This is not a column to bury the Pats, suggest that they weren’t that good after all, or incite and anger you in any way. That’s why about 75% of the Boston media (or so it seems) exists. This is coming from the perspective of a diehard fan who Tom Brady’s failed 2 point conversion pass with as much heartbreak as you did, and this is coming from the perspective of a writer who casually interrupts the 2nd paragraph of his best and most important piece on his website to call Bill Belichick a genius for no reason.
Bill Belichick screwed up on Sunday. He chose one of the worst times to have one of hte worst games of his career, and denying it won’t do you any good. He erred by going for it with 6 minutes to go deep in Denver territory. The mistake especially surprised me because Belichick usually has an incredible 6th sense for how well the opponent is playing in the exact moment. Before the final Patriots touchdown drive of Super Bowl 49, Belichick talked to Brady and instructed him that the Seahawks were dead tired and that Brady wouldn’t have to worry about the pass rush, especially from Michael Bennett, that had plagued the offense for the first 3.5 quarters. He should have realized that the Denver offense on Sunday was in the exact same spot. They were flat, and there was no way that they were getting a 1st down against the Pats defense when the Pats could gear up against the run.
I have no issue with BB going for the 4th down with a little over 2 minutes ago, although I probably would have kicked as well. Both options probably presented about equal expected value for the outcomes. But going for it with 6 minutes to go was a clear mistake, because, if the Pats were down by 8, then they would need a 2 point conversion to tie. It sounds like 20/20 hindsight as I write it, but did you really feel confident about the Pats getting that 2 point conversion? They faced 4 fourth downs on their final 3 drive combined, and they needed Gronk to be an animal to even get the final TD. Even before all that happened, would you really have bet on the Pats getting 2 yards on a single play when there was no threat of a deep route to keep the defense honest?
The other area where Belichick made a mistake, which didn’t get enough attention during the game and hasn’t gotten enough scrutiny after the game, was with the offensive line. Sure, the Pats O-line was missing Nate Solder, which is the one injury that everyone in New England seemed to forget all season for some unexplained reason. Sure, the O-line wasn’t coached that well, as evidenced by the firing of Dave DeGuglielmo yesterday. But why have Michael Williams on the roster if you’re not gonna put him on Von Miller’s side at least a few times? I get that the Broncos have an incredible secondary to go along with their pass rush and you don’t wanna take away an extra receiver, but Brady simply can’t do anything if he’s on the ground. Again, why have Michael Williams on the team at all if you’re not gonna use him against Von Miller, the number 1 pass rusher who you’d worry about ending the Pats season? Marcus Cannon could have used some help on the right side.
Most importantly, Belichick screwed up by laying down in Weeks 16 and 17. He should have seen that Mile High is a huge problem for the Patriots, and he should have gone for 2 at the end of the Jets game and not coached the ugliest game of all time against the Dolphins. I laid out all my reasons awhile ago for why the Pats need to avoid Mile High, and this is probably the only time in my life that I was smarter than Bill Belichick about football.
As much as the loss to the Broncos will bother all of us for a long time, it’s important to keep a big picture perspective here. Bill Belichick is the greatest coach of all time, and anyone who argues that is probably an idiot who hates Belichick for no reason. Like this guy. With all the success that Boston sports have had for the past 15 years, we have to take our lumps when they do come.
I’m not trying to pretend that everything is rainbows and sunshine. Nope, the Pats just lost to Brady’s biggest rival — even though Brady outplayed him given the circumstances — and the season is over. Part of being a Boston sports fan is going full throttle with your emotions and no half-assing it, as well as not saying “Good job, good effort!” like these clowns:
But we do have to remember that it’s a blessing that it’s such a big deal and such a humongous deviation from the norm for our team’s head coach to screw up a little bit in a big game. We could be Eagles or Chiefs fans, where they lose their chances at a Super Bowl because of Andy Reid’s clock management.
Even the greats have their off days, and the greatest ever just had his worst off day. You have every right to be sad, annoyed, and even pissed off about it. But do yourself a favor and remember why you’re so dumbfounded that Belichick screwed up in a big moment. Remember that he didn’t call a timeout on February 1, 2015, with a minute to go in the Super Bowl. He made the call that nobody else would have had either the awareness or the balls to make, and he stole the Super Bowl that we needed for our sanity. Bill Belichick always takes all factors into consideration when he makes a judgment, and you should in this case, too.