the second down run before the sideline completion to Moss, Freeney immediately dropped into coverage.  I don't know if he read run or what, but if that was a zone blitz, that's a wrinkle you don't see very often from the Colts.

Vince Verhei: As an owner of Moss and Brady, playing someone who owns Manning, Wayne, and Addai, allow me to say: Yippee!

Seven minutes later…

The prior posting was made BEFORE the Manning-to-Wayne touchdown. Now I am bummed.

Aaron Schatz: Remember the 2006 AFC Championship? There will be no counting of the chickens prior to the hatching of said chickens.

Tom Gower: There are few things I know in life, but one of them is that a post route like Wayne's for the TD should not work against a team playing man coverage with a single high safety.  Yes, that means you, James Sanders.

Doug Farrar: Antoine Bethea didn't watch the video of Rams safety James Butler getting tackled in the end zone for a safety against the Lions a couple weeks ago. He made a great play to pick Brady-to-Moss in the end zone, decided to run the ball out, and just barely avoided the same fate.

Aaron Schatz: Wow, Sebastian Vollmer is really pushing Dwight Freeney back behind Tom Brady. I'm quite impressed.

One play passes…

Aaron Schatz: And of course, one play after I write that, Vollmer completely loses Freeney, and the only thing that saves Brady is that Logan Mankins comes over and gets Freeney for an extra hit before he gets to Brady.

Tom Gower: Barry Sims did an excellent job of handling Freeney two weeks ago after Joe Staley went out with an injury.  Freeney's still good, don't get me wrong, but he's not an every-down holy terror like Jared Allen.

Mike Kurtz: I gladly welcome any and all Colts fans into my movement to abolish special teams.

Aaron Schatz: Big reason why the Patriots are winning this game: Dallas Clark always runs wild up the middle of the field against them, catching pass after pass. Tonight, they've got him controlled. Brandon McGowan is playing very well. Through three quarters: two catches for Clark on three passes. Pretty amazing.

I'm just blown away by the Peyton Manning interception with 7:45 left. Reggie Wayne goes in, and Manning throws deep like it's a go. When is the last time you saw miscommunication between Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne?

Bill Barnwell: Hell, when was the last time I saw communication between Isaiah Stanback and a quarterback?

The Patriots fail to convert on fourth-and-short.

Bill Barnwell: Wow. Belichick is saying that the odds of the Patriots converting a fourth-and-2 is better than the odds of them stopping the Colts from, what, the Indy 35 or so?

Tom Gower: Less the odds the Pats drive for a game-winning score in the time remaining after the Colts score.  Kind of irrelevant now.

The decision I almost wrote an email about is that taking the TO the first play after a change of possession is normally an example of Raider-like incompetence.  Does he challenge the call?  Does he save it for the comeback?  Either way, using 2 TOs that drive is a bad move.

Aaron Schatz: I am in total shock. Total fan shock.

1) I feel bad for Darius Butler. There's no way he avoids that defensive pass interference there, where Austin Collie came back to the ball. There's no way for Butler to stop his momentum and not bump into him. He really didn't do anything. Smart play by Collie.

2) Fourth-and-2 is not the same as fourth-and-1.

3) Fourth down from your own 30 is not the same as fourth down on the
opponent's 30.

4) When you need two yards to ice the game, is it better to send
everyone on two-yard patterns, or to send everyone on THREE-yard
patterns and give a little room for error?

5) Reggie Wayne is awesome. By the way, Jonathan Wilhite could have
been flagged for pass interference on that play.

6) New England is still going to be number one in DVOA. From an emotional standpoint, and a standings standpoint, this sucker was all Indy. But from a play-by-play standpoint, it was basically a tie. After what happened against the Rams today, I wouldn't take the Saints against either team.

Will Carroll: Joe Sheehan said it best: "There's arrogance and then there's that play."

I expect a lot of complaints about the juggling call, but it looked right. And I'm pretty sure that Peyton Manning actually is as good as he thinks he is now.

Doug Farrar: I was amazed -- I thought for sure Brady was just trying to draw the Colts offside and they wouldn't actually run that play. And I felt that it was more overconfidence in his offense than a lack of faith in his defense.

Bill Barnwell: The play that comes to mind for me here is the safety the Patriots took against the Broncos a few years ago in a game that they ended up winning, after which Belichick was hailed as a genius, with very few people saying that he'd made the wrong decision. You can't judge people based upon what happened after the fact. You have to judge those decisions based upon what they knew at the time. I know it's not realistic, but your opinion of the playcall should be the same regardless of whether they convert and win or whether they fail to and lose. 

Aaron Schatz: Your opinion of the decision not to punt, that is. You are allowed to question the specific play call (two-yard patterns).

Rob Weintraub: So the Bengals outslug the Steelers, and Bill Belichick channels Norv Turner.  What the hell is going on around here?  Actually, he channeled the ol' Bootlegger's Boy, Barry Switzer--remember in 1995 when he went for it on his own 20 or so against Philly, not once but twice (two-minute warning saved him the first time), and was stuffed?  Love the idea of twinning Switzer and Belichick.

So it's 1st and goal Indy, 35 or so ticks left.  Addai gets stuffed.  Anyone think he sort of half-stepped it in there, purposefully not scoring?  Didn't appear so, but that was the perfect  play there to kill another 20ish seconds, and it wouldn't be beyond Manning to have his offense do that.

Bill Barnwell: I think it was worse that the Patriots didn't let Addai score on that long run.

Aaron Schatz: Oh, that's instinct by the defensive players. It's hard to expect them to think quickly enough there to let him score. Even if MJD did do that today for Jacksonville (well, the opposite, that is). It's not like Mike Holmgren in the Super Bowl against Denver when he specifically told players to let TD score from the two. That would have to be some REALLY quick thinking to let Addai score.

Doug Farrar: All I know is that I was in my kitchen pre-snap, yelling “Why the HELL aren’t you punting?!?!?” at the TV. And if Faulk makes that first down, I’m thinking that Belichick escapes a bad decision.

Mike Kurtz: There's no good call in that situation. Indy can move the ball quickly, and just showed you that they can. Extra yardage will help you get a stop, but it comes down to how much he trusts the defense, pure and simple. If he punts, he's taking a risk. If he goes for it, he's taking a risk. I think he took the longer of the two risks, but you can't blame him. Neither option is very good.

David Gardner: That being said, I think it's a dumb decision independent of the outcome. Rodney Harrison on NBC's postgame coverage, visibly upset, said that he believed it to be Belichick's worst coaching decision ever.

Bill Barnwell: With all due respect, Rodney Harrison was saying that Tom Brady was better than Peyton Manning in the pregame show because he has two more Super Bowl rings. I could give a damn what he thinks about situational playcalling.

I agree that it's the wrong decision. I think that it's a lot closer than the public appears to think, though, and that you have to bash Belichick both ways. 

Rob Weintraub: Really the unsung key moment was when NE had to call time out coming off the touchback at 34-28, before their first play.  I don't think I've ever seen that from Brady/Belichick. 

Ned Macey: I'm late to the party here because I was on DVR, but two yards to gain against the Colts, two downs to do it.  I know you have Brady, but maybe, just maybe you should have ran?  They got more than two yards on the QB sneak. 

I think Belichick was wrong to go for it, and you don't know what effect the decision to go for it had on the defenses morale, but wasn't he somewhat vindicated by the fact that the defense rolled over on the 30-yards?  Still, if he had just run on third down, he likely would have made it, and if not, Manning would have had less than 2 minutes, no timeouts, and 65+ yards to go. 

And this game was radically similar to 2003, but this time, the Colts got in from the one-yard line.

Vince Verhei: I had something to take care of near the end of the game, so I turned it off after the field goal that put New England ahead 34-21. I didn't hear anything else about it until I got into my car 30 or 40 minutes later, turned on the radio, and heard Bill Belichick talking about a failed fourth down attempt that led to a loss. I was confused. Why, I asked myself, are they playing a Belichick soundbite from some other game several years ago? By the time I realized exactly what had happened here, well, it's a good thing my car was at a red light at the time.

I'm fine with going for it on fourth down, but if you're going to do that, the third-down call MUST be a running play. Even if it fails, you'll probably still gain one yard, and that makes the fourth-down conversion easier. Going into the game, New England's offensive line was fifth in power situations; Indianapolis' defensive line was 26th. If they run twice, it's almost inconceivable that they don't pick up the first down.

Flotsam and Jetsam

Tom Gower: Quotes that wouldn't be improved by the addition of the rest of the stuff he said: Rich Gannon: "he had a groin last year, and that's part of your value to the team."

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 16 Nov 2009

279 comments, Last at 18 Nov 2009, 4:21pm by robwein


by t.d. :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 5:38am

Bellicheck was wrong to go for it, and his agressiveness has backfired more in recent years than it did early in his career. That said, his aggressiveness is a big part of what has made him great, albeit more on the defensive side of the ball.

by AFireSnake (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 5:53am

Belichick was wrong for burning the time outs. Though I though it was a suicidal call as well, they converted on it only for a bad call from the refs. Balls of steel call, but actually a good one - and there has been one or the other game in the past where Belichick handed it to the opponent instead of going for it and lost. What would you have said if it worked?

But I am wondering whether the Pats have lost any ability to win close games the past couple of years ... except for the two close games in 07 (Eagles and Ravens, the latter coming of a bad call by the refs on the Gaffney TD [even though I think they would've won anyway]), they lost any important and close game the past seasons ... Broncons in the Playoffs, Colts in the AFC C, Jets and esp. Broncons this year. And Colts ... Jets last year (the OT game where they burned their playoff hopes)

by RickD :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:40am

I simply don't fathom how people say "Belichick was wrong" with such moral authority when the replays show Faulk starting the catch from the far side of the 30.

Clearly, whatever the probability was of actually making the first down there, the Pats came within a whisker of succeeding. They were much closer at succeeding there than they were at stopping the Colts' offense at any time in the 4th quarter.

The previous 79-yard drive took about 100 seconds for the Colts. Even accounting for the (bad IMO) DPI call, the Pats didn't look for one second like they could even slow down the Colts, much less stop them.

by nottom :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:55am

I personally liked Belichick's decision to go for it. As for if its correct, lets assume NE converts 60% of the time. If they convert they pretty much win the game right there. If they fail, Indy still has to score a TD to win; let's say they do that 50% of the time. So going for it results in a NE win 80% of the time.

If instead they punt, this means they need to stop Indy more than 80% of the time. I'm just not sure they keep them out of the end zone that often.

I'd also add that in the 1st situation, if Indy scores NE will tend to have a little more time on the clock to try and get the FG so that is one more slight edge towards going for it.

Its certainly a close decision, and in a close call like this I'd rather give Brady a chance to win the game rather than have to stop Manning.

by jackgibbs :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 5:04am

I'm pretty shocked you guys think the 4th down was a bad call. have you guys been watching manning this season?

by Guy #1 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 9:34am

It's because they think they know more about football than they really do. Call it the statistician's hubris

by Conscientious Objector (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 10:31am

That is quite the hypocritical BS drive-by assertion.

You assert that they don't know as much as they think because they disagree with you? It seems that both parties are going through a bit of hubris, and it just so happens that one of the parties is a group of professional football analysts. Not that they can't be wrong, but if you're going to contend that they are, at least lay it on the line, throw some numbers down or something. These one line "i am smart n dey r dum" cheap shots are embarrassing.

by peterplaysbass (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 1:13pm

Dude. Play the percentages. Football coaches know more about the game than internet commenters (even you!) but stats are inescapable. Go with the best success rate. Dungy nailed it on the head.

That said, I don't blame them for the call. The New England offense picking up 2 versus their defense stopping Manning and the Colts in 60-70 yards with 2 minutes left? I can see it going either way. A 4th down conversion attempt is a higher risk and a higher reward, but I have to wonder how much the reward of being hailed as a coaching genius played into the call.

by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 4:22pm

Unfortunately, playing it by the percentages would mean doing the opposite of what you seem to want. The stats say to go for it:


by peterplaysbass (not verified) :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 10:58am

Seems weird that Dungy would get that wrong.

Thanks for the link!

by Eddo :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 3:40pm

Not really. Dungy, while a great Monday-to-Saturday coach, motivator, and planner, always had a reputation as a below-average gameday decision-maker. There's even that classic image of Manning waving the punting team off the field in order to go for a first down.

I'm nowhere near surprised that Dungy would have punted in that situation. It's just his style.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 1:26pm

You realize that three other "statisticians" have defended Belichick's call, right?

Burke at Advanced NFL Stats.
Paine at Pro Football Reference.
Stuart at Pro Football Reference.

by Guy #1 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 1:58pm

Forest/trees. I just hate monday morning quarterbacking, especially by NEERRRRDDDDSSS

by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 4:23pm

They are showing the percentages that should be used before the play was called, which is exactly what you should use.

by peterplaysbass (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 2:35pm

What's with the quotation marks? Are they not really statisticians?

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:02pm

If the Pats would have converted, I'm sure their outlook would be different.

He'd be a "genius".

Look, they put the ball into the hands of the 1A,B,C best player in the NFL and asked him to convert 2 yards to win. That's better than giving the ball to a dominant 1A,B,C best player in the NFL and asking your gassed defense to stop him. If Brady gets that, it's game over. It might be the fact that these statisticians are also football fans too, and are angry that their team lost.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 4:16pm

Chris, did you read any of those links? All three said it was the correct call, even though the outcome was bad.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 5:34pm

EDIT: I'm not sure why I put that in quotes. I guess because Guy #1 used the term "statisticians' hubris". Don't read anything into it, please.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 8:41pm

I didn't read the links and I wasn't talking about his post per say. I was talking about the Football Outsiders ( I guess Aaron later changed his mind) and the other talking heads in the media.

If the Pats convert that, I'm sure the "experts" on ESPN would be talking about just how smart Bill Bellicheck is, and I'm sure the outsiders would be pretty excited about it as well. OK, maybe 1 or 2 would dissent and say they should have punted even AFTER they converted just to be different, but I think most people would have loved the call and defended had it worked.

by Mike Y :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 5:07am

Going for it was absolutely the right call. 4th and 2 has, what, a 60% conversion rate? If they make it, the game is over, Pats win. I don't think it makes much difference if Manning has 70 or 30 yards to go with 2 minutes left in the game. Their best chance was to not give Manning another chance.

by horn2 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 1:15pm

Game is not over if they make it, Colts had 2 min warning and all 3 TOs left.

NWE needs *2* first downs there not one. Mistake.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 2:47pm

If NWE gets the first down, its the 2 minute warning. Goes to 1.52 with the colts using their last TO. Kneel on 2nd down. 1.07. Kneel on 3rd down. 0.20. Punt. Colts get ball back on their own 20 with 15 seconds or so left. Game is over.

by DGL :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:17pm

Plus there's the chance that the Pats actually pick up the next first down.

As someone with no rooting interest in this game, I thought at the time that going for it was a bad call, but have since changed my mind. Partly due to the various statistical analyses I've seen since last night, partly due to the belief that you want to win or lose the game with your best players. Like last year as a Steelers' fan, I was perfectly happy to see the fourth-quarter offensive game plan to be "run the ball three times, take two minutes off the clock, then punt and let the defense win the game." The Pats' offense is the best unit on the team, and as others have pointed out, this difference was magnified last night due to injuries and fatigue. In that situation, I'd rather give Brady & Co. the opportunity to win the game than rely on the defense.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:34pm

They burned two timeouts on the previous plays in the series. They only had one left. You're right that they needed another first down anyway, but if they converted that, the clock goes to 2:00, then they can still run 1:30 off the clock after the Colts burn the last timeout. Punting with :30 left is a lot better than punting at 2:04.

by Ajit Kirpekar (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 5:09am

You know, I think it was an iffy call but why are people saying it was so absurd? The colts had just scored two long drives in basically under 2mins. ITs 2 yards and the pats had shown they could effectively move the ball on the ground, through short, medium and deep. Both qbs were brilliant, but manning made the tougher throws under more pressure.

by Ben :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 6:01am

The Colts already had a 79 yard drive in 2:09 and a 79 yard drive in 1:49 during the forth quarter. Another 70 yards in 2:00 with a timeout, while certainly not a certainty, is a gamble as well.

Speaking as a Colts fan, I was much more uncomfortable with the Pats going for it then if they had punted it. I've just seen too many Pats games where that short out to Welker seals the deal.

by Bad Doctor :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 8:18am

Ben, I love that point. Sometimes, the fans are the ones that REALLY know. If I had to bet, I'd say that it was the wrong call, but it's certainly defensible. (If the Pats had 2 or 3 timeouts that they could have used aggressively to ensure themselves a full minute or so to set up a FG after a Colts go-ahead score, I'd think it was the right call.) But the point I keep thinking of is, I'll bet that when the Colts fans saw the forced 4th down, they were ecstatic, and when the Pats offense came out on 4th-and-2, they were saying, "NO, NO ... Punt, damn you!" That's as good as test as any for what the right call really was! (As an Eagles fan, I remember a call just like this in the 4th-and-26 playoff game with the Packers a few years ago ... when the Packers punted on a 4th-and-1 near midfield protecting a TD lead late in the game, there was no doubt in my mind what the right call was, because I was PETRIFIED that they were going to run Ahman Green instead.)

by jedmarshall :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 9:40am

As someone with a strong interest in the outcome of this game, I can say Belicheat going for it on 4th down was the absolute right call. I hate hate hate when the Colts don't go for it on 4th and short and I absolutely hate when teams facing them do because it seems like most of the times it's converted. With the time left and the way the offense was rolling, I was very happy to see 4th down coming up. I was very unhappy to see them going for it.

This game reminds me of the mirror image of the '07 game. In the Pats 16-0 glory, people forget that was probably one of the Colts best teams, only injuries (especially to Freeney) killed their season. They beat the Pats for 3 quarters then the defense broke down and allowed a comeback. This time exactly the opposite.

by jedmarshall :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 10:19am

double post deleted

by Purds :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 10:19am

"when the Pats offense came out on 4th-and-2, they were saying, "NO, NO ... Punt, damn you!" That's as good as test as any for what the right call really was!"

I have to disagree there. I was, as a Colts fan, saying "no, punt, damn you" but not because BB was making the best decision. I was saying that because if NE converted, they would win, without question. But, that doesn't make it the right call. It's like watching a basketball game with just seconds to go, and your team is ahead by 2. If the opponents take a 3-pointer, you're shouting "no, no, take the layup!" because if they succeed, you lose. But, that doesn't mean taking the 3 is the better decision, if a lay up is there for the taking (now, I am not saying the punt is a layup, but I am saying that just because a fan is nervous doesn't mean it's the right call.

Let me give another analogy: If my team were up by 7, and gave up the tying TD with no time left, I would be extremely nervous if the opponent chose to go for 2 for the win, as opposed to kicking the XP for the tie. Does my nervousness mean that the opponent is making the right choice? No, obviously.

by Bad Doctor :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 10:42am

But compare your attitude in BOTH situations. In the basketball situation, if the opposition passes up the 3 for a wide-open layup, you're going to be screaming at your team's horrible defense for giving up the tying points so easily. Conversely, here, I bet you were pretty amped up at the idea of Peyton getting the ball back with tons of time and a timeout in hand. Your biggest worry was probably not to score the TD too quickly.

And I don't think you're necessarily "scared" when the opposing basketball team takes a 3 or when the opposing football team goes for two ... I think you're just really amped up knowing that you're going to know if you win or lose in the next two seconds. I don't think you're scared b/c the other team made the smart odds-on play call.

To go back to when I was in your shoes, the Eagles-Pack 4th-and-26 game, I wasn't nervous thinking of an Ahman Green run on 4th-and-1 b/c heads, we'd definitely lose; tails, we'd have a good chance to win. I was nervous b/c there was a heck of a lot better than a coin flip's chance of the former.

by Lyford (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 5:15pm

Why "no, obviously?" I don't know the percentages on 2-point conversions, but if a team is good at it, why wouldn't you just take your chances of converting as opposed to leaving it up to the whim of the coin?

Now, "obviously," the coach is going to be pilloried if they don't make it, but that shouldn't be the deciding factor, whereas losing the coin toss in OT and giving up a FG - well, the coach takes no heat for that. So it's easy to see why a coach would choose the "safe" method - no criticism if it fails. But he should be trying to maximize the team's chances of winning as opposed to minimizing his chances of getting criticized. I think that's what Belichick was doing last night, and I strongly approve of the move.

by Purds :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 12:25am

My impression is that it's less than 50%. I could be wrong, but that was the percentage I had heard somewhere.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:43am

You trust the Pats to drive half the length of the field in 30 seconds or less but not to gain two yards on one play?

by Bad Doctor :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:23pm

Completely different defenses, completely different offensive attacks. 30 seconds could be a minute and a half in a Super Bowl 43 situation. And half the length is a bit dramatic, don't you think? You return a kick to the 30 and you only need a 15 yarder, spike, a 20 yarder, spike to have a shot at a FG. Maybe less than that in a dome. (And I'm not even weighing one against the other, one's a mitigating factor.)

Plus as we discussed somewhere else, you can't just say "the Pats offense." The Pats offense is not quite as good as its overall stats in the 4th and 2 situation, b/c Randy Moss stretching the field is a huge part of their success, and that element doesn't come into play on 4th and 2. Put one guy on him bump and run, and if they toast you they toast you. "The Pats offense" is better in the 2 minute offense, when Moss is a feared weapon, as opposed to on 4th and 2, when he's just one more way they can get 2 yards and sew up the game.

by Lem (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 5:35am

"I could give a damn what [Rodney Harrison] thinks about situational play-calling."-- Bill Barnwell


by t.d. :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 7:18am

I thought the Pats dominated the game and will have a healthy VOA advantage. The only thng about the game that I was surprised by was how effectively the Colts were able to run the ball.

by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 4:31pm

Really? I don't see how the Pats would have a much higher VOA. They dominated for 2.5 quarters but if you get dominated just as badly at the end of the game it doesn't really matter which part you outplayed the other team.

The Pats gained 6.6 yards per play and the Colts gained 6.5. The Pats had 24 first downs and the Colts had 25. The Pats had 1 INT and 2 fumbles and the Colts had 2 INT's and no fumbles. How was this not a really close contest?

by LnGrrrR (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 5:45am

All I know is that I'm incredibly saddened by the outcome of the game.

by AFireSnake (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 5:47am

Regarding the Patriots loss: Is there any statistical data on won-loss record when Belichick is wearing his charcoal-sleeves cut-off-hoodie vs. other gear? This year they won any game when he was in charcoal, and three losses were the only (?) games where he was wearing something else.

Anytime the game starts I get a bad feeling in the gut when I see him wearing something else ... should the Patriots fire their equipment manager? Is there any correlation between won-loss record and coaches gear?

Sad to see the Pats lose this one ... Another close Pass interference call against the Pats (I though they got rid of Hobbs to get rid of the "not really pass interference-jokes" the refs used). And the 4th and two (non-)conversion: Sorry guys, the ref is standing on the freakin 30yd line, he knows that the first down is exactly on the 30 because it was a touchback ... They must make the right call on this one on the field. Refs seem to have a severe tendency in such situations to make the call which does not decide the game instead of making a risky call which may end up wrong after watching the replay 30 times on a 100 inch HD screen (from Sony, thanks Peyton).

by White Rose Duelist :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:00am

Well, there's always TMQ's incredibly scientific "cold coach = victory" postulate. Maybe we can get him to run a study regarding "gray hoodie = victory".

by Justin Zeth :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 5:52am

I have no doubt the probability the Patriots convert 4th and 2 is higher than the probability they prevent Peyton Manning from going ~70 yards down the field and scoring (plus the small probability of something going wrong on the punt, be it bad snap, block or long return). Getting the first down ends the game. Going for the first down was correct.

Unfortunately it blew up in Belichick's face, which means it'll now be 20 years before another coach dares to do anything but punt in the 'obvious punt' situations.

by luncandunc (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 5:57am

I don't think this was that terrible of a decision if you really calculate it out. Obviously these percentages can be quibbled with but I think they are reasonable assumptions.

I think they convert that 4th and 2 play about 2/3 of the time, at which point the game is over.

If you don't convert, I think you can still say that the defense stops them from scoring a TD 1/3 of the time.

So going for it on 4th down, win% is 66% plus 1/3 of 33%, so about 77%.

If they punt it, the Colts probably get it at their own 30 just after the 2 minute warning with 1 timeout remaining. I think the Colts would score a TD more than 23% of the time in that situation. So I think it was the right decision and it increased the Pats' chances of winning the game.

I totally agree that if they were going to go for it on 4th down they should have just run it on the 3rd and 2, which would have had the added advantage of burning a TO that Indy didn't have to use on the first incompletion. The problem is that Belichick clearly hadn't decided to go for it until the 4th down situation actually arose, and I'm guessing the playcallers had no idea they'd also try on 4th.

by bubqr :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 5:58am

I'm not surprised by the number of media/fans people criticizing "the call", I'm surprised by the number of FO guys to flat out criticize it.

What's wrong with a 40%-or so chance to win the game, the downside being giving 30 yards to Manning ? With 30 seconds/1 minute to go, it would have been a bad move... But with 2+ minutes to go and a timeout ? I'm with Belichick.

Oh and Eagles ? When you look at the big picture, and see that only Jamaal Jackson and a back from injury S.Andrews are the only projected starters playing on the OL, Westbrook has been injured all season, Curtis too, 2 rookies are starting on offense, the secondary has been hit with injuries/suspension, 3 LBs out, 6 players have lined up at MLB, you can understand what is happening. I'm even surprised that they are still competitive.

by Jason Lisk (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:51am

I'm surprised as well, because I guarantee you that people that look at it analytically will conclude it was a justifiable decision.

Listen, I'm not saying it was a great decision, but it certainly wasn't a bad one. I would have made the same decision, but the that decision was not the obviously correct (or incorrect) one. And it certainly wasn't channeling Norv. If you run any sort of analysis of it, at worst, it was a completely justifiable decision (as would the decision to punt have been), and at best, it was the clearly best call.

You would have to make some extremely unreasonable assumptions (like Peter King does in assuming that the Colts are 100% to score from the 28 but 35% to score from 40 yards further down field, in order to conclude this was a bad decisionmaking process.

Chase Stuart at the PFR blog just posted some analysis of it.


by Chris F. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 8:40pm

As has been pointed out elsewhere in this thread, even the simple probabilities favor going for it on 4th. I'm terribly bitter about the outcome (and the 3rd down play call), but I agree with the decision to go for it. NE defense was totally gassed and wasn't stopping anything. I figured the worst case was they turn over on downs, the defense lays down, and the offense gets the ball back with around a minute left to get into field goal range. I think Addai's breakthrough run was at like 1:20, which would have been perfect, had he scored.

At the very least, NFL fans got a HELL of a game.

by turbohappy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 5:59am

I thought the New England D-line was looking really tired. I saw a couple of them barely rushing at times. It allowed Peyton to get in the zone and that is almost impossible to defend. I think the chances that Indianapolis scores a TD after a punt was >80%. The chances that Indy scores a TD after a failed 4th down was >90%. Not sure what the chances of converting that 4th down was, but I think it was way higher than 10%. So as crazy as it seems I actually think BB made the right decision given the circumstances. The TOs and not running on 4th and all that made it his best option at that point.

by turbohappy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 6:02am

Whoops, meant not running on 3rd of course. Need edit function!

by sethburn :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 6:04am

You can question the play that the Patriots ran.

You should question the Patriots use of challenges and time outs.

You cannot question that going for the first down was correct.

To Doug Farrar: They weren't punting because they can do math and want to win the game.

To Ned Macey: That his defense failed from the 30 suggests they might have failed after a punt but the question is this:

Percent chance of failing to gain two yards multiplied by percent chance of failing to stop the Colts from the 30 vs. Percent chance of failing to stop the Colts after a punt.

To Aaron Schatz: I sympathize with how you feel after a tough loss. I am a Jets fan. Having said that, Belichick made the call that would help his team win most often. It didn't work out, and as such it will be viewed as a blunder, but it was the correct move and having him as Patriots coach increases their chances of winning any given game.

by Yaguar :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 6:38am

"Percent chance of failing to gain two yards multiplied by percent chance of failing to stop the Colts from the 30 vs. Percent chance of failing to stop the Colts after a punt."

This is the right math for the situation, but I think you could come up with very reasonable percent values that swing the decision in either direction. I think it was a close decision.

The real problem was that Belichick and Brady failed to gain 2 yards on two consecutive plays with the game on the line. In contrast, in two drives, where Manning absolutely needed a touchdown on both, he averaged 10 yards per play.

by Paulo Sanchotene, RS, Brazil (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 8:33am

The real problem was that Belichick and Brady failed to gain 2 yards on two consecutive plays with the game on the line.

That's what said Brady in his post-game press conference.

I agree that go-for-it was right, mainly in the spectator point-of-view (that was fun!), but I also agree that they should have ran in the 3rd down, and that they should have played on deeper patterns in the 4th.

So, there are a lot ot things about this play that goes beyond the matter of "go for it or not".

by RickD :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:48am

The problem with saying that they should have run on 3rd down is that they tried running on 1st down and it failed miserably. I'd love it if the Pats were designed in a way with a big RB like Brandon Jacobs for short-yardage situations. But for the past few years, they just aren't built that way. Not with their RB options limited to Maroney and Faulk (even LawFirm was out at that point).

And 2 yards is too long for a QB sneak.

by Bad Doctor :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 8:29am

And let's get one key item in here ... whether or not you agree with the Belichick call, that's debatable. The one thing that's not debatable is he made an unconventional call based on what he thought gave his team the best chance to win, even though it exposed him to huge amounts of criticism, whereas following the status quo and losing would have directed all the blame to his defensive players. This is the kind of decision that very few coaches/managers in any major sport make nowadays, and I salute him for that. For me, last night goes down in history with KC-OAK from about 5 years ago, when Dick Vermeil went for a TD from the 1 on the last play of regulation rather than the chippie FG and OT, where losing a coin flip would have led to OAK marching down the field on his awful defense. Kudos for that!

by rk (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:24pm

The fact that Belichick has a ridiculous coaching record makes him able to make that call. If Tom Cable or Norv Turner did this, he might lose his job the next morning.

by BenOak (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 2:03pm

Heh, Tom Cable is gone at the end of the year anyways (or as soon as the NFL gives Al Davis "cause" to fire Cable without paying his salary). He's in exactly the kind of position where losing isn't held against him (they are expected to loose) and winning might save his job (OK, not likely but winning might get him another coaching job somewhere else).

Advancednflstats.com has a good analysis of this decision and it comes out 80% chance of winning by going for the 4th and 2 and 70% chance of winning if they punt. Neither takes into account the actual ability of the teams involved, they are general chances of a team winning the game with the given field position, down and distance and time left on the clock. Given that both offenses are significantly better than league average it probably increases the chances of the Patriots converting and the chances of the Colts scoring if they get the ball back with makes the decision look even better:

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:05pm

I agree, and that guy knows his stuff.

He's one of the "go for it more often" proponents.

by BywaterBrat :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 4:20pm

Experienced Madden gamers know that they didn't fulyl exectute this strategy. I agree with the call to go for it, but if you fail then youa llow a touchdown as soon as possible. That way now you have the minute plus of time to only get a FG to win.

by IsraelP (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 6:14am

Bengals kickoff return was sprung by a really bad missed hold on Mike Logan, the first guy downfield.

The real Mike Logan has been complaining all season on his radio show that people keep mixing him up with #11, STEPHAN Logan.

by Bobman :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 6:14am

I too thought the call on 4th and 2 was a good one for numerous reasons (random odds, O strength vs D weakness, history...) and I am surprised at how extreme the opinions are against it, even blaming the whole loss on that one play. Sorry, but Brady had two shots to get two yards--on 3rd down he almost threw a pick-six to a rookie CB, and then as Aaron pointed out, a 2.0 yard pass on 4th and 2. Because of the height of the pass and the bobble, it moved it back to a 1.5 yard gain. Maybe if it was a 3.0 yard pattern they'd have had room for error.

So the blame will fall about 90% on BB's call, 3% on the "bad" spot, and 7% on the DPI earlier, while nobody actually gets credit for winning the game.

Colts DL got generally good pressure all game (esp Mathis), but sometimes Brady seemed to have his old "crochet a sweater" 6 seconds to find Moss downfield in shades of 2007, and (surprise!) they were pretty successful when he had all day. That Vollmer kid, he's pretty good.

Oh, and I'm mighty impressed by MJD's taking a knee. Good heads-up play by the staff and players. I don't usually think of the Jags as super disciplined.

by AFireSnake (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 6:15am

RE Barnwell "The play that comes to mind for me here is the safety the Patriots took against the Broncos a few years ago in a game that they ended up winning, after which Belichick was hailed as a genius, with very few people saying that he'd made the wrong decision"

Completely different thing. The Pats were down by one in that game. The safety added an irrelevant two points to the difference (= the pats still needed a FG, and scored a TD on the ensuing possession), in exchange for field position. In such a situation - though most people including myself would've made a different call - taking the safety was the single correct call, which could've backfired only in case the Broncos scored a TD plus a 2pt conversion (highly unlikely, plus there wouldn't have been any time left for the Pats ...)

And sorry: Playing from behind is always easier, because the decisions often make themselves - there is simply no second guessing when you need a TD. That was a tough call.

Call yesterday: High risk. Criticize him for burning the timeouts. In the press conference it looked like burning the timeouts will give belichick a few sleepless nights (hint: wear a charcoal hoodie next time, then you can burn all your timeouts in the first/third quarters and will still win ...)

by Bobman :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 6:16am

Oh, and because it was a one-point swing, I assume NE and Indy are now tied for second greatest point differential so far this season. It was funny that they were one pt off, and funnier that the nail-biter just tied them. Pretty appropriate it seems.

by Throckmorton (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 6:39am

For people that think the 4th down call is incorrect, I'm curious to know what your estimates of the relevant probabilities are.

Ignoring morale effects, only three probabilities matter:

P1: P(Pats try and don't get first)

P2: P(Colts score | Pats try and don't get first)

P3: P(Pats punt and Colts score)

Then P1 * P2 is the probability that the Colts score after the Pats try to get the first. If P1 * P2 > P3, then they should have punted. Let's say that P1 (prob Pats don't convert) is about 50%; that means that P2 would have to be more than twice P3 for punting to be the right decision; if you believe that Manning has a greater than 50% chance of scoring after the punt (P3 > .5), then assuming P1 >= .5, there's no way it was the wrong decision, since P2 can't be greater than 100%.

by Yaguar :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 8:30am

I say

P1: P(Pats try and don't get first) = 50%
P2: P(Colts score | Pats try and don't get first) = 85%
P3: P(Pats punt and Colts score) = 40%

In other words, basically a wash.

by David W. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 9:30am

Don't we also need a "P4"? Patriots fail to convert, Colts score TD, Patriots drive for a game winning field goal. I wonder if this crossed Bellicheck's mind at all. If it did, he might have thought that if the Colts did score from the 28, it would probably be a pretty quick one, leaving the Patriots with about a minute or so to go for a winning FG drive.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:42pm

I actually thought that played into it: in addition to preferring to try to win it with his QB rather than with his D, I thought he'd figured that it was more likely they'd have time left after a short drive than after a long drive.

So I figured he thought
(Patriots convert & win)
+ (Patriots fail, Colts score, Patriots score and win)
+ (Patriots fail, Colts can't score, Patriots win) >
(Patriots fail, Colts score, Patriots can't score, Colts win)

by Throckmorton (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 6:44am

Sorry; that should be P1 <= .5 (not P1 >= .5) in the last sentence.

by t.d. :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 7:38am

This really reminds me of the Pete Carroll fourth-and-two play in the national championship game the year they lost to Texas. Might have been closer to midfield in that one . Anyway, I suspect people are missing variables that differentiate the odds of making a generic fourth-and-two and a 'this will decide the game' fourth-and-two. Though I do agree with what seems to be the consensus that the move wasn't as inherently questionable as the particular play call was.

by bubqr :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 7:46am

Advanced Football stats' take on the call :


I'll let you see what the WP analysis concluded...

by David W. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 9:28am

Here's the part that surprised me about this analysis:

"Historically, in a situation with 2:00 left and needing a TD to either win or tie, teams get the TD 53% of the time from that field position." (assuming an average net yardage on the punt.)

I'm very surprised that it's as high as 53%. Initially I thought going for it was a bad call, but with this number being that high, I'm not so sure now. If an average NFL team gets it done 53% of the time, the % chance that a Manning-led Colts team does it must be considerably higher.

by jds (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 1:00pm

David, the 53% refers to the chance of the TD from the spot of the failed 4th down attempt (not from the spot of the punt). The change of the TD from the spot of the punt, if it happened, is 30%.

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 9:34am

First place I went. I'm amazed at the FO's reactions. Maybe too much of the EI is clouding the O in FO. I figured it was the right call. Time was immaterial. With 4 downs to work with Manning can make up the punt yardage in about a minute. A TD from 30 yards out in 1 minute or 2 makes no difference. Converting ends the game.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 8:31am

If they know they were going to go for it on 4th and 2, why not a QB sneak on the preceding 3rd-and-2? Line up for a run, then do the old goose-the-center-and-go. It may well pick up the first down on its own, and even if it doesn't, it'll 4th and pretty short. Plus it takes out the two minute warning and so guarantees you never have to give it back to the Colts if the 4th down succeeds.

by Paulo Sanchotene, RS, Brazil (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 8:38am

The problem was that, it seems to me, the Patriots weren't thinking in this 4th-down situation before the 3rd down.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:44pm

Agreed. If they made the decision before third down I'd estimate their chances of converting at over 90%.

by Led :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:10pm

Exactly right. I like the decision to go for it on 4th there, but if they had run the ball on both downs the chance of converting would be extremely high. Plus running the ball keeps the clock running and/or burns their timeouts.

by NHPatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 8:36am

Really, at this point, I'm just waiting to read TMQ as Easterbrook's head explodes over Belichick's decision...

by Mystyc :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:18am

Tis better to have rushed and lost than never to have rushed at all.

by Packerpalooza (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 8:53am

Given that some here won't care about my opinion on situational playcalling I think BB made the right decision. Certainly wasn't arrogance. That's a dumb interpretation. It was that his defense was getting rolled, the Colts had 3 timeouts and the best qb in football had all the time in the world if you punt. If you make the first down and don't get the next one at minimum you THEN punt and force Manning to drive the field with NO timeouts. That is the big difference to me.

Meanwhile, Green Bay fans are now suggesting that Aaron Kampman be franchised and then traded following the season because given the Cowboy game it is "obvious" that AK is completely unsuited for the 3-4 so dump him.


by goPats (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 8:57am

I disagree with these odds from Yaguar:
"P1: P(Pats try and don't get first) = 50%
P2: P(Colts score | Pats try and don't get first) = 85%
P3: P(Pats punt and Colts score) = 40%"

It's easier to defend the endzone than other parts of the field, so I'd say P2 would not be more than twice as high as P3. I personally think Belichick made a good choice. FO of all places shouldn't evaluate the choice based on the odds not the "arrogance" of the coach.

What bothered me about the game was the play calling through most of the fourth quarter. Why is it that the Patriots can't stay the aggressors against the Colts? I feel like they're in a mode of "let's hang on and win this." A lot of times the safeties were off the screen and Manning would just take 10-15 yards at a pop. With the Colts' no-huddle, this kind of "stop the long ball" play-call hardly takes more time off the clock and gives Manning and the Colts rhythm. On offense, the Patriots kept trying generic first down plays like a run up the middle and then the Colts would blitz on second and third down. I had a feeling of doom and deja vu (playoffs 2006), and it all happened.

by apk3000 :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 9:02am

According to the Wash. Post today, the Redskins were the ones that called timeout on that fake FG because they only had ten guys on the field. Fred Davis, who's supposed to be the guy they're faking a throw to, wasn't on the field.

by bubqr :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 9:05am

Apparently, he was still asleep in his hotel room.

by cjfarls :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 2:07pm

The call on the field in FEDEX was that it was charged to Washington.

That play was completely on Broncos rookie Alphonso Smith... he was in charge of the deep zone on that side (offensive left) of the field on a 4th and 20 play... and for some unknown reason was completely lost in space. Its like he was looking for the underneath pass... on a 4th and 20.... absolute horrible play.

As far as the Broncos run DEF, I think the injury to DE Ryan McBean has a lot to do with it... he's been out the past couple weeks and the DEF has looked soft. In the WAS game, the other regular starting DE, Kenny Peterson, also got hurt and it was after that when the run defense completely fell apart.

We knew going into the season that the Broncos D-line was iffy... I think those 2 injuries have showed just how fragile the depth there is.

Also have to say, having gone to my first pro-football game in a few years, how nice it was to be able to watch the secondaries... TV just doesn't do justice to the richness of the coverage schemes that you can see from the upper stands.

by jmaron :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 9:21am

Not sure what Verhei was watching in the Viking game when he said Favre was under pressure - I think he got touched twice in the whole game. That was a 50-10 type of game if Minnesota didn't continually shoot themselves in the foot with penalties, fumbles and horrible red zone play.

The Vikings have a weakness that I don't think anyone has mentioned. They can't run the ball when they get a lead. Peterson will pop one every 10 or so carries, but they can't sustain a running game. I don't think there offensive line is a very good power blocking unit. That has been a major reason that they have allowed teams back into games that they held big leads in (both GB and Balt games come to mind).

The Vikings have become a very good passing team and not that great a running team. I'm not sure if that is because of the way teams defend them or just the Favre, Rice, Harvin, Shiancoe and Berrian are really darn good.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 9:24am

Perhaps some reasons why the Pats D decided to go all passive in the 4th quarter:

* They had lost LB/DE Banta-Cain to injury, as well as LB Ninkovitch. So they
had less depth at LB plus they lost their best pass rusher.

* RB Green-Ellis was vomiting on the sidelines and had to get an IV. I wonder
if anyone else on the team was sick (yet another flashback to the 2006 AFCCG...sigh).

So the defense was probably tired, perhaps sick on top of it, and without its best pass rusher. Maybe BB felt "prevent-and-pray" was his only option because his D was simply unable to be aggressive like it was earlier in the game?

by Purds :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 9:28am

I'll disagree with most of the mathematical interpretations of the BB call (not on mathematical basis, but on the question of BB being led by arrogance). I've said for years that he is arrogant, and that while it worked for him many, many times, it's also cost him big. I think they didn't win a SB the year they fought Branch over his contract and didn't get a WR to replace him, and then watched scrubs drop passes in the playoffs against Indy.

Last night, I don't think he ever thought he would NOT get the yardage. Never even considered the math of not making that play. I think he assumed he'd make it, and all would be fine.

Manning or no Manning, you need to punt the ball. Manning and the rookie/2nd year WR's had made plenty of mistakes not even pressured by NE. Why wouldn't they make another one here, if they have to go 70 yards?

by Purds :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 10:33am

I just wanted to put my take on the math here, and I am reposting from the King article link thread:

But I think some of the math in this situation is very skewed as you calculate it, and not in favor of going for it. If the Colts do not stop NE, Colts lose. Thus, the Colts can run an all-out blitz, goal-line defense there, with press coverage on the recievers, and that all-out defense decreases the odds of NE making the first down. Yes, it increases the odds of the NE receiver breaking a tackle and going the distance for a TD, but for the Colts, that is not a real risk, because ANY successful play by NE loses Indy the game. Thus, I think the odds of NE converting the 4th and 2 are smaller than normal.

For example, if that play happens at the 50 yard line during the 3rd quarter, Indy has to defend the whole field; they can't sell out with a blitz and press coverage, as they did last night. Blitzing in press coverage makes the damages to a failed defensive play much more damaging in most situations, so most defenses don't do that; but here, the Colts have nothing to lose -- a 70-yard catch and run is no worse for them than a 2-yard completion; either one is fatal. Hence, the Colts get to significantly lower the chance of NE getting the 2 yards by pressuring the QB and receivers.

In addition, the odds of Indy scoring from the 30 are much higher than you present, I would suggest, because with one timeout, 2 minutes, and only 30 yards to cover (actually, 29 1/2), every play in the book is available. The Colts can run or pass. They can draw, or go deep over the middle, etc. The fact that they have so little ground to cover makes the clock almost a non-factor, and you saw the Colts run the draw to good effect (12 yards or so). Even on the last play, when Wayne caught the TD, NE had to defend the run, because the Colts had a TO. They could have run the ball, been stopped, called a TO, and had at least one more try into the end zone via pass.

by Bad Doctor :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 10:54am

Purds, I'd agree on your first point, disagree on your second. First, it's easy to say that Belichick was right to trust his offense instead of his defense, b/c his offense has been so good in this game and over the last few years, and his defense is shaky. But his offense is so good in some not unsubstantial part b/c of Randy Moss's ability to stretch the field, which is a nonfactor in this situation. That has to factor into the calculation of how the Pats' offense's quality shapes up next to their defense's.

But on the second point, I think any defense (and esp. a tired one missing a good blitzer like Banta Cain) is going to play passive and protect against the big play in a situation like this. The first 40 or 50 yards of Manning's potential 70 yard game-winning TD drive would largely be a formality for a guy as accurate as he is ... the only question is how much time and how many downs (i.e., does he need to spike on first down when he gets down in the red zone) he has in the red zone. I think the difference in odds b/w scoring on the 70 yard drive and scoring on the 30 yard drive is relatively small, and to the extent it is significant also gets counterbalanced by the increased chances that the Pats would have to answer with a FG given an earlier score on the 30 yard drive.

by Paulo Sanchotene, RS, Brazil (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 10:57am

You still need to cover the whole field. There isn't anything that points towards the Pats restraining its field of play to 2 yards before the snap. They could go even for a "Hail Mary".

by Theo :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:31am

...but they won't because they only need 2.
That's why I totally disagree with the shotgun in that situation. It screams short pass.
I'm lost by the fact that 3rd down was a passing down for BB. Says to me he was thinking about punting and that he mis-called the series.

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:02pm

But they might if they see that is what is available. Maybe not 60 yards, but 20.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:56am

Shorter Purds:
I reject your math. I'm sure I know how BB thinks better than you do. I know he's the most arrogant person in the history of the universe. QED.

Seriously, where you do you come up with crap like

"I don't think he ever thought he would NOT get the yardage. Never even considered the math of not making that play. I think he assumed he'd make it, and all would be fine."

You have absolutely no basis for saying that other than your own negative emotions.

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:12pm

I agree. I'm glad the telepsychoanalysis of Belichick was included in Purd's post so I knew the conclusions in the post were not based on reason or facts.

by Purds :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 2:00pm

I get that from listening to his post-game comments. At no point did he even venture to talk about what he was thinking if they didn't get the first down. He was asked about it, and he repeatedly said "I thought we would get the first down." Yes, that is the source of my pyschobabble, listening to the source. I guess I could have sat at home and hoped he would say that, but instead I listened to him say that. Repeatedly. He never once would even begin to respond to any question asking what he felt his chances were if they failed.

by Purds :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 2:02pm

I added a more detailed explanation of why I rejected that math. You can read it, or be sarcastic. Your choice.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:17pm

I'll agree with Purds point about defending the field.

You could creep your corners up to bump and run, put 8 in the box and put the safeties up... It's success or failure, a bomb to moss is just as bad as a 3 yard faulk play. The fact that the Colts had to really defend less of the field increased their chance of success.

I also do think as somebody else mentioned the thought that the Colts would have a quick score, and then the Pats would get the ball back and try and kick a quickie FG also went into BB's mind.

Quantifying the exact probabilities would be difficult...
Brady is the best QB ( so you can't use league average stats)
Manning is the best QB ( so you can't use league avergage stats)
It was the very end of a long game, the defenses were gassed etc.

I think it was a good call, where Bellicheck put the ball in his best players hand and asked him to win it. As opposed to prevent & Pray, with gassed backup D-Lineman, against the best QB in the league.

by Error (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 9:34am

I think Belicheck should get credit for his aggressive nature. Sports strategies are about minimizing losses. This is a different approach from maximizing wins. I believe belicheck is the best at maximizing wins while allowing for more variance than a minimizing losses standpoint.

by Derek (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 9:47am

I agree with most of the comments here about being surprised the FO guys are so against the call. However, we should remember that this is audibles, i.e. heat of the moment comments, and that its not really how they think after a good night sleep.

I agree with Verhei 100%. If you're going for it on 4th, the run the ball on 3rd down!.

by greybeard :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 9:27pm

3rd down happened before the fourth down.
No need to assume that they were thinking it is a four down drive when they were up and at their 20s.
I am pretty sure if it were 4th and 10 they would have punted.
At the time 3rd down play-call was made they were not trying to gain the first down in two tries.

by Monkey Business (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 10:10am

This was Belichick's "I'm Keith Hernandez" moment. The man became bigger than the moment, and it cost him.

That call was absolutely defensible. I mean, you need two yards to win the game. You've gotten 400 already. Punt on 4th, and all you've done is given Manning 40-50 more yards to cover. And sure, he can screw up, but do you really want to chance that?

I would hope that most coaches go for it in that spot against Manning, for two reasons:
1) It's a ballsy, relatively good percentage-wise, call. It's also basically giving the finger to the opposing defense, which I'm always in favor of. As is, apparently, Bud Adams.
2) It doesn't matter if you give the ball back to Peyton Manning on his own 30 or your 30; if there's two minutes left, he has a timeout, and he needs a TD, I'd put the odds of him getting it at somewhere north of 70%.

Belichick will get killed for that all season, especially if he ends up having to go back to Indy in the playoffs. However, I still say it was worth the shot at getting the W outright, rather than playing punt-and-pray.

by The Powers That Be :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 1:39pm

"This was Belichick's "I'm Keith Hernandez" moment. The man became bigger than the moment, and it cost him."

Has it occurred to nobody that this move wasn't made from arrogance, but rather from abject terror? I believe it was the fear of Peyton Manning and the Colts offense that made him go for it.

by Gubdude :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 10:28am

Of course Joe Buck comments on the health of the Cowboys' offensive line only to have Marc Colombo break his fibula on the 2nd drive. Great.

by Erithtotl (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 10:40am

As a Colts fan, I was terrified when they went for it. I have seen the Pats end games too many times that way. Not to mention that, even though it seemed the ref made the correct call, it was the sort of judgement situation that could have gone either way. I hate the Pats as a Colts fan, but as a football fan, they are a great team with a great coach who makes moves without worrying about what the press would think.

by Chris Povirk :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 10:45am

Anyone else notice that the Bengals left a ton of time on the play clock on their final play, kneeling with about 17 seconds left instead of about 1? It was third down, so Pittsburgh could have called a timeout to force a punt. I still doubt they would have won, but the early kneel should have taken Pittsburgh's chances of winning from "basically zero" to "very small."

by erniecohen :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:00am

PIT was out of timeouts

by Chris Povirk :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:12am

CBS showed them as having a timeout left, and the play-by-play agrees: http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2009111504/2009/REG10/bengals@steelers/ana...

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 10:53am

You are correct: Belachick and Switzer calls are exactly the same - neither coach was as smart as they thought they were. Of course, with BB it means there are only three "really"s in front of smart, not five. With Switzer, it means he's not as good at climbing on the short bus as he'd have you believe.

by Temo :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:04am

Switzer's call was, and remains, an entirely defensible decision. 4th and a foot, with as good as the Cowboys' O-Line supposedly was, should have been an easy conversion.

I have many misgivings with Switzer's tenure in Dallas, but that particular play is not one of them.

He should have had Aikman sneak it though.

by Jason Lisk (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:51pm

Yes, but that play showed his complete lack of respect for his defense, and as a result, he lost the team.

Oh, wait, they went on to win the Super Bowl, umm, that doesn't fit the talking points, people. We need to re-write history.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:01pm

On the contrary. After that game, Aikman took over and called his own plays. At that point, Switzer had less relevance to the Cowboys than Jim Zorn has now with the Redskins.

by BostonHawk (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 10:53am

I won't get into the numbers, but Belichick played the odds and lost. I can't see how it was the wrong decision when he's trying to keep the ball in the hands of his hall of fame QB and out of the hands of their hall of fame QB.

As a Seahawks fan, I was mortified when Mora decided to kick an 18 yard field goal Sunday with 10 minutes remaining against a team his defense couldn't stop. He went up by 3 but clearly would need to score again to win. It was a gutless, loser's decision. Living in Boston, I've always had a hard time rooting for the Pats, but with that ballsy play call, Belichick has won me over. I just hope he makes the same call in the future.

by Joe in Seattle (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 2:06pm

Sometimes taking the lead is important. It was actually a 20 yard field goal and the Seahawks were on the 3 yard line. The defense wasn't dominating the Cardinals, but they had only allowed 17 points to them through 3+ quarters, the D wasn't playing that bad.

I understand wanting to go for it and if the ball was on the 1 I think Mora would of. It wasn't a "gutless" or "loser" decision, it was the 4th quarter and taking the lead is important.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:54pm

I thought the same thing while watching that game. I was livid about the earlier drop in the end zone. As soon as he missed that I had a hunch they would fail and then decide to kick. Took Warner what, 3 minutes to score again? They ended up giving up another score, so it doesn't matter, but the game was over as soon as he sent the FG team out there.

The league is FULL of chickenshit coaching decisions. Many coaches get away with it. Belichick made a ballsy call that was justifiable and it just didn't work. But the willingness to do that is a large part of why they win every year and other teams are mediocre and always switching coaches.

by Temo :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:11am

I'm going to go ahead and agree with the commentators over the emailers on this one. I liked the call, I would have gone for it too in Belichick's position. And what I really like is that Belichick couldn't give a half a damn what the media thinks so the next time he feels like going for it is the right decision, he WILL go for it.

One of the many reasons he's the best in the game. Use link below if you're interested in the stats:


by Dave H (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 10:59am

I think the BB defenders are missing an important point here. Yes, you can make a very reasonable argument for going for it on 4th-and-2 in that situation. That doesn't exonerate the other mistakes - wasting the timeouts and stupid play calling.

First off, if you think you are a four-down situation, run the ball on 3rd down. Let's not forget that this was almost a moot point, because Brady damn near threw a pick-6 on that 3rd down play.

Then, on 4th down, you call a 2-yard pass, which guarantees that the guy is going to get hit within inches of the first-down line ... when you don't have any way to challenge a bad spot.

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:52am

This post really gets to the heart of the matter, I think.

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:59am

I think people defending the call are only Belichick defenders in the sense that Belichick was the one that made said call. I make no claim as to Belichick in general or other calls Belichick made.

Most people ripping Belichick are talking of the arrogance of the 4th down call, and only bringing up the other stuff as incidental to the situation.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:04pm

More generally, it's not like you get to pick and choose with what a head coach is. Bill Belichick calls the games the way he thinks maximizes the chances of winning. He doesn't take the conventional path, to minimize the possibility of criticism.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:01pm

"Stupid play calling".

Second-guessing the play-calling of a head coach is easy and amateurish. Here's a recipe:

a) for any play that succeeds, you say that you would have done it the same way
b) for any play that fails, you say you would have done it differently, and achieved a better result.

Yes, we know the 3rd down play was almost a pick6. That's BB's fault? Suddenly Brady's not supposed to throw any passes?

Are you arguing the Pats should have relied solely on the running game?

Or are you just picking out all the bad stuff that happened and saying "See! BB isn't perfect!" We know he's not perfect. That's not the issue.

by erniecohen :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:06am

In PIT-CIN once again nobody noticed a repeat of the same time management mistake from the PHI game a few weeks ago. With CIN 3rd and 3, PIT called timeout with about 2:06 left. Ths basically gives CIN the option to pass without risking a substantial gift of time to the PIT O (though they chose to run an PIT stopped them).

by Carl (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:12am

I'm surprised that so much of the commentary has focused on whether going for it was the right call. To me that's a close call, on the whole probably right to go for it. But the real mind-boggler is calling two consecutive pass plays. As a Colts fan, I was absolutely elated when I saw the Pats lining up in five-wide shotgun on that fourth down. I know they're good with those short outs, but seriously: I don't think the Pats ever gained less than a yard on a running play the entire game.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:06pm

"I don't think the Pats ever gained less than a yard on a running play the entire game".

On first down of the very same series, the Pats ran for no yardage.


C'mon, people!

by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:20am

worst promo of the week goes to NFL networks Ronnie Brown wildcat commercial. Brown leaves the game Sunday with a bad ankle injury and it will be a miracle if he plays or the Dolphins run the wildcat minus Brown and Cobb.

by Temo :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 1:03pm

Pat White option time!

by Kall (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:22am

The call wasn't a bad one, despite what 99% of NFL analysts will say because they're too big of cowards to go against the grain of conventional wisdom on a failed decision. These are the same idiots that would have said it was a heroic gutsy call if the Patriots did successfully convert it.

All these guys on TV saying the safe play is to punt are misguided. Belichick had to figure the he had about a 65% chance to convert the 4th and 2. They then had about 40% chance to stop the Colts from going the 30 yards and scoring a touchdown. Meanwhile if they punt the ball, the Pat's defense probably had about a 60% chance of stopping the Colts from scoring from 70 yards out.

I mean let's face it, time was not a factor and the first 40 yards of a 70 yard drive are usually given up in about 20 seconds due to a soft prevent defense so they are essentially meaningless.

You have one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game, you only needed 2 yards to ice the game, and despite what every sheep analyst is preaching because the call was unsuccesful, the odds were actually in your favor.

by peterplaysbass (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 2:23pm

"All these guys on TV saying the safe play is to punt are misguided."

Kall (not verified) > Tony Dungy!

by anotherpatsfan :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 4:04pm

"Kall (not verified) > Tony Dungy!"

Without knowing Kall, I'm fine with that assessment. Dungy not exactly Mr. Objective when it comes to BB. I am sure nothing gives him more pleasure than the opportunity to criticize BB over that call -- unless of course the sanctimonious douchebag finds subhuman douchebag Mike Vick another multimillion dollar job.

by Eddo :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 3:41pm

Of course, because if one man (Dungy) is more successful than another (Kall), it means that the latter can never be correct when the two disagree. The world is just that black-and-white.

by zzyzx :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:22am

The problem with the call is that it's the wrong strategy for the time. It's high risk, high reward. If you make the play, you almost definitely win, if you miss it, you have a 9 in 10 shot of losing. That's a weird play to run when you're up 6 with 2 minutes to play and the Colts only having one time out.

Yes the Colts are good, but the clock was still the ally of the Pats. Even with going in from the 30, it took a minute to get the ball to the 1. Kick the ball to the 25 or so and the Colts would have to run a very efficient 2 minute offense to get the job done. All of the plays would have to go to the sidelines, there's always the risk of a 10 second run off, this isn't an easy thing to do. When winning late in the game, you want to put the onus on the other team to accomplish the comeback, not on yours to make the 50/50 play, especially when the differences (via advancednflstats) are a .79 chance of winning vs a .70 chance of winning... The math there is such a small advantage than any change in the underlying assumptions could flip the advantage.

Game theory isn't just figuring out the highest probability of winning upon your actions, it's knowing when a strategy is relevant. If you had $10,000,000 and I said I'd offer you a deal where you'd make $100,000,000 if a coin came up heads but would lose it all if it came up tails, even though the odds would massively be in your favor there, the smart thing to do would be to turn it down and live off of the money for the rest of your life. It's not just running the numbers, it's knowing when to apply them and Belichick failed there.

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:54am

It took a minute because the Colts had a minute, not because the Colts needed a minute. The clock wasn't really much of a factor.

When winning late in the game, you want to put the onus on the other team to accomplish the comeback, not on yours to make the 50/50 play, especially when the differences (via advancednflstats) are a .79 chance of winning vs a .70 chance of winning... The math there is such a small advantage than any change in the underlying assumptions could flip the advantage.

But the underlying assumptions are tilted in favor of not going for it. If they are wrong, they are wrong on the side of not going for it. Even at a 45% conversion rate (2pt rate for NFL, much lower than NE 2yd conversion rate) the math comes out even when you assume IND is an avg NFL off. IND being IND the math says go for it. The risk/reward stuff you talk about is embedded in the math, not ignored by it.

by zzyzx :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:02pm

"It took a minute because the Colts had a minute, not because the Colts needed a minute. The clock wasn't really much of a factor."

But that's kind of my point. The Pats had a huge ally in the final two minutes and that was the clock. I believe that Manning would have a good chance of driving the ball downfield, but with under two minutes left and only one time out, it doesn't take much to blow it, a sack, a player getting tackled inbounds, a linesman not getting set for a second leading to a 10 second run off... Doable sure, but I think I put the pressure on the Colts to actually do it.

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:32pm

Wait what? How is that indicative that the clock was the Pats ally? IND could have scored in like 2 seconds from the 30. They could have gone 30-30 in about 30 seconds. In no way was the clock ending IND's drive. Either NE was going to have to hold, or IND was going to score. The clock was nearly inconsequential.

If anything as mentioned elsewhere the best play was probably to go the conversion and then give up the TD ASAP. If Addai hadn't been tackled at the 1 with 1:20 left NE has a good shot at winning that game. They'd have the ball and need 3 with 1:10 left or so.

by Bad Doctor :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:13pm

None of this analysis focuses on the time element. The reason you don't bet $10MM on the coin flip with 10 to 1 odds isn't b/c of the timing in which you're asked to do so, it's that the risk is unreasonably high and the reward, while high on its face, is relatively low in terms of the utility you get out of the deal. Likewise, if you believe it would be very difficult for Manning to take the Colts 75 yards for a score, then you don't believe this is a high risk, high reward play ... you believe it's a high risk, low reward play, b/c you apparently think the Pats had like a 70 or 80 percent chance of winning after a punt. Making it 98 percent by converting the 4th down thus isn't that huge a reward given the risk. (Now others here have given Manning better, sometimes significantly better odds than that, but that point is debatable ... but then that's what we should be debating.) You're saying, if they make it instead of punting, their winning percentage goes from 80% to 98% ... if they miss it instead of punting, their winning percentage goes from 70-80% to 10%. I don't think anybody would disagree with your conclusion if those estimates are correct, but most of us just have grossly different estimates. But again, I don't see where the time of the game enters into your analysis at all.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 4:02pm

If I had 10 million dollars and there was still a pretty damn good chance I was going to lose it even if I declined the chance at 100, I'd still take the chance at the million.

by PantsB (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:35am

There are three issues from the last 3 possessions.

I - A blown PI call. That was incidental contact, Butler was looking back and going for the ball when the receiver stopped short. It gave the Colts 31 yards and clock stoppage.

II - The decision to go for it. It was the correct one. League average converts 60% of 4th downs, the Patriots convert 68%. If they convert they win. If they don't convert, the Colts have to score a touchdown from the 30. A punt in that spot on average gives the ball to the Colts around their own 30. They had had already scored twice in less than 2 minutes that quarter, the Pats defense was gassed. He went for the aggressive mathematically correct decision. And it would have paid off if not for:

III - The ref blew the call. Faulk didn't bobble it to the ground, he had possession over the 30, which would have been a game ending first down. While the Patriots lacking a time out get some blame there, its the official's job to not blow the call in the first place. If the correct ruling is made, this is a "gutsy call" and "playing to win" and everyone is singing BB's praises.

All of this would have been irrelevant had Brady not thrown an end zone pick and especially if Maroney hadn't fumbled on the goal line but that doesn't change the fact that a blown call largely changed the outcome of the game.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:39am

If one has the expectation that the spot will be wholly accurate on a bobbled pass on that sort of play, one hasn't analyzed the risks correctly.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:15pm

I would certain contest the notion that the catch was "bobbled" or "juggled" in any meaningful sense. It's true that Faulk didn't catch it as soon as the ball touched his first hand. But I don't see why that should disallow forward progress from being applied.

If your criticism is that BB didn't make sufficient allowance for bad spots on the part of the officiating, I think that's a bit rich. You cannot sanely coach presuming that the officials are going to screw up calls.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:46pm

The the ball was not caught cleanly. The referee saw that, but was not in position to see exactly when and where Faulk had gained possession. One of the risks taken when that sort of play is called is that a spot will not be wholly accurate, especially when the pass is not caught cleanly. I think you are in error that a video review would have, with 100% certainty, granted the first down. It was an extremely close call.

Another reason the third down call was iffy was that a completion has a decent chance of ending with the receiver going out of bounds, which stops ther clock prior to the two minute warning. The Colts had one time out remaining, which means they could still get the ball back with, say, over a minute left. If you are going to commit to the four down strategy at that point in the game and field, then you should do so in a manner which means that one first down definitively ends the game.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:47pm

The the ball was not caught cleanly. The referee saw that, but was not in position to see exactly when and where Faulk had gained possession. One of the risks taken when that sort of play is called is that a spot will not be wholly accurate, especially when the pass is not caught cleanly. I think you are in error that a video review would have, with 100% certainty, granted the first down. It was an extremely close call.

Another reason the third down call was iffy was that a completion has a decent chance of ending with the receiver going out of bounds, which stops ther clock prior to the two minute warning. The Colts had one time out remaining, which means they could still get the ball back with, say, over a minute left. If you are going to commit to the four down strategy at that point in the game and field, then you should do so in a manner which means that one first down definitively ends the game.

by crack (not verified) :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 3:28pm

What is the rule on this? If a receiver bobbles a reception he must hold onto the ball through his fall, does that change when effective control is decided? Does the fact that he bobbled it mean that he can't be assumed to have control until he hits the ground?

I'm actually wondering, I don't know.

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:00pm

I see your analysis of I and III as coming through homer goggles. I have no team in this fight (I'm a fan of neither team), and I thought both the calls were correct - 9 out of 10 times, that's PI, and I was actually surprised that Faulk caught the ball looking at it in real time. I figured it was going to be one of those where he hit the ground and it came out, and the replay certainly looks like he was juggling it to me.

by jackgibbs :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 1:01pm

the ball bounces once and then he pins it to his chest well before he goes to the ground; the ref gave him the spot where he landed. unless the rule on a bobbled pass becomes 'must have possession through the ground' and that's the spot instead of forward progress, it seems like a bad spot.

of course it was really close and those calls get blown all the time so either way you can't really complain

by turbohappy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 4:38pm

He didn't get a spot where he hit the ground. He got a spot somewhere in the middle between where he first touched the ball and where he hit the ground, which seems correct to me. The exact inch where that spot should be seems extremely hard to pick out from looking at the replay to me.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:11pm

I would add

IV - there should have been a booth review of the spot of the ball. I know that the NBC talking heads told us that there's no booth review before the 2 minute warning. But that's not what the rulebook says.

The rulebook says that "in the first 28 minutes of each half", a replay review is triggered by the coach throwing a flag. In the "last 2 minutes", it is the call of the replay official.

The ball was spotted with 1:57 on the clock. That's in the last 2 minutes.

The video replay rules make no mention of the two minute warning.

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:18pm

The referee reset the clock to 2:00 after the play, so the fact that there was no booth review was correct.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 1:11pm

The "first 28 minutes" refers to when the ball is snapped, not when the play is whistled dead.

by The Powers That Be :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 1:48pm

"The ball was spotted with 1:57 on the clock. That's in the last 2 minutes."

That was a mistake on the part of the timekeeper. The play was over before the 2-minute warning. The clock kept running down, which is why the officials made them put the clock back at 2:00.

And it's moot because the rule is and has always been interpreted to mean that the booth replay official doesn't take over until the first snap after the 2-minute warning.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:35am

Vince is correct that the biggest mistake is not running the ball on third down, if you think you might go for it on fourth. I haven't checked how the Colts front 7 was lined up, but perhaps even a quarterback sneak might have been a good call. Belichik's confidence in his offense, relative to his confidence in his defense, was not unwarranted, but it still is bad to waste a timeout, and more importantly, not make a wise run/pass decision on third down.

The spot was a very close call, and no refs were in the best position to see it, and that isn't meant as criticism. It is simply one of the risks taken with that playcall it that situation.

I thought the contrast between the non-PI call on Cutler's fourth INT Thursday, when the defender bumped into Olson while trying to get to the ball, and the critical PI call last night, really illustrates that PI in many respects has become wholly subjective. That isn't good.

by Goathead (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:38am

I think BB made the right call on 4th and 2. But having failed, he made a bad move on D. The Pats were in deep trouble at that point, and the only way to swing the odds back in their favor was to let the colts score a TD on 1st down. This would have put the ball back in Brady's hands, 1:45 or so left, down 1. At that point, I think you'd like the pats odds again. But really, how much would BB have been lambasted if they'd intentionally let the colts score, and hadn't managed to get down the field?

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:28pm

Haaaaahaa Haaahaaahaahhaaa!!! HEEeeeeeeheee Haaaaaahaahaahaaaaahaaa!

Actually thought it was a good call but Vince Verhei is correct, why not run on third down? The Pariouts pass rush was exhausted, they wouldn't have stopped Peyton. They should have pushed Addai into the end zone, picked him up and carried him if it came to it.

One of the best games I've ever seen.

by Justin Zeth :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:59am

To all those arguing the Patriots might have had time to drive for a winning field goal after the Colts score, had they punted: Peyton Manning is far too smart to leave the Patriots enough time to do that. Had the Patriots punted, the most likely result is that Manning manages the clock perfectly, drives the length of the field and scores with 10 seconds left in the game.

Only way that doesn't happen is the Super Bowl 43 scenario. The Cardinals did not want to leave Roethlisberger more than a minute to work with if they took the lead--Whisenhunt said as much after the game--but it happened anyway because Fitzgerald torched Taylor and Harrison for a long touchdown on a simple slant pattern.

Personally, I would have run a shotgun draw on 3rd and 2, and if that didn't convert, immediately rush to the line and run a quick QB sneak on 4th and whatever. Very high chance of converting if you do that. But let's be serious: Bill Belichick is a Hall of Fame football coach, and I am not.

by The Powers That Be :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 1:49pm

"To all those arguing the Patriots might have had time to drive for a winning field goal after the Colts score, had they punted: Peyton Manning is far too smart to leave the Patriots enough time to do that. Had the Patriots punted, the most likely result is that Manning manages the clock perfectly, drives the length of the field and scores with 10 seconds left in the game."

Ridiculous. Manning did leave the Patriots enough time to do that, but Addai got tackled at the one (unless you're saying that Manning magically arranged for him not to score on that play.

by Myran (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:02pm

It's pretty obvious Bill didn't think about going for it on 4th down until actually presented with the situation. Going for the 4th was absolutely the right call with the ebb and flow of the game. Not thinking about it until the 4th down actually arrived was the stupid part...

by moe :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:07pm

I didn't like the call because of the field position.

The 28 just seems too close. I would have punted from the 38 too but from the 48 it seems reasonable.

Of course 20 yards for Manning is likely only 2 or 3 plays, but just feels like a better call.

Agree will all those who say if BB was thinking about it he should have run on 3rd.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:12pm

Not to veer AGS away from it being the Irrational Belichick Fourth Down Call Thread it has become . . .

I'd like to thank Barnwell for pointing out how utterly awful Sabby Piscatelli has been in the Bucs secondary. On Ronnie Brown's 50+ yard run in the first quarter, Piscatelli just missed him. No juke, no fake, just a clear shot for an easy tackle at the line of scrimmage, and he whiffed utterly. He can't tackle, he's terrible in coverage, and I can't imagine there isn't SOMEBODY out there who could do his job better. Yes, Jermaine Phillips is out for the year, but this is really the best they can do?

Piscatelli is about two years away from changing the name on the back of his jersey to "Archuleta" and having Dan Snyder throw a giant bucket of money at his head.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 10:18am

"He can't tackle, he's terrible in coverage, and I can't imagine there isn't SOMEBODY out there who could do his job better."

You know, that pretty much exactly sums up how every single Texans fan felt about CC Brown. For three freakin' years. You don't even begin to know the horror of it - and you should pray you never do.

by Dice :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 1:16pm

Brian Russell weeps at how quickly he's forgotten.

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:21pm

Might we suspect that AGS will be about the Skins/Broncos game? Certainly much more of an upset than any of the others...

by MJK :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:42pm

A couple of thoughts on Colts-Pats, and that's probably all I'll say because I'm too depressed about the ending.

1). Vollmer is awesome. Matt who?

2). On the other hand, maybe he can move to RT as he ages. Mathis was giving Kaczur fits all game.

3). I think going for it was the right call (I think NOT going for it in the 2006 AFC CG on 4th and 4 at midfield up by 3 was the wrong call, and that was a harder decision than this one).

4). But people are right...Belichick rightly deserves criticism for (a) misuse of timeouts, (b) not calling a run play on 3rd and 2 (even even no gain keeps the clock running, and at that point you should have already realized that you'll go for it on 4th and 2 or less), and this leads us to especially (c) not intending to go for it on 4th down from the very moment you found yourself in 3rd and 2, and finally (d) flooding 2 yard pass patterns.

5). This is something that no-one's talking about. Belichick (or Pees) also deserves blame for another decision...the DEFENSIVE calls after Manning took over at the 30. You're up by 6, you have no timeouts, less than 2:00 to play. Ideally you want to stop a TD, but if you're going to give up a TD, you want to force the other team to get it quickly. Plus, you're D-line is gassed and unable to get any pressure, and missing their best pass rusher. So move those safeties up to the line, and BLITZ BLITZ BLITZ. Don't keep anyone back, unless they're supposed to jump routes, and instruct them not to tackle a receiver who does catch it unless they can force them out of bounds. The disadvantage of the blitz is that it risks giving up the "big play"--but this isn't that bad of an outcome... you would get the ball back down by 1 with plenty of time left. The advantage is that it forces the other team to at least do something quickly--and score or no score, you want them to do it quickly. Plus, it increases the chance of a game-winning turnover. Purds made the good point that Indy went all out to stop the first down on 4th-and-two...because a first down was just as bad as a TD. This is the reverse. NE should have gone all out to try to force a turnover or even an incompletion, because giving up a TD is only marginally worse, and is much better than giving up a short or medium gain.

Instead, they played fairly passively and conservatively, and let the Colts score with 9 seconds on the clock.

6). I don't blame Wilhite for his instincts, but I really wish he'd picked that moment to make a poorer tackle.

7). A pick-6 on Brady's 3rd and 2 would actually have been a decent outcome for the Pats. Then they're down by 1 with exactly two minutes.

8). Through my blue-and-silver glasses, the replays really made me think Faulk's catch was a first down. It looks like he catches it a yard beyond the 30, bobbles it, gains control of the ball exactly just past the 30, and then is forced backwards and hits the ground at the 29.5. I think if Belichick had had a challenge, there's about a 50% chance that spot gets overturned. Ah well. Refs aren't perfect. (For the record, I think the DPI was a legit call, albeit somewhat ticky-tack. There really was nothing Butler could have done to avoid that contact...he was watching the ball...and plays like that go uncalled all the time, but it was technically textbook DPI).

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 1:40pm

I love your (5). Dead on.

Still can't understand why the D was ordered to play in a way that guaranteed a loss (prevent, giving up in-bounds passes).

by ChrisZ (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:05pm

I'm going to disagree with your #5

I think the Pats best chance to win when Manning took over was to keep the Colts out of the end-zone. Betting on being able to drive down the field after being down, despite the fact that they just failed to convert one single first down when that would have won them the game, seems optimistic.

I'm not saying you have no point, but I don't think that Belichick's defensive play calling was clearly bad, as you implied.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:29pm

I agree with MJK. I'd blitz him to death ( and probably lose) as the Colts score a quickie TD.

Then you give the ball back to Brady and ask him to put Godkowski to kick a chip shot field goal.

It was the "if we don't get the 1st down, alternate win scenerio".

by Kulko :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 8:39am

Very good analysis as always from you.

Re 1) Vollmer was terrific. (and its awesome to have one of your countrymen play for your favorite team. Since he starts I get a free pats article each monday morning, something that happened only every other month before.)

Re 3) absolutely agree. And I am happy to have one of the few coaches who obviously read sites like these and listen. On the other hand its surprisinghow many of the staff writerts dont read their own articles and just outright dismiss a very sensible decision, because its unsual.

Re 5) Of course you are right, but I think you are ahead of your time. Pro Football is just coming around to concepts like 4th down Football and other concepts how to really optimize your 4th down defense. If you have not put thoughts into a situation like that before the game, you are not going to come up with your solution in a stressful situation like that. Your instincts say play what your best defense, and that is normaly a conventional one.

Re 8) I doubt they overturn their spot, especially since it means deciding the game directly. And while spotting it wrong also decided the game, it took 4 more plays to do so, so the ref can go home free.
As for the DPI, its in the rules, but please change that rule. As somebody who comes from socvcer, its the most stupid ruling out there apart from the celebrations rules.

9) I am very pleased with that game despite the loss. For the third time in a row we went to Indy and forced our game on them for most of the time, even when 18 was able to dig deep and gibve them the W. But if we need to go back there next January I know we will have even chances at least. And thats all you can ask for, when playing teams like the colts.

by sjwano (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:40pm

Have not seen a comment on it so far...but speaking of poor coaching decisions, Marvin Lewis pulled a Tom Coughlin and went for the field goal instead of showing guts and going for a first down against Pitt. The outcome was much better for his sake (no drive down the field for "big" Ben ala Phil Rivers) however I am constantly annoyed by their apparent "let's run down the clock and hope we stop them" approach. They moved down the field and ate up clock, but when they have a chance to seal the win, they peter out, kick the field goal. Maybe it didn't burn them Sunday but his clock management (admittedly better this year in general) will come back to bite at some point down the road...

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 10:23am

But that was a game in which the defenses had dominated. The probabilities, and hence the correct decision, swing substantially based on the teams involved. I think Belichick and Lewis both made the right calls, but had the Bengals been in the Patriots situation against the Steelers, they should have punted, where the Patriots in the Bengals' situation against the Colts should have gone for it.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 12:46pm

I think the worst part of the Millen-was-never-a-GM thing is that I think it may be affecting his ability in the booth. I think I recall him prior to The Horror as a pretty decent color commentator: now he seems more like the standard bag o' clichés.

Oh yeah, and he's still the guy that ruined the franchise and got a contract extension for it.

College cheerleaders wave or cheer. Pro cheerleaders are closer to strippers; not as close as, say, NBA dance teams, but they're pretty close.

If I can't see the TV when I hear "double reverse", I always assume the announcer got it wrong and it's actually a reverse. I give the announcers about a 1 in 10 chance of calling a reverse correctly. Those rules seem to be pretty accurate.

by morganja :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 1:04pm

Wow. There are some seriously deluded people here. I understand it's the heat of the moment and a big game and all that, but good lord, the odds people are quoting are ridiculous. The Colts have an 80% chance of scoring going the length of the field with 2 minutes left? Really? And that is based on what exactly? If only there was a relevent statistical sample we could use as a starting point. Like maybe the first 58 minutes of the game in which the Colts managed 3 touchdown drives out of 13 drives. Not taking time into account, that's 3/13 = 80%!!!! No wait. 21%. That can't be right, can it?

Put some time constraints on it and we're probably talking even less since the offense has less options.

Now 4th and 2 in that situation is converted 60% of the time? Really? With the defense totally selling out to stop the short gain? I looked at the linked article and saw terrible statistical methods used to justify the 60%. It should take anyone 30 seconds to spot the obvious flaw inthat methodology. Realistically, 10%-20%.

The change in probability of the Colts scoring a TD from the 30 in that situation compared to their chance of scoring from their end of the field? An increase of 60% is reasonable.

Now plug these numbers in and tell me how it was a toss-up decision.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 1:22pm

"If only there was a relevent statistical sample we could use as a starting point. Like maybe the first 58 minutes of the game in which the Colts managed 3 touchdown drives out of 13 drives."

So 13 drives is now a "relevent [sic] statistical sample"?

Also, who ever said that the Colts' TD percentage from their own 30 was 80%? I've seen as high as 53% in this thread, but that was then corrected.

I also have yet to see anyone who advocates punting take into account the possibility of a shanked punt; subjectively, it seems that the Patriots punter would want to avoid a good return, and thus punt towards the sideline, which seems to result in more <30 yard punts than usual.

Chase's post at the P-F-R blog is the most convincing defense of the call I've read. It includes this nice table of "break-even" points. That is, if you think the Colts' TD percentage from the opponent's 28 is the value in the first column, if their chances from their own 32 is less than the value in the second column, the punt was the right call.

28 yds 68 yds
90% 36%
85% 34%
80% 32%
75% 30%
70% 28%
65% 26%
60% 24%
55% 22%
50% 20%
45% 18%
40% 16%
35% 14%
30% 12%
25% 10%

by morganja :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 1:56pm

See Comment 12 for the 80%.

by doktarr :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 1:23pm

Read the pro-football-reference blog, morganja.


or two different stats analysts on NYT's "Fifth down" blog:



Reasonable percentages say that the Pats had about a 60% chance of making the conversion, and something like a 35% chance of holding the Colts on a short field if they failed. That comes to something approaching an 80% chance of winning the game. By contrast, they have something like a 70% chance of holding the Colts on a longer field after the punt.

Going for it improved the Pat's chances by a good 10% of winning the game, which is a very big deal.

As a Colts fan, I was NOT happy when the Pats lined up to go for it. I said "oh crap, here goes the game". And I'm not a pessimist by nature.

by morganja :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 1:50pm

I question the methodology. Does it take a random sample of all plays that are 4th and 2? Or does it only take those 4th and 2 plays for which the coach decides to go for it? It would seem that if a coach went for it on each and every 4th and 2 the sucess rate would plummet to a much lower number, even moreso when the defense can eliminate worrying about long plays and focus just on the 2 yards.

I was mistaken obviously with the drives, it had been 4/13 or 31%. Still the point remains.

Why is it that so many people who have never played the game, or at least have never coached the game think they know so much better than the best paid coaches in the sport? One would presume that armed with this method any one of the people here could coach a team to a championship. Yet they choose not to. Perhpas because its easier to use statistics to prove oneself correct than it is to actually be correct.

Put your money where your mouth is. Go get a coaching position and win some championships. Otherwise take your statistics with a grain of salt and stop presuming yourselves better informed than those people actually doing it.

by morganja :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 2:04pm

Not you specifically. The royal 'you', all these people calling thousands of coaches stupid for punting on 4th downs. Belichick almost always punts on 4th down. Do people really think he has never bothered to think about the percentages? It seems much more likely that he, and other coaches, have considered the percentages but use much more realistic numbers than a couple of hobbyists on the interent.

by Temo :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 2:10pm

So your best argument for refuting these calculations is "the coaches know better than you fools".

An argument that is then refuted on the basis that the most successful active coach in the NFL apparently agrees with us.


by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:11pm

"Why is it that so many people who have never played the game, or at least have never coached the game think they know so much better than the best paid coaches in the sport? "

Why is it that people seem to think that Playing the game is relevant to probability?

Bill Bellichick never played the game.

by DoubleB866 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 7:49pm

He played at Wesleyan University.

by morganja :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 12:12am

Because football is not a computer game in which a random number is generated to dictate the results of a play. What I'm guessing here is that most people here don't really undersatand statistics, their limitations and their assumptions.

by doktarr :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:26pm

Does it take a random sample of all plays that are 4th and 2? Or does it only take those 4th and 2 plays for which the coach decides to go for it?

As opposed to the ones where the coach decided to punt? This makes no sense. The only data that can be analyzed is the data where an attempt actually happened.

It would seem that if a coach went for it on each and every 4th and 2 the sucess rate would plummet to a much lower number

And why is that? Teams generally have the right personnel in for these plays. It's not as though short yardage isn't a common situation on 3rd down, too. The situation is a well-known one that already draws plenty of coaching and practice time. There's no reason to expect these percentages to change if the play became more common.

Besides, this is not relevant to the question of whether the Pats should have gone for it in this specific case.

even moreso when the defense can eliminate worrying about long plays and focus just on the 2 yards.

This is a reasonable argument, but you can easily correct for this by looking at 3rd-and-goal or 4th-and-goal from the 2. And the percentages there are lower, but still pretty close to 50%.

Moreover, we're not talking about a league-average offense. We're talking about the leading scoring team in the NFL. To argue that their chance of conversion was significantly lower than 50% is just silly, in my opinion.

Why is it that so many people who have never played the game, or at least have never coached the game think they know so much better than the best paid coaches in the sport?

As other have pointed out, we're the ones arguing that Bill Belichick was right. You're the one arguing that he was wrong.

by DoubleB866 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 7:47pm

"Why is it that so many people who have never played the game, or at least have never coached the game think they know so much better than the best paid coaches in the sport?"

While I agree with that sentiment about 90% of the time, I actually think this is a situation where statistics are very, very relevant.

I think it was the right call, but I also think it's a lot closer of a decision than either the supporters or doubters believe. I was surprised to find out that teams needing a TD to win with 2 minutes left and all their timeouts score that TD 30% of the time when they have to go 70 yards. That seems very high to me. Not saying it's wrong (the 4 downs as opposed to the typical 3 and punt have an effect), just the only statistic that seems a little out of whack.

I will say in Belichick's defense that while everyone here has had hours to digest what's happened, he and his staff had only a few minutes to make the decision to go for it and then put a play call together. You can make an argument about him not making the decision prior to 3rd down, but I can't think of one coach in any NFL (or college) booth who's thinking it's 2-down territory right there.

All the bitching about the wrong play call does fit with your above quote. He attacked a backup safety with an easy throw and had Faulk caught the ball cleanly, the Patriots get the first down. It was an execution error. Maybe the next time you've watched countless hours of Colts defensive film, you can judge the play call.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 10:37am

"I can't think of one coach in any NFL (or college) booth who's thinking it's 2-down territory right there"

I think Mike Leach probably is. Of course, he's passing both times anyway, but . . .

Almost seriously, I think it's worth considering that anybody who plays a lot of Madden almost certainly has more experience of making this type of decision (clock management, timeout use, go for it/kick) in a time-constrained context than most or all NFL head coaches. George Halas coached 497 games. I'm betting there are any number of teenagers and twenty-somethings out there who have "called" well over double that. Obviously NFL teams should not be hiring elite Madden players as their head coaches, any more than they should professional statisticians. They wouldn't know how to teach or motivate players, or run a coaching staff, or countless other things that are far more important than good game management. That doesn't mean they shouldn't consider hiring one as a game management specialist, in the way that they might hire a statistician as a front office consultant.

by DoubleB :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 11:56am

Actually the better question is did anyone posting on this site think it was 2-down territory for the Patriots when it was 3rd and 2? I'm guessing that number is a lot less than the number of people supporting or not supporting Belichick's decision.

I can tell you that in my experiences game management isn't something that's discussed in the offices. It's a lot of head coach past experiences and what you believe as a coach (some of it good conventional wisdom, some not). Game flow also matter as these decisions aren't made in a vacuum. What does need to be remembered is that in many cases, these decisions are made in 10 seconds or less (provided you don't want to use a timeout) and are rarely so egregious as to be the focal point of the reason a team lost. It's a game that's still about executing plays and if Faulk executes, the Patriots (most likely) win the game. If the Patriots chose to punt, it would still be about making plays on defense (something they were able to do in the 4th quarter on Manning's pick).

by Dales :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 8:42pm

I am not sure why it it is reasonable to assume a 60% chance of making the conversion.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 1:26pm

Are you really suggesting that the Pats offense has about a 10-20% chance of converting the fourth and two?

by MJK :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 1:48pm

Also, you have to look beyond cold hard numbers and take some human factors into account.

For a bunch of those 13 drives, the Pats had a reasonably fresh defense, and a full complement of players, including their best pass rusher.

By the end of the game, their best rusher, Banta-Cain (did I just write that?) was out with an injury. His backup, Ninkovitch, was also injured. They were down to just two healthy OLB's who had been on the field an insane amount over the course of the 4th quarter and who looked really tired. Furthermore, they cam into the game with two injured D-lineman and so were limited in their ability to substitute, made worse by the Colt's no-huddle. Did you see how Wilfork was just getting batted aside by the end?

In the firs half and 3rd quarter, the Pats were pretty much living in the Colts backfield. In the 4th quarter, their pressure had vanished, probably because they were injured/gassed. It looked to me like they were totally incapable of stopping the Colts no matter where in the field they were.

The first 13 drives didn't make me think that the Colts had a high percentage of scoring from their own 40 yard line. The immediate preceding two drives did. And the ease at which the Colts moved from the Pats 30 (good field position, but not exactly in the shadow of the goal, either), lends additional credence.

by Purds :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:09pm


You can't use stats when they help, and anecdotes when the stats don't help. For example, one could say anecdotally that the Pats had no chance of getting 4th and 2, when they failed on 3rd and 2 right before that. What, anecdotally, would make one think that NE could get it the next time? (Or, that the Colts would easily score the next time?)

Also, you have to factor in the fact that going from the shot gun, NE made it clear that they were throwing (and likely running the short out to either Welker or the other slot guy, in this case Faulk -- the rookie Indy CB's after the game were all talking about how the Indy coaches were telling them all week that if NE went for a 4th and short, that this would be the play), and Indy put on the full press, not caring if they gave up a deep pass or catch and long run.

So, should the first try for 2 yards have not given you confidence on the second try? Heck, the first one was almost a pick 6.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:21pm

A pick six wouldn't have been a horrible thing. Pats would have gotten the ball back with just about 2:00 left and a timeout, and only needing a FG to win...

by mrh :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 2:23pm

Actually, the Colts had 4 TD drives prior to the last one. 4/13 = 31% Regardless of the relevance of the sample, that is the fact.

Those 4 TD drives were 90 yards, 80 yards, 79 yards, and 79 yards. They lasted between 1:49 and 3:08. I don't think the time remaining or the distance to go for a TD after a punt were going to be significantly worse than those conditions.

The last two TD drives were two of the last three Colts' possessions. If we limit our sample to the 4th qtr, the chances the Colts score is around 2/3 or 67% and they turn it over 1/3 of the time (and that's assuming 79 yard drives, which is probably around the worst case post-punt). Yes, that's a very small sample but it's also the largets relevant one available.

IMO, based on the teams and players on the field last night, given the state of the Pats defense, the probablity of the Colts scoring was between 31% and 67% after a punt. I don't think you can go lower than 31% because the Colts had been that successful throughout the game. I don't think you can go higher than 67% because even Manning-Wayne make mistakes, as they had just a short time before. Obviously a purely statistical analysis can pick holes in both assertions.

by doktarr :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 1:15pm

I'm surprised, and honestly a bit disappointed, to read that all the FO staff seemed to think this was the wrong call by Belichick. It was the right call, and it wasn't that close as far as coaching decisions go, either.

Going for it gives you something like a 60% chance of game over right there. Certainly more than 50%.

Do you REALLY think that making the Colts go another 35 yards, with multiple time outs to work with, is worth passing up that 60% chance of a guaranteed win? This seems crazy to me.

The Pro-football-reference blog does this analysis in more detail, as you linked, but really, rational football fans should be able to recognize that the field position is not worth passing up a better than even chance of a guaranteed win.

by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 1:54pm

I want to point out to readers that there's a reason why my post says "total fan shock." How I felt last night as a Pats fan and how I feel this morning as an objective analyst are two different things. (After consideration, I do think Belichick made the right decision but the wrong playcalls.) However, the people who write for FO are always fans first and writers second. We've never hidden that, in fact we have a page where we even list which teams we all root for! Just remember that often, that's what Audibles is about too -- not just the scientific response to football stats, but the emotional feelings of an Eagles fan, a Giants fan, a Pats fan, a Bengals fan, a Steelers fan, a Titans fan, a couple of Seahawks fans, and occasionally a couple of Colts fans.

by Temo :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 2:06pm


/still emotionally fragile due to Cowboys game last night.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:10pm

I don't think the emotional feelings of an Eagles fan would be appropriate material for this site right now.

by doktarr :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:45pm

Fair enough, Aaron. As a Colts fan, my gut, immediate reaction was "oh no", and I'm not a pessimistic fan by nature. I was just a lot more comfortable with "Peyton has 2 minutes and timeouts trying to drive 70 yards to win this" than I was with "we have to stop Brady and Moss/Welker from getting 2 yards on this play, or the game is over".

Moreover, I agree with you that the playcalls seemed odd. If you were making independent decisions on 3rd and 4th down, and you think that that short of quick out is your most likely way to get 2 yards, then I can see those playcalls. But ideally, you should have decided whether you're going for it on 4th-and-2 before you call the 3rd-and-2 play.

If the answer is yes (which I emphatically believe it should be) then I think channeling Gregg Easterbrook and running the ball between the hash marks actually makes some sense. Faulk did have almost 100 yards on the day. Or, as you say, run 3-yard outs to give yourself a little bit of a margin to work with.

by LanceS :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 1:44pm

Is the Weintraub "we" & "our" stuff really necessary? IMO it's kind of unprofessional. You don't see it in Aaron's or Doug's writing, even though they have open rooting interests. I'd rather see the Joe Fan routine in check, but that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

by MJK :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 1:55pm

I want to go on record, as well, that I think (and always have) that the 2 challenges per game, unless you get them both right, and unless you're under 2 minutes rule, is stupid. It was put in as a compromise because some anti-replay people were insisting that coaches would slow the game too much with challenges unless they were limited.

It wouldn't have affected the Pats game (Belichick was out of timeouts, not challenges), but it would have affected another game I caught a piece of this weekend (either Green Bay or Seattle...I don't remember which). McCarthy or Mora tried to challenge a play when he was out of challenges, even though it looked like he would have won it.

Basically, you're saying that you're sure that the refs won't make more than 2 mistakes per game per team. Wrong!

I've always thought that the challenge rule should be you can challenge as much as you want, and as often as you want, as long as you have timeouts left. Win a challenge, keep your timeouts, lose a challenge, lose your timeout. And get rid of the two minute rule. Sometimes the booth stops the game in clock critical situations when even the coach who stands to benefit by an overturn might not challenge, because he'd rather have the clock run. Leave it up to the opposing coaches. Timeouts are valuable enough that they wouldn't challenge frivolously, and if they did, you're at most allowing three anyway.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:37pm

I like your rule. I don't like how you get 2 challenges and even if they were right, you don't have the opportunity to challenge again.

But don't you think some coaches would basically never call time outs, and basically use their timeouts as 3 challenges per half?

by MJK :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:53pm

Sure. But I'm not clear if you're asking if a coach would always challenge when he would otherwise have called a timeout, or never call a timeout except when he wanted to challenge. I'm sure both would happen.

In the first case, if the coach is going to stop the play with a timeout anyway, what's the harm in having the ref look over the last play instead of stand around the field getting cold and fix a mistake if he finds one? And anyway, there would be some cases where a coach wouldn't...it would be kind of silly to challenge after a RB plunges into the line for a 1-yard gain when what you really want to do is stop the clock. Sure, you could, but you'd be getting the refs annoyed at you...and I think coaches would avoid doing that just for the sake of it. (Kind of like a coach can ask for a measurement any time he wants within reason, if a play didn't produce a first down, and in that way get a free timeout...but coaches don't really abuse that too much).

In the second case, that wouldn't be a very good coach. There are other very good reasons to use timeouts. It just makes a timeout slightly more valuable than it is.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 4:22pm

"I don't like how you get 2 challenges and even if they were right, you don't have the opportunity to challenge again."

That's false. If you win both your challenges, you get a third. You *might* even keep getting new ones, until you lose, but I'm not sure of that.

But you definitely get a third one, if your first two were correct.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 4:43pm

You don't get anymore. It would be nice though, however I don't ever seen a coach get all 3 challenges right and need a 4th one.

by BigDerf :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 2:05pm

+1 to Barnwell for the Arrested Development reference

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 2:08pm

To somewhat pointlessly talk about a different game, Packers/Cowboys really demonstrated the power of fumble luck. Even in a game where the Packers clearly outplayed the Cowboys (this was the first game where I saw the Packers defense play well against an offense with significant talent), the Packers' victory greatly depended on fumble luck, and had the fumble results been reversed, there is a good chance that the Cowboys would have won.

by Temo :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 2:13pm

It didn't help that the Packers basically wore down the officials' willingness to flag penalties by committing holds on every.single.play.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 2:11pm

According to the Boston press, BB said he decided to go for it after the 3rd down play failed. Tsk-tsk.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 2:12pm

Not that it really matters in the end but, being I'm probably one of the five people in the country who actually watched Bucs-Dolphins, I'll note that Tampa has had horrible kicking this year. Yesterday? New kicker Conner Barth hit three 50+ yard FGs in the first half. I am officially excited about field goals, which says something about my feelings towards this season.

Josh Freeman, again, was horrible at the start, and looked better and better as the game went on. He hit Maurice Stovall (who, incidentally, sucks) for a TD at the start of the 4th quarter with an utterly perfect pass down the left sideline. I'll try to ignore the fact that he fumbled four times. Four.

by jackgibbs :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 2:38pm

my favorite part was the announcer who said josh freeman was an efficient 6 of 10. of the four non completions to that point? three fumbles and a pick.

by BigDerf :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 2:56pm

If he was 6 of 10 with 3 fumbles and a Pick he would still have three other incompletions to that point. Fumbles don't count into attempts. (Didnt see the game or check a gamelog btw)

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 2:58pm

The crazy thing about Freeman is how awful he is in the first half, and how good he is in the second. I know there's a small sample size at this point and that the QB rating is a seriously flawed stat, but his rating in the first half is 50.9. In the second half it's 101.7. Watching the games really bears this out--he's jumping around, really skittish at first, and then after halftime he stands there and drops the ball in perfectly.

Maybe he needs to do a couple shots before kickoff to calm himself down?

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 2:56pm

Those FGs were huge. They didn't seem that way at the time, but I feared they'd come back to haunt the Fins.

RE Barnwell: "Well, until the Buccaneers took a personal foul penalty after the touchdown (that FOX couldn't find any footage of), forcing the Bucs to kick from the 15, and the Dolphins promptly drove down the field for a game-winning Dan Carpenter field goal.

That's followed by a great moment of announcer cliche, as the play-by-play guy notes: "All the Miami Dolphins talked about was that killer instinct, how they needed to finish people; they made it interesting, but it looks like they finished the Tampa Bay Buccaneers here today."

Huh?! They threw an interception on their six-minute drill and lost the lead before the largesse of the other team allowed them to score. That's the opposite of a killer instinct."

The Bucs kicked off from the 15 after the penalty, but the Dolphins couldn't handle the squib kick and as a result Miami started the winning drive from their own 15, maybe their worst field position all day. It was a great drive with 75 seconds and 1 TO, not a gift. They probably could have scored a TD if they had tried, too.

Also, if the Pats going for it on 4th was possibly a good call, how can you blame Henning for trying to end the game by "going for it" on 3rd down?

by Joseph :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 2:19pm

Okay--my 2 cents about the 4th and two:
First, good points have been made by many.
Second, I did not SEE the end of the game--I "saw" it via ESPN's Gamecast starting at about the 4 minute mark of the 4th quarter, right before the Colts' 2nd to last TD drive.

1) Pats did not use their TO's wisely.
2) Pats DEFINITELY should have let them score on 1st down from the 1 yd line. Gives Brady & Co. a chance to get in FG range.
3) Regardless of the math posted here, I think the risk is too great to not punt. I agree with whoever said basically "you have to put the onus on PM/Colts to ACTUALLY DRIVE DOWN AND SCORE THE TD!" Yes, the probability that he leads the team down is greater than an average team, esp. with the circumstances. But you have to make him DO IT. If the circumstances are reversed, and the Colts are about to give it back to Brady--or any team with a HOF QB and a good offense--you have to make them do it. If you are close to midfield, I think the odds are much more defensible.
4) On 3rd down, you HAVE TO RUN THE BALL. At worst, you have a no gain/minimal loss of yds, clock stops at the 2 minute warning, and you punt or go for it.
5) I think you've got to trust your D in that situation. First, they have rested during the PAT and the commercial after Colts score to make it 34-28. First, the kickoff. Then Pats called time. Then 1st down run, Colts TO. 2nd down pass, Colts TO. 3rd down, should be a run to take it down to 2 min.=TV timeout. Punt, change of possession, TV timeout. THERE WERE FOUR TIMEOUTS + the 2 min. warning in real life, 3 and another TV timeout (not 2 min) in my scenario. The Colts lost the TOP battle--the Pats D SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GASSED AT ALL. If we were talking about the Colts D being gassed in the Miami game when Miami had the ball for 45 minutes--okay, I hear you. But when the other teams has the ball for 26/27 minutes of a regulation game--if you're gassed, you are way out of shape for pro football.
6) If your team is up 13 with 4 minutes to go and the other team has to go 70 yds, then score another TD to win--and they do it--you have every right to 2nd guess/criticize your team's coaches/players/play calling/etc. I kind of root for the Colts because Manning is from NOLA, but they had no business winning that game. Being up 17 points in the 4th Q should be an automatic win unless you are DET, CLE, TB, or STL. And if you belong to one of those 4 teams, it should still be pretty much guaranteed.
7) To sum it up--Math defends BB's call, and I'm okay with that. But his odds of converting are lower than "average", because the Colts don't need to defend anything past the 35 yd line. If the Pats convert, game over. Plus, as mentioned, the risk-reward scenario is horribly in the Colts favor. Also, I don't like 3rd down pass plays (in general) when trying to defend a lead against an opponent needing to keep its 1 TO left. (Saints did it yesterday against the Rams, and it gave them a chance.) If you're gonna pass, do a rollout where the QB can run or throw it away without grounding. Mathmatically, BB's call is defensible. In the real life scenario, you blew it. Your defense helped you do it throughout the 4th Q because they couldn't stop the Colts like they had in the 1st 3 quarters.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:16pm

""you have to put the onus on PM/Colts to ACTUALLY DRIVE DOWN AND SCORE THE TD!" "

Why isn't it "you have to put the Onus on the colts defense to ACTUALLY STOP YOU"?

Why just give the ball away?

by Justin Zeth :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 4:09pm

My favorite post here yet. Remarkably, the most overlooked thing by the masses that always want to punt on fourth down is the importance of possessing the ball.

by Fontes of Wayne :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:23pm

My issue with #3 - and I know you're not the originator of the argument, you're just down here at the bottom of the page - is that it ignores the fact that football is a two-way game. By going for it, the onus is on a defense which has given up some 450 yards to *stop* you from gaining two more. Then, even if they succeed, Manning still has to beat you, albeit from a lot closer to the goal.
You've got two teams with world-class offenses and defenses which, tired or daisy-fresh, hadn't been stopping much in the last fifteen minutes. The decision to simply give the Indy offense the ball and hope they can't drive ~60 yards, versus forcing a beat-up defense to hold the line, doesn't strike me as clearly the better one.

EDIT: Rumors that Rich and I are the same person are spurious.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 2:51pm

It's easy to pile on Cutler after a bad game like that, but what about his line/receivers. His decision making wasn't good, but neither was the talent around him. It's easy to pile on HIM after the bad game, but it was a bad team effort. The QB will get too much of the blame after this loss.

I also don't like Singeltary after the game saying if the 49ers play their game they could beat anybody. They were at home and got 5 turnovers and scored 10 points to beat the Bears who aren't that good.

Sabby Piscatelli
Is very athletic, but isn't a very good player. He's played bad all year.

Phillip Buchannon
Funny he strips AD for a fumble. As the announcer mentioned, Buchannon was known to be a poor tackler you run at.

Mark Sanchez
Picking on him for his interception/dumb throw is exactly why he should have sat for at least 1/2 of his rookie season, but in reality all of it. NFL games aren't supposed to be on the job training.

The Steelers kicked 4 FG's and at one point Phil Simms pointed out that they "should" be a good red zone team... They have a mobile QB, good skilled position players and a good line... what? Good line? MAYYYYBE average, but a good offensive line? Silly talk.

I thought Carson Palmer outplayed Big Ben in this game. The Steelers red zone offense and special teams killed them.

Big Ben might be the hardest QB to physically sack in the NFL when you factor in his size and mobility, but it looked like he did a bad job with his presnap reads. He was sacked 3 or 4 times in the first half. Yeah, sometimes he makes amazing plays that others can't make, but too often when the blitz is coming he doesn't speed it up and get the ball out. I think he relies on his size/scrambling a little more than he should. I think Donovan was much the same way a few years ago. Very strong, very mobile, but he used that as a crutch far too often. Don't get me wrong, I'd take big ben on my team in a heart beat but I think he can improve his game there.

Redskins Broncos
I love the sarcasm by Barnwell...
- The Redskins break 20 points for the first time this year... In week 10! They broke the mythical 20 point barrier thanks to a TD pass by their punter. In their 2nd highest point total they also got a TD pass from the punter.
- Wasn't there an Eagles fan on this cite talking about how Laddell Betts sucks? People in Washington want him to start over an aging and less effective Clinton Portis.

Justin Forsett looked better than I peg him in the Seattle game.

Green Bay/Dallas
I think Larry Tripplet is my least favorite NFL Ref. Either him or Ron Winter.

I don't know what else to say but it was vintage Eagles. They moved the ball up and down the field with the pass ( with ease). They couldn't convert 3rd and 1's, and they couldn't do anything in the redzone.

I thought Norv Turner called a good game on offense.

Patriots/Colts Wasting challenges
- I actually give a lot of credit to Mike Tomlin in the Steelers game for not friviously wasting challenges. He showed good restraint on a couple of occasions ( even one he probably would have won).

The reason why I bet on the Colts last night was because the Pats had some injuries, and I liked Freeny/Mathis to pressure Brady without Light. Vollmer and the rest of the Pats O-Line had a monster game as far as I'm concerned. Vollmer looks like a future star and it doesn't hurt that the Pats are one of the teams that has already played in Europe.

New England is still going to be number one in DVOA.
Hence the reason why everybody calls you the New England outsiders. Without even looking at the date you conclude the patriots are the best.

Going for it
I don't fault Bellicheck for going for it.

by Dice :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 4:12pm

Betts doesn't suck by any means. He's not a great change of pace back like say, Jerious Norwood, who can come in cold and rip off huge runs. He's just not effective on two or three carries. Still a solid backup and a good back to grind out yards late in the game.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 8:54pm

Betts had over 100 yards and looked good yesterday.

Earlier a Philly fan who knows everything was arguing that Betts isn't a decent backup. He brought up YPC stats ( when he was injured) and tried to craft together an argument that went with the whole Jason Campbell has never had any talent around him argument. It's all a Washington consiracy.

by greybeard :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 9:47pm

"I also don't like Singeltary after the game saying if the 49ers play their game they could beat anybody. They were at home and got 5 turnovers and scored 10 points to beat the Bears who aren't that good."

The almost beat 8-0 Colts and 7-1 Vikings.
They have 5 losses but the only game they had not have a chance to win in the last 5 minutes of the game was the Falcons game.

by Tball (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:02pm

I'm with Vince on this:

"I'm fine with going for it on fourth down, but if you're going to do that, the third-down call MUST be a running play. Even if it fails, you'll probably still gain one yard, and that makes the fourth-down conversion easier. Going into the game, New England's offensive line was fifth in power situations; Indianapolis' defensive line was 26th. If they run twice, it's almost inconceivable that they don't pick up the first down."

During the timeout after the second down play, you have to know if you are in 3 down or 4 down territory. If you are going to punt, then you call whatever play has the best chance of netting that first down. If you are in four down territory, you run it. Indy would have called a TO or let it tick to the two minute warning, giving you time to work out the fourth down play.

Also, just over four minutes left in the game. Brady, on third down, feels the pressure and throws the ball away. Take a knee (or drop and cover)!! Keep the clock moving. You have to, have to, have to keep the clock moving there.

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:15pm

So, who wins the Colbert award this week, Beli or Zorn? I'm for Zorn, because calling a trick play on 4th and 20 when the defense knows what's coming and you know that they know, and the play not only works but goes for a TD, blows my mind away.

by Dice :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 4:05pm

Does Sherm Lewis call fake numbers in bingo too?

by BigDerf :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 4:33pm

As far as I'm concerned Belicheck deserves the Martz award for handing the game away.

The Colts had been doing a shit job defensively earlier in the game but were turning it around with what they were doing in the second half. Most teams couldn't have stopped the mighty patriots offense from getting a 1st down in 3 downs. The Colts had already done that. The Pats were obviously already in go to their best plays for the first down mode on first second and third down (Why wouldn't they be?). The Colts had stopped them for three downs already.

Also... by going for it on fourth down not only do you tell your defense that you have absolutely no confidence in them (If you had any you would punt it) but you also challenge the Colts defense by saying that you're willing to take the risk of going for it from the 28 against them.

I'm not going to lay out a bunch of percentages for people to math out. It's not about percentages that are estimated like "Chances they get that particular first down" and "Chances The Colts Score". I'm going with the obvious fact that it is harder to score from further away and punting the ball.

And in closing... The one counterpoint percentage I'm going to use? 30% - The percent of drives last year that ended in Touchdowns for New Orleans. The Highest figure in the league last year. So stop using this odds of Manning Scoring a TD there are somehow over 50% argument.

by mrh :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 5:30pm

If NE punts, it basically has one chance to win the game: stop the Colts. If NE goes for it, it has two chances: make the 1st down or stop the Colts. If you don't figure the "percentages" of those three chances and how they relate to each other, either with some formal "geeky" stats-based analysis, or some "Football reality" psycho-emotional analysis, you might as well flip a coin - and get ready to flip burgers because you are a crappy decision-maker.

by Ben :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 5:46pm

This isn't necessarily directed at you, BigDerf, I've seen a number of other posters make a point along the line:

"by going for it on fourth down ... you tell your defense that you have absolutely no confidence in them (If you had any you would punt it)"

If that's your argument, doesn't punting it also "tell your offense that you have absolutely no confidence in them" getting 2 yards when the game's on the line? I know it's a cliche, but when the games on the line, I think you want the ball in the hands of your best players. For the Pats, that's Brady and the offense. I was shocked when the Pats went for it, but the longer I think about it, the more I think it was the right choice (if not the right play call).

Heck, you can even argue that going for it "tells your defense you trust them to stop the Colts getting 30 yards".

by doktarr :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 5:32pm

I'm not going to lay out a bunch of percentages for people to math out. It's not about percentages that are estimated like "Chances they get that particular first down" and "Chances The Colts Score". I'm going with the obvious fact that it is harder to score from further away and punting the ball.

Of course you're not going to lay out percentages. That would require making a coherent argument, and you're obviously not willing to do that.

The one counterpoint percentage I'm going to use? 30% - The percent of drives last year that ended in Touchdowns for New Orleans. The Highest figure in the league last year. So stop using this odds of Manning Scoring a TD there are somehow over 50% argument.

Fine. Chance of scoring after a punt is around 30%. (That's actually the number most people are using, including the NYT 5th down analysts.)

Now, what's the chance of the Colts scoring from the 28? Also 30% or something higher? Are you going to use something over the 50% number you just derided? Give a number.

by BigDerf :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 8:19pm

The point was percentages are useless and i can throw out one to help my argument as well.

Everyone knows Manning was gonna score from the 28 there. It's not about the percentages but the flow of that particular game. He's cutthroat as hell at least back him up best you can.

And to the poster above about no confidence in your offense - If the offense blows it the defense is gonna have to go on the field... if they punted it away the offense wouldnt see the field again today anyways.

by doktarr :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 8:31pm

"The point was percentages are useless and i can throw out one to help my argument as well."

You can't seem to provide a coherent set of percentages that support your argument. You haven't done so, anyway.

"Everyone knows Manning was gonna score from the 28 there. It's not about the percentages but the flow of that particular game. He's cutthroat as hell at least back him up best you can."

So, you're arguing that he's 100% likely to score from the 28, but only 30% likely to score if you punt? Don't you realize that's a completely ridiculous argument?

A couple posts ago you were arguing that guessing that the Colts score 50% of the time from the 35 is ridiculous - and I admit, it is a little high. But you think 100% from the 28 is reasonable? That's just plainly illogical. You're not thinking this through.

As far as the "flow of the game" goes, the previous time the Colts had had the ball, they went 79 yards in less than two minutes.

The 35 yards you get on the punt seem almost trivial, really, compared to a roughly even chance to end the game by making a 2 yard gain. It was the right call.

by ammek :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 5:26am

Don't know about Colbert, but there should be some recognition of Maurice Jones-Drew and his pre-goalline bellyflop.

by Myran (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:19pm

If the receiver and defender's positions were reversed, that would have been more of a DPI than what actually happened. In this hypothetical scenario, the defender is able to see the receiver and the ball and DPI probably would have been called. No argument from me here.

That's why I think this is a bogus call. Ball was under thrown. Defender is strictly going for the ball. Receiver sees both ball and body. They both have a right to the ball. Receiver initiates contact in going for the ball. There's no way a DPI should have been called when the defender had been looking at the ball for a good 2 seconds before jumping for it and feeling a guy on his back...

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:46pm

My issue with DPI, is its almost always called as a result of something the Wide Receiver does, and not something the cornerback does.

Its supposed to be that both players have a right to the ball, but the way its called, essentially the defender has the responsibility of avoiding the WR, which doesn't make much sense.

(disregarding extremely flagrant - tackle the WR type calls)

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 4:01pm

Hell, I just wish they would make up their mind what the rule is! Again, the contrast with the non-call on Cutler's fourth int on Thursday indicates how arbitrary such rulings are. The safety makes a move on the ball, and in doing so bumps Olson off his path. Interception, no PI call, and two different camps of opinion after the game, from experienced former players and coaches. In short, nobody knows what pass interference is anymore. I tend to agree with you, that the defensive player should be able to take a path to the ball in the same manner as an offensive player, as long as he is clearly playing the ball. However, I'd settle for some consistency.

by peterplaysbass (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 4:09pm

Is there consistency among each officiating team? It might be worthwhile to further emphasize each crew's tendencies to players each week. Knowing what is and is not going to be called would make a big difference.

by BigDerf :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 4:35pm

9 times out of 10... If the defender goes up for the ball Bumps the receiver and comes down with it... He's going to not get flagged for interference. If the Patriot player had come down with the ball he probably wouldn't have been called for it.

by jackgibbs :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 5:56pm

"Again, the contrast with the non-call on Cutler's fourth int on Thursday indicates how arbitrary such rulings are. The safety makes a move on the ball, and in doing so bumps Olson off his path. Interception, no PI call"

exactly. I'm willing to bet that if butler had intercepted that pass, no DPI is called. of course, he'd've had to make a palomalu go-go-gadget arm leaping play to get it

eta. bigderf is a wise man

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 7:19pm

Fine, make it explicit in the rulebook, then; no pass interference if the defender intercepts the pass.

by Dan :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 7:17pm

The replay of the pick on Cutler is here: http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2009111200/2009/REG10/bears@49ers/watch

I still think it should've been PI - the Bears TE (actually Kellen Davis) had position and the defender came through him. Then again, I'm a Bears fan so I would think that.

by greybeard :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 9:56pm

So you think that the defenders should just let the receivers catch the ball if they are in a position to catch it.
I think it was obvious that the defender went after the ball to intercept it. He was not trying to make the TE not catch the ball. Sometimes it is not obvious what the intent is, but the safety not only intercepted the ball, he kept running on stride to gain yardage. The defender has as much right as the TE to go for the ball.
Then again, I am a 49ers fan so I would think that.

by tuluse :: Wed, 11/18/2009 - 6:38am

The defender shoulder checks Kellen on route the ball. He initiates the contact. I don't think defenders should just let receivers catch it, but I think shoulder checks should probably be illegal.

by DoubleB866 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 7:54pm

I'd argue the problem with DPI is the draconian penalty attached to it. Why is it an automatic first down if it's a short pass? Why does the NFL reward offenses for NOT making plays down the field?

by MJK :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 8:57pm

I agree. It's already a little wrong that the rules as they are written fundamentally ASSUME that the WR would have caught the ball if he hadn't been interfered with. But we're going to gift a first down, even if the catch we're assuming would have been made wouldn't have earned one?

I've had the opinion for years that DPI should be 15 yards or spot of the foul, whichever is LESS, and not grant automatic first down. Yes, you'd have the occasional DB that would get beat and then absolutely mug a WR to prevent a long gain, but how is that different from the occasional OL who will totally mug a pass rusher when he gets beat to prevent a sack? After all, 1st and 20 is better than 2nd and 18 and a risk of a fumble/injury to a QB... But I think that it would happen less than you would think because, just because a WR gets open, doesn't mean he'll catch the ball. And a DB won't want to risk giving the offense a free 15 yards every time he gets beat.

I also think that defensive holding and illegal contact should stay as 10 and 5 yard penalties, respectively, but NOT be automatic first downs. Nothing is more frustrating than watching a defense, through good play, get the offense facing 3rd and 16 or something, and then get a ticky-tack illegal contact penalty that gifts the offense with a first down. Give them their five yards and make them earn the first down by still having to convert a 3rd and pretty long.

by morganja :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:58pm

The poster child for this discussion would be the Panther-Falcon game today, if anyone had watched it, in which a completely bogus PI call 6 yards down the field on 4th and 8 converted for the Falcons and went from a turnover to a TD. Worst call of the year in my opinion, especially since it didn't draw the flag until the Falcon's coaches demanded one. And it was in Carolina.

by saintsmartyr (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:50pm

Can somebody please explain to me why the Saints D only shows in the 4th quarter if they show up at all? I'm just a tad frustrated.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 11:03am

You've been playing some strong running teams with the lynchpin of your run defense (Ellis) injured. The Rams may suck, but they have some decent run-blockers on the line and Jackson is one of the best all-around backs in football.

by Joseph :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 11:05am

I think having Greer, Sharper & Ellis on the sideline had something to do with it this week. Plus Porter going out in the 2nd Q (iirc).
As for the Miami, Carolina, & Atlanta games, I think early turnovers in our own end had something to do with it also.
Also, as a Saints fan, I have noticed that with the exception of this week, both the offense and the defense have looked fresher than our counterparts in the 4th quarter. I attribute this to good depth at RB, WR, DB, and DL positions (DL before the injuries to Ellis & Clancy)--4 spots on a team where quality depth is very necessary in the NFL.

by The Other Ben Johnson (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:52pm

I think the call to go for it was about control. Playing the 2009 Colts with a chance to seal a win late in a close game against their defense rather than their offense, Belichick chose to try to win against their defense while he still had a choice.

The degree to which the decision was hubris-based is endlessly debatable, but I do know this: that 79-yard touchdown drive that Manning executed in 1:52 without using a timeout was a thing of absolute beauty. It was like watching Rembrandt at work. I can't blame anybody on the opposing sideline for wanting to keep the ball out of Manning's hands after that display of football mastery. Almost to the point where you make the same decision regardless of down and distance. There's just no way to exaggerate how incredible that drive was. It

But not running it against the Colts defense was definitely stupid.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:54pm

Oh and about last nights game...

Football night in America sucks. It's Olberman thinking he's funny running the highlights ( he's not funny). Then you have Patrick playing mediator between Rodney Harrison & Dungy.

I LOVED seeing Harrison & Dungy talk X's and O's, talking about old battles!

Then you had this geeky know nothing about football Dan Patrick break in and ask them a layman question.... He'd sometimes ask the question with the intent they'd answer one way... He didn't make it as much about the guy's he was interviewing, but as a piece of the story to the whole of the story.

Here's our story, we'll ask for YOU the former coach/player to insert a tidbit into our story that goes along with the script. Then quickly go on to the next topic. It was lame.

Sometimes I like the more free for all format some other networks use which would have resulted in Patrick/Olberman asking a question and Harrison/Dungy talking football with Patrick and his girlfrielnd Olberman on the sides just watching.

by Dice :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 4:05pm

I'll skip the stats debate on the 4th down. I like the call, just not the playcall for it.

RE: the skins game, fun game to watch. Individual plays that Campbell looked like an NFL QB, but he reverted to form and kept dumping off the ball too. The part of me that loves the team but hates Danny/Vinny makes me afraid that a few wins like this will make them think that there isn't anything wrong with the team that a free agent or three can't fix. "See Danny? Starting LT street free agent pick up DURING the season. And the fans act like we're not good at this!" Too much ARE and not enough Kelly/Thomas as well. Fred Davis better than I expected, but doesn't have the soft hands, grit or deceptive speed of Cooley(or the announcing love that Cooley and Smoot get).

RE: the safeties, Horton hadn't been as good this season. Rather see Smoot in at safety on obvious passing downs than Horton or Doughty, but I'm still liking both sixth rounders. Would like to see what Tryon and Barnes can do too, esp Barnes.

by peterplaysbass (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 4:10pm

Smoot gets announcer love? Guy's a clown.

by Dice :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 4:13pm

At the games, yes. Fans love him. Smoooooooooooooooooooooooot calls reverbate through FedEx Field. Certainly not the people on TV.

by peterplaysbass (not verified) :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 11:03am

Weird. Vikings fans did NOT love him. Although ol' Fred probably thought that the booooos were Smooooots.

by Still Alive (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 4:13pm

I am amazed that the FO writers don't have better gut instincts on the correctness of the 4th down call statically given how many times this has come up on the site over the years. Barnwell seemed the only one who has the courage of his convictions.

I cannot imagine not going for it in that situation. With average chances you still go for it, and the situational elements (the relative weaknesses of the defenses compared to the offenses) make it even a better decision. I realize these are emails sent in real time, but as someone who has read this site for years my immediate reaction in real time was "Wow that seems gutsy let me think about the odds". After about 15 secs I decided it was the right play, and after looking up the actual numbers I was even more certain.

I guess it is hard to fault people for their guts, but i am just surprised the outsiders guts are so similar to that of Dilfer or the other random ESPN morons.

by jay stokes (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 4:14pm

I get that this is section is a bonus, kind of like a delayed chat/blog of the games and the authors are commenting as half analyst/half fan. But I wish it would take more of the analyst voice, and attempt to remove bias, and less of the fan voice. Yes, you put which teams you pull for, but try to do the same analysis for the other teams aside from the ones you care about.

I get Aaron likes the Patriots. I get Mike likes the Eagles. Etc. It is cool that you post the team affiliations. But, if your team is not one of the core teams, it does get annoying. I guess the choices are: I can go somewhere else, this is working fine, it is a piece of the portfolio of stuff I read, but one I really value, so wish it was more broadly spread; OR, you can make a concerted effort to give voice to other teams and there perspective. It feels like there is a "cool" core of teams and then the rest that do some stuff occasionally.

This hyper-focus on the Pats/Indy is understandable given the quality of the two teams and BB as being the best coach in football (my opinion), but as a Bolts fan, reading the Eagles/Bolts thread, it was all about what the Eagles were doing right or wrong, as if the Chargers were some vague opponent, whose actions were not really influencing the game as much as the Eagles were screwing it up or, when doing well, achieving what they should be achieving. Did Rivers going 20/25 with no picks just random? That they suddenly gotten over their red zone woes in recent weeks by targeting their tertiary players (Wilson, third string TE in NYG game; Tolbert, the FB and Nanee, their slot receiver yesterday) is of no merit at all? No player execution, no play calling involved? Would not know Rivers was even playing by reading the in game comments, except I guess someone was throwing the ball to Malcom Floyd when he pushed off Sheldon Brown. I heard more about Brian Billick than anything the Chargers were doing right or wrong.

You position the site as intelligent analysis, but, then, want to also just be a fan too. Intelligent analysis implies impartiality, as best as it can be achieved. It would be as thought BP focused on just Boston, NY and few other mega franchises, like ESPN. No, they talk about all the teams, analyze in equal depth all the trades, etc. I hope you follow suit soon. Your comment on the FAQ saying the bias aligns with the fan base is ESPN's argument: most of the fans are in NY, Boston, major markets, so we are going to focus on them.

by BigDerf :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 4:40pm

I'd like to refer you to the disclaimer at the top of Audibles every week that tells you
"Please also note that we do not write the e-mails specifically to produce this column, which means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Raiders fan, not so much.)"

Don't bitch that your team wasn't covered in Audibles and just be happy that Audibles exist.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 4:43pm

ParseError: Complaint does not match template: Why [no/so few] comments regarding [game that my favorite team played]? It was clearly a better game that [other game that garnered more comments] and [list of reasons that apply to me personally that don't apply to any FO staff]. [More angry comments trying to redefine what the Audibles at the Line feature is].

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 5:04pm

I hate it when my free ice cream isn't in the flavor I prefer!

O.K., less snarkily, if a reader of this feature doesn't think a game or a team hasn't been given the attention it deserves, there is a section, called "comments", in which the reader can fill the void, and all other readers can see it.

by jay stokes (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 6:28pm

I thought I acknowledged that they have been very candid with their format and bias. I respect that. My complaint/request, was to change that. I went to their FAQ section that highlighted their biases. My goal to try to be more encompassing would improve the engagement/interest from readers whose team does not align with their teams.

They have every right to say "No thanks, we're gonna keep doing it this way." And others to say "We prefer it this way". But I think I have a right to request a change. It is not that I don't understand they have made an explicit choice, but I don't like. Now if it is Biases Audibles vs. No Audibles, yes, of course, Audibles in whatever form.

I have other sources to read, so not the end of the world, but it was my request.

I usually view the comments as reactions to their posts (and the reactions to the reactions, etc), not a riff on one's own observations.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 7:16pm

jay, I was unaware of anyone threatening to deprive you of the "right" to express your sentiments on the topic. Longtime readers of this site, however, have seen a form of your complaint, in the comments section of this feature, on approximately 3,234,661 occasions. In response to such repetition, many of us respond, perhaps uncharitably, with sarcasm.

by TruFalconz (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 6:37pm

Did the Falcons and Panthers play yesterday?

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 5:06pm

Now that Belichick has made the move to follow the anti-punt stats and take the heat, what are the chances he eschews punting entirely for the rest of the season in an attempt to prove that he was right?

Because that would be awesome. I would cheer for the Patriots.

by Dice :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 5:07pm

Happens that way in IRC too...comments about all the teams playing, as it happens. Commercial discussion too.

by mrh :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 5:33pm

If you go for it as a coach, you're telling your defense that you don't believe they can stop the Colts. But what about the flip side - if you don't go for it, you're telling your offense that you don't believe they can get two yards. In the first case, supposedly you've decreased the defenses' chances to stop the Colts if the 4th down play fails. In the 2nd case, haven't you also decreased the chances that the offense has to come back for a FG drive if the Colts score and leave time on the board? Whose pyche is more fragile - the offense of the defense?

by dienasty (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 5:47pm

Forget about your "telling" your defense of what your telling the Colts defense. All that is extra. The important thing is 3rd and 2 with 2:23 remaining. Colts can stop the clock once plus the two minute warning. Bill said he knew he was going for it on 3rd down. HOW CAN YOU NOT RUN THE BALL. Big formation with tight ends and extra offensive lineman. Thats a small D-line. run the ball. If you don't convert your in no worse situation and you force an Indy timeout. Now its fourth and 1 or maybe 2....but you do it again. Two runs to gain two yards has to be possible against this indy defense...if not you deserve to lose. The playcalling and clockmanagment lost the game not the decision.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 7:32pm

"Bill said he knew he was going for it on 3rd down."

Actually, he said he didn't know he was going to go for it on fourth down until after the third-down failure.

by Aqua Narc (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 7:36pm

"when NE had to call time out coming off the touchback at 34-28, before their first play. I don't think I've ever seen that from Brady/Belichick. "

I've seen every game of the B/B era, and I can honestly say it happens more than you think. Not necessarily in that exact situation (after a kickoff), but they've taken their share of bad timeouts.

Anyway, my biggest beef, as some others have said, is not running it on 3rd and 2. People wring their hands today about Belichick's lack of faith in his defense, but really how little faith do they have in Laurence Maroney that he can't at least NOT lose yardage?

I can't see them not either A. getting it or B. getting it close enough so they can QB sneak it which the Patriots convert at a ridiculous rate. Also it eliminates the danger of Mathis/Freeney off the edge, which was kinda overwhelming them towards the end there, despite a good game overall from the tackles. IMO they didn't give themselves any room for error on the stick routes because they were terrified of Brady having to hold the ball for more than 2 seconds at that point.

by Packerpalooza (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 8:03pm

I am amused by fans who whine about officiating as opposed to coaches who decide to abandon the run for no apparent reason allowing the opposing defense to just hurl themselves at the quarterback.

The Packers got lucky last night. Just as Tampa Bay took advantage of every piece of good fortune against Green Bay. Games like that happen regularly. It's one of the joyous but infuriating things about sport.

Agreed totally on the Weintrab contributor. Writing isn't up to snuff for the site, insight is no different than an ESPNer and the whole "we" thing reminds me of Ohio State fans who shriek about the Buckeyes while having attended Ohio U. Please. Talk about an identity crisis.

Barnwell will likely delete this post because I hurt someone's feelings but for five seconds folks will know my sentiment on the topic..................

by robwein (not verified) :: Wed, 11/18/2009 - 4:19pm

I don't mind the criticism, but at least spell my name correctly.
BTW, if you hadn't noticed, we are all ESPN contributors here.
As for "we", it's how fans talk. As Aaron mentioned, Audibles is not meant to be dispassionate. And if you notice, I never say "we" when we lose...

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 9:04pm

OK could somebody help me with this.

I vaguely remember a Cleveland Browns game over 10 years ago, maybe 12 to 15 years ago on national TV, not Fox, it was either CBS or ABC. Anyway, it was a close game and Bellicheck the Browns head coach at the time did something unconventional at the end of the game. I don't know if it was going for it instead of punting but it made the announcer blast him.

I think it MIGHT have been Dan Dierdorf, but the thing I remember most about this memory is the way he said his name. " And Bill BELLLLL A CHECK" ( goes for it and doesn't get it, or did something else unconventional).

Does anything remember anything about this?

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 11:40am

With such detailed info, it's surprising that I can't recall this.

by jackgibbs :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 9:14pm

stu scott brings advanced nfl stats to countdown, blows the numbers. millen responds there is an above nfl average quarterback on the other side of the ball, forgetting about the guy on THIS side of the ball. oh well. it's a start I guess

by Phoenix138 :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 11:46pm

Dan Dierdorf is a Never Nude.

by Micranot (not verified) :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 12:08am

So I feel a little out of place bringing this up, but to me the thing that is being completely lost in this 4th down debate is the complete and thorough pillaging Manning put on given the opportunities he was presented. Forget the decisions that got him there, it is easy to take for granted the fact that when Manning did have the ball it was sheer domination.

by Micranot (not verified) :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 12:08am

So I feel a little out of place bringing this up, but to me the thing that is being completely lost in this 4th down debate is the complete and thorough pillaging Manning put on given the opportunities he was presented. Forget the decisions that got him there, it is easy to take for granted the fact that when Manning did have the ball it was sheer domination.

by Ven (not verified) :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 3:10am

Yeah I knew there was a reason NE has a bias in your dumb DVOA ratings and some of the posters here call you New England Outsiders. Schatz or whatever his name is openly cheerleading NE above.

Your team choked Schatz. You know how Colts fans used to say they were the better team on the field in the 2004 opener and ran up and down the field on your defense and they'd win the rematch...and all NE fans said that your team just finds ways to win games no matter who is injured or who has the most talent or whatever.

Your boys are chokers now Schatz. Get used to the Mannings owning them.

I'm sure that somehow you will fix your DVOA ratings to make NE and even bigger #1 this week to make up for your heartbreak.


by ammek :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 5:22am

Did you learn to spell correctly by accident?

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 11:12am

"Your team choked Schatz"

Whose team? Is Aaron ok? Have the police been called?

Oh, right. Spell but not punctuate, I guess.

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 11:43am

What do you expect from an Indiana guy? He was probably spent his youth in room 2 at the one room schoolhouse.

by Ven (not verified) :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 3:31am

The other important thing to point out is how well the Colts played when it mattered. There is a reason they are 9-0.

The defense was riddled with injuries and starting a very inexperienced secondary that melted down and gave up a quick 24 points. But after that point, the Colts DEFENSE played exceptionally well against the Pats for 2 and 1/2 quarters. The Patriots remaining 10 points basically came from their special teams and defense.

NE possessions after going up 24-7:

1. Punt
2. Punt
3. Kneel down
4. INT
5. Fumble
6. TD (but started on the 5 yard line after Welker's punt return)
7. Punt
8. FG (were already in FG range after turnover)
9. 4 and OUT
10. End of game

And Melvin Bullitt made the play of the game tackling Faulk short of the first down. Faulk bobbled the ball because Brady's pass was off-target because he had to throw it too quick because there was a blitz that got pressure on him. It was an all around defensive effort but Bullitt made the tackle. Great play. Faulk was definitely down 1 foot short of the first down because of the bobble.

Look at those drives above. That's how the game ended, not how the game started (with a young secondary too). I think the Colt's defense was underrated in this game (after the bad start).

by Spoon :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 8:58am

Great points. The most unfortunate part of Belichick's call, by far, is that it has eliminated all discussion of the rest of this game. The Colts outscored the Patriots to close out the game by 21 to 3. The Patriots were able to rush out to a quick lead by playing 500 with Randy Moss, just like we thought they would, but I've haven't heard anyone give much credit to the Colts for making adjustments and coming back.

I'm guessing a lot of pundits at ESPN and SI would still say Brady is more "clutch" than Manning, but it was Manning who tossed three fourth quarter touchdowns while Brady couldn't gain two yards on two plays to win the game. I'm not trying to revive the irrational argument, merely pointing out that there are stories from this game that aren't being told.

by Mike B. In Va :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 11:41am

I think part of the issue here is that by this point we EXPECT Manning to somehow lead the Colts back in these situations. He's done it enough times at this point that I can understand why opponents would never "take their foot off the gas" - how many points do you need to score to be safe?

by Aussie Bengal (not verified) :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 6:26am

w00t! robert weintrub is my new best friend. just be careful, though, when lamenting that miracle loss to denver...karma has helped the bengals out on a few close wins, too. i think we're about even (on the season, not the franchise!)

by robwein (not verified) :: Wed, 11/18/2009 - 4:21pm

Your point is well taken--I usually hate playing the "if/then" game, but that playh was beyond karma and into never-never land. Let's hope Cincy sees them again in the postseason.

by jmaron :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 9:27am

I remarked a few weeks back that there was a wide discrepancy in DVOA ratings and the pt based Sagarin ratings. Sagarin had the NFC East at the time as worst division in football (they are now 6th - ahead of the AFC West and NFC West). When you look at the records of NYG, Phil and Dallas against decent competition their records are very poor:

NFC East NYG, Phil, Dall

Against decent competition:(Den, Atl, GB, Arz, NO x 2, SD x 2)

Record: 1-7, -62 pts

That's not exactly a murderer's row of teams. Only NO is in the top echelon.

Wins other than against their own division:

(TB x 3, Car x 2, KC x 3, Oak, Atl, Sea)

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 11/17/2009 - 11:50am

The NFC East may not be the best division, but if you're paying attention to Sagarin ratings, you're wasting your time. I kept a record of the predicions in the Friday USA Today for three seasons about 6-7 years ago. They were wrong about 70% of the time. Unfortunately, any time I tried to take advantage of that, they'd pull off a rare winning week.

by ammek :: Wed, 11/18/2009 - 4:40am

All that tells you is that there isn't a dominant team in the NFC East — no Saints or Vikings or Colts — which you can see yourself from the standings. Instead you may end up with three 10-6 teams that have beaten the dross on their schedule, but come up short against the elite teams. Still makes for an ok division.

The NFC North is supposed to be better (says Sagarin)? It is 4-4 against the (inferior) NFC West, with losses to all four teams. The round-robin model doesn't work.