Bill Belichick is regarded by many football fans as a brilliant tactical coach, but in November of 2009, he made a decision that is debated to this very day.
His Patriots were up by six against their hated rivals, the Colts, when his team faced fourth and two at their own 28 yard line with two minutes left. Most coaches in this situation would automatically punt. Going for the fourth down and failing would give the Colts’ Peyton Manning, one of the top quarterbacks in the game, a short field of 30 yards to score a touchdown and win the game. Punting would make him travel at least 70. The Patriots went for it. They failed, and then lost the game.
After the game, Belichick was defensive. He argued that going for it had high odds of success, and getting the first down would have effectively won the game. On the flip side, the Patriots’ defensive line was exhausted, and Manning was cutting through it like butter—in that particular situation, the difference between 30 yards and 70 was relatively insubstantial. He argued that the upside was infinite and the consequences of failure weren’t all that different from punting. If he’d succeeded, people would have called him a genius. Continue reading