Hey, Belichick: What about my bet?
What in hell is Bill Belichick thinking? That was the question asked of the television set Sunday evening – possibly not in the most modulated tones – by a man who had a money-line position on the New England Patriots to beat the Indianapolis Colts.
Everyone who cares surely knows what happened by now. The Pats, facing a fourth-and-two at about their own 28 and the clock ticking down toward two minutes, decided not to punt the ball. They led by six points, 34-28, and Peyton Manning, the icy-eyed assassin who runs the Colts offence, had just shredded the New England defence a couple of minutes before for a TD that brought them to this point, after being down 13 points with four minutes to go.
Belichick called a time out, elected not to punt, then saw his play call come up a foot short of the first down that would have allowed the Patriots to pretty much kneel out the game. On a juggled pass, no less. Given a field of less than 30 yards, Manning easily drove the Colts to the winning touchdown. The 35-34 margin didn’t cover the point spread – the Colts had been favoured by 1 1/2 – but, again, goodnight to all us saps who bet the Pats on the money line.
In the cold light of day, I now know what Belichick had been thinking: He was thinking, basically, “My defence can’t stop this guy going 75 or 80 yards. This isn’t the Tedy Bruschi-Rodney Harrison defence any more. Most of those guys are gone. I now have a better chance to gain two yards, with Tom Brady as my quarterback, than I do stopping Manning at this point, whether he’s going 30 yards or the length of the field.’’
Afterward, there must have been 11 Patriots walking off the field looking sideways at the coach and good luck, Bill, getting this defence fired up to shut down Drew Brees on Monday night in two weeks. This great big public vote of no-confidence will be an obstacle for Belichick to overcome within his own locker room before they play New Orleans.
This has to be the first time I’ve ever sat there and said, “What the hell is Belichick doing?’’ You watch some of the NFL stuff and it’s terrible. Andy Reid’s clock management is ridiculous, to name one of a dozen. And about 25 of these coaches seem to specialize in the five-yard pass play when it’s third-and-seven. Almost everybody in the league coaches not to lose and that’s why Belichcik seems head and shoulders smarter than most of them. His halo slipped a little here, though – even for those who didn’t bet the Pats on the money line.
And speaking of NFL gambling, how about all you fantasy players out there with Maurice Jones-Drew? With 90 seconds left against the Jets, he shut down a toughdown run and took a knee at the one-yard line so the Jags could take two more knees, kill the clock and kick the game-winning field goal on the final play. How did you all enjoy that play? It didn’t affect the regular gamblers, the Jets not coming close to covering and the total already having gone over the number. But some fantasy players must have gone berserk.
This wasn’t some split-second decision, either. Jones-Drew had been instructed to stiff himself.
“They said get as close as you can and take a knee,’’ he said. “I was looking for someone to tackle me.’’
“Sorry to my fantasy owners,’’ Jones-Drew added. “I apologize. I had myself today.’’
Well, that surely makes some of them feel better.