As I just wrote, we were wrong for doubting that Bill Belichick had a plan for not calling a timeout before the Malcolm Butler interception. And as Bill Simmons wrote, the play is probably Belichick’s signature moment. But I couldn’t stop thinking about one other time when BB made a decision that no one liked but he was proven to be right. It wasn’t a Super Bowl, and it wasn’t nearly as memorable, of course, but it was pretty close to as ballsy as this one.
It came during a very important Monday Night Football game right after Halloween in 2003, when the Pats were playing in Denver, a place that has not been that nice to them during the Belichick era.
The Pats were down 1, and they had a 4th and 10 on their own 1 yard line after an awesome punt from Denver and 3 straight incompletions. Belichick knew that punt would likely get blocked, resulting in a touchdown that would put Denver up by probably 8 points if they took the extra point. Instead, he decided to do what few coaches would have done in 2003, when football coaches were a lot more conservative than they are now.
He took a safety. He had long snapper Lonnie Paxton snap the ball way over Ken Walter’s head, meaning that the Broncos would get 2 points, and the Pats would get 30 crucial yards of field position when Walter punted. The Pats then got the ball back down 3, only needing a field goal to tie, as Belichick had perfectly calculated. It worked even more perfectly than that, with Brady driving the team down for the game winning touchdown in a thriller that would be part of the team’s 21 game win streak between 2003 and 2004.
What made the decision so great is that it was so obvious when Belichick did it, but no one saw it coming beforehand. That’s the kind of thing we’ve come to expect from Bill Belichick, which might show just how great he is. We expect mind boggling decisions and think nothing of it.