by Julian Spivey
It’s always controversial to discuss whether a sports team won a game or whether their opponent lost a game and which one happened is always up for debate. Then there are those fans who hate the discussion altogether and automatically assume the winning team always won the game instead of benefiting from the opposition losing.
As great as the Denver Broncos defense was on Sunday during the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots, making the Pats offense look the worst I’ve ever seen it, I can’t help but feel the Patriots ultimately gave the game away and not so much the players on the field, but the head honcho on the sidelines.
I don’t mean to take anything away from the Broncos defense, especially linebacker Von Miller who had a career day with 2.5 sacks (a Broncos postseason record) and an interception, but the Patriots should’ve won the game despite their offensive struggles had coach Bill Belichick been a little more conservative with his play calling in the fourth quarter.
Yes, despite the fact that you seemingly haven’t heard this from anyone else – I believe Belichick’s coaching cost his team the game.
The Patriots were down eight points due to kicker Stephen Gostkowski (who has become the scapegoat) missing an extra point attempt early on in the game, so Belichick knew he not only needed a touchdown, but a 2-point conversion just to tie the game up with about six minutes left in the game. This thinking ultimately cost him and his team the game and chance at defending their Super Bowl title.
Neither offense had been moving the ball very well during the second half of the game, so Belichick should have put a little more faith in his defense to get his offense the ball back – which they repeatedly did over the last six minutes. Because of this if Belichick had just played conservatively and kicked a field goal on two consecutive fourth downs (with 6:03 and 2:25– with all three timeouts and the two-minute warning remaining on the clock respectively), instead of going for it on a great Broncos defense both times his team would’ve only needed a late field goal to win the game and Gostkowski (arguably the best kicker in the NFL) likely would’ve redeemed himself
Coaches get paid to make the tough decisions – and we at home can play Monday Morning Quarterback all we want – but what has gotten me puzzled is the lack of people calling Belichick out for his decisions late in the game. Not once did we hear CBS announcers Jim Nantz or Phil Simms question Belichick’s decisions to go for it instead of taking the easy points and as someone who follows the games live on Twitter, as well, I can tell you that almost none of the experts on networks like ESPN and Fox Sports 1 were disputing Belichick’s decisions – in fact, most claimed the decision to go for it with six minutes remaining in the game was the right call. I will note that ESPN’s Bomani Jones was the lone journalist seeming to disagree with the call on social media.
I think had it been any other team besides the Patriots and any other coach besides Belichick that we would be seeing articles and tweets and possibly have heard on-air comments about how the coach made the wrong decision to go for it both times instead of kicking and how they should have had enough faith in their defense to get the ball back for them. I believe because it’s the “mad genius” Bill Belichick – arguably one of the two or three greatest coaches in NFL history and a no-brainer future hall of famer that people are giving him a pass. I don’t believe that’s fair.
Sometimes the “mad genius” can just end up looking mad and I think that’s what happened on Sunday afternoon. It’s not unheard of for an offense to be able to score just nine or 10 points in a six-minute span in football, especially with the way the other team’s offense is failing to move the ball. Belichick kept acting like he needed eight points the entire time and it ended up killing his team. Three field goals is all it would’ve taken to win that game and the Patriots offense and defense both proved that it could’ve easily happened – Belichick’s stubbornness got the best of him. And, unlike so many, I’m not afraid to say it.