It’s not registering here.
The legitimacy of it at least.
Why so many seem so adamant about coming to the defense of New England head coach Bill Belichick for his play-calling in the final frame at Denver is beyond me.
Big-timers, little-timers, those who like him, those who loathe him, it doesn’t seem to matter. They’re all coming out of the woodwork to rationalize what he chose to do.
Me? Uhhh, no.
Frankly, he seemed foolish at the one juncture. Just with one call.
Going for it on fourth-and-1 with 6:03 remaining at the Broncos’ 16.
Down 20-12 at the time, the Patriots had two options. The view here, even as things were unfolding at Mile High, was that Belichick and Co. chose the wrong one. The panicky one. The defeatist, “we can’t win unless we take a chance right here because they’re better than us” one.
With apologies most of all to those who genuflect at the feet of such anointed geniuses as Belichick, it really, truly, seemed to be the boneheaded one.
Instead of taking a likely 3-pointer from the leg of Stephen Gostkowski to cut the gap and set the stage for a game-winning TD in regulation, New England opted for a little misdirection pass to Julian Edelman that resulted in a 1-yard loss … and possession going to Denver.
Sorry, won’t ever understand the decision … or accept it as being viable, and certainly not “smart.”
Make all the field-position, clock-management or altitude-adjustment excuses or arguments you like, not buying any of ’em. Doesn’t matter that the Patriots ultimately scored a TD in the final minute and had a chance to send the game to overtime.
Had Belichick kicked there instead, New England was in position to win in regulation.
There is too much time left in that situation, not to mention the Patriots still had all their timeouts – and quarterback Tom Brady – in tow, to make any other call right then. Not doing so, as much as anything else that happened in the game, cost them a chance to repeat as Super Bowls champ in two weeks.
Denver had been largely inept all day on offense, and especially so in the seven drives leading up to that fateful decision by Belichick, totaling just 100 yards on 35 plays – and that’s with Peyton Manning dropping back to pass on 18 of ’em.
If you are the Patriots then, rest assured, you were going to get the ball back.
So, with brain cells fully functioning, you kick there, pull within 5 and play for the win after stopping the Broncos.
But, noooo … Belichick had to outsmart everyone. Including himself.
The real beauty with all of it, the Patriots didn’t just get the ball back, they got it back twice more. Sure, the narrative could have changed had they kicked the FG, but it all comes back to that same decision.
It was unnecessary at that time, and, frankly, it forced New England to go for broke three additional times later on fourth down … just in order to have an opportunity to tie the game, not win it, in regulation.
Down 5, you’re not as desperate. You don’t need a TD and a 2-point conversion to force an extra frame. You only need a TD to win it then. Heck, considering how lame Denver was on offense, the Patriots may have been able to kick another two FGs down the stretch to win it.
But Belichick took those winning options off the table by jumping the gun … when he didn’t need to do so.
- Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
3 AND OUT
Just a few more football thoughts ... As if there'd be anything else following NFL's conference-title games.
Can we cool the jets on any suggestion of Temple’s Tyler Matakevich being even remotely in the same ballpark as Carolina’s Luke Kuechly? Matakevich was a wonderful player for the Owls, setting a new legacy for linebacker play at the school that may never be matched. But he’s a not a seek-and-destroy animal like the Panthers’ perennial All-Pro. Kuechly is 6-3, 240, chiseled and quick as a cat. Matakevich is, well, none of those. Yeah, he has a similar knack for being around the ball; in fact, Matakevich may be blessed with better instincts because he doesn’t possess the same kind of speed. But, c’mon. Kuechly was a standout in the secondary in high school before moving to linebacker at Boston College, where he became one of the all-time great defenders in the history of the collegiate game, racking up 532 tackles. Yep, T-Mat posted a school-record 493. He also did that in four years, not once leading the nation in a single season. Kuechly did all his damage in three years, leading the nation twice and finishing runner-up once, before declaring for the NFL draft and going to the Panthers with the 9th pick in 2012. He then led the NFL in tackles as a rookie and won the league’s defensive player of the year award the following season. Sorry, T-Mat just might be my favorite Temple player ever, but he’s not that kind of player. Might be a good pro, but not at Kuechly’s level. Few in the game are.
For all the silly “in your face” babble and “he kicked Tom Brady’s ass” claims, the shining moment for Denver quarterback Peyton Manning in Sunday’s AFC title game was the 12-yard run he made on third-and-10 to keep a drive alive in the third quarter. The old man looked rather spry in the process, showing – seriously – a burst to get himself into position to make the first down before actually sealing the deal with a dive forward. It was as athletic a play as he’s made, frankly, in his entire NFL career. But trying to intimate in any shape or fashion that his detractors are dead wrong and that he took Brady to school is preposterous. Manning was OK in this one, completing 17 of 32 passes for 176 and a couple TD passes to tight end Owen Daniels, who juked Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins out of his jock both times, and accounting for 187 yards of offense. Aside from that run, Manning was completely ineffective after intermission. Brady, harassed all afternoon, only connected on 27 of 56 passes. But he amassed 310 yards that way, and 323 all told. Keep it real, people. C’mon.
Big deal ... or not?
Like Zach Ertz. Like that the Eagles drafted him three years ago. He’s a quality tight end with seemingly tons of untapped potential. But two questions kinda cling to the third-year pro: Will he ever fulfill that potential and, in conjunction with that, is he really worth the 5-year, $42.5 million contract he signed with the Eagles on Monday? Yes, he had a nice season in 2015 when you look at the numbers, 75 catches for 853 yards. But, not for nothing, so many of those numbers were compiled when the team’s campaign had gone awry and he still only got into the end zone twice despite all that production anyway. At this point, he remains a somewhat limited tight end in that he doesn’t block well enough to be the full-time, every-down guy at the position for the Birds, and his main skill, making catches, should come under a much less forgiving microscope than it has thus far since Ertz drops an incredible amount of passes – often on balls right to him, with not a single defender on him.