The New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts have established the pro sports "rivalry of the decade," according to many commentators. When the teams clashed last night, the exciting contest hinged on a late-game decision by Patriots coach Bill Belichick to try to gain two yards on a fourth down (at his own team's 28th yard line), instead of punting the ball out of the danger zone. When the gamble failed, the Colts scored an easy 11th hour touchdown to take the game 35-34. Was Belichick brilliant and unlucky — or just plain crazy? (Watch highlights from the Colts-Patriots game)
Statistically, it was the right call: After running the numbers, it's clear that going for it on 4th down gave the Patriots better odds of winning, says Tommy Craggs at Deadspin. While this was an exceptionally dangerous situation, "Belichick's success as a coach owes a lot to his willingness" to make decisions based on data rather than emotion. Just because this particular bet didn't pay off "doesn't change the fact that it was the right thing to do."
"Belichick was right"
It was a foolish decision: The call "smacked of I'm-smarter-than-they-are hubris," says Peter King at Sports Illustrated. Belichick should have forced [Colts quarterback Peyton] Manning to undertake a real challenge "with the weight of the world on his shoulders and no timeouts under his belt." Giving Indianapolis such an easy victory "felt too cheap."
"No matter which way you dissect it, Belichick made the wrong call"
The man needs medical help: "Is there an insanity defense for football coaches?" asks Ron Borges at the Boston Herald. Belichick should hope so, because he'll be hard pressed to come up with alternative explanation for throwing away this crucial game. Under the strain of the rivalry and the deafening crowd noise, the revered and "brilliant" Belichick simply "[lost] his mind and his nerve like the rankest of rookie head coaches."
"Bill Belichick heads of victory"