Fourth and two: Belichick’s play call

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick took a gamble with his team in Sunday night’s widely anticipated game against the Colts in Indianapolis, and he lost. Holding the ball on fourth down deep in their own end – at the 28-yard line – with a six-point lead and a little over two minutes left in the game, the Patriots failed to gain the two yards they needed for the first down that would have essentially ensured a win against the 8-0 home team and a favorable position for the team in the playoff picture.

Instead, and in short order, the Colts’ quality quarterback, Peyton Manning, had the ball in the end zone for a preposterous 35-34 Colts win that set the stage for an immediate, and epic, outpouring of recrimination against the coach’s call by media tutors of all stripes, who apparently felt a deep need to instruct Belichick on the fundamentals of successful tactics in the National Football League.

All day Monday, the astonishing ability of talk radio interlocutors and their audiences to hammer away at a football coach’s fateful decision on a single play almost exclusively for 12 straight hours was on mind-numbing display. And that was just Monday. The beat continued as the week wore on, on the airwaves and in print.

As is always the case in such matters, the discussions seemed to assume that Belichick, the coach with three Super Bowl wins this decade, needed remedial instruction on basic approaches to the game he has been invested in for 40 years. You just don’t do what he did in the waning minutes of a game; the decision verged on insanity; everyone knows that, so what’s with Bill?

Talk-show hosts were heard pleading for the coach to make an act of contrition for his sin of commission. “Just say you’re sorry,” one blabber suggested,” and this will all go away.”

For all that, the evidence shows that Belichick isn’t going to confess to anything but confidence in his best offensive players at a crucial moment and a certainty that they could pick up 72 inches with the play he had in mind.

So he eschewed the conservative and conventional, and rolled the dice. It didn’t work out. Time to move on. The Jets game is in four days.