- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The rush to question the IQ count and arrogance of Bill Belichick goes with his decision to defy conventional wisdom.

He eschewed the punt on fourth-and-2 on his team’s 28 with 2:08 left.

The move backfired after Tom Brady’s pass to Kevin Faulk resulted in a brief juggle that allowed Melvin Bullitt to push the running back inside the 30, short of the first down.

Or so head linesman Tom Stabile ruled.

Replays appeared to show that Faulk gained possession of the ball while he was a step beyond the first-down marker at the 30.

Because they were out of timeouts, the Patriots could not challenge the spot of the ball, as they undoubtedly would have.

Of course, the Patriots ended up losing the game, and Belichick was declared the goat of the game, as if Peyton Manning and the Colts would have been stifled by a 40-yard punt that left them about 70 yards from the end zone.

A punt would have been the proper move if the game featured anyone but Brady and Manning, the top two quarterbacks in the NFL and certain Hall of Fame bets.

That was one of the principal considerations before Belichick.

The chance to deliver the death blow was in Brady’s hands. Do you turn that chance over to Manning, the football egghead who spends much of his free time studying film?

If you do, you do not feel especially confident about it, not when Manning already has sliced up your defense on the previous two possessions, not when your defense looks fatigued, beat.

It came down to this: Brady needing two yards on one play vs. Manning going against a tired defense.

You just needed guts to come down on the side of Brady.

It was hardly evidence of faulty thinking. Or arrogance.

“I thought it was our best chance to win,” Belichick said. “I thought we needed to make that one play, and then we could basically run out the clock.”

It was a coach being able to think beyond the pedestrian constraints of the game because of his pedigree.

There is an additional element in all this.

Raise your hand if you are a proponent of the prevent defense, otherwise known as the prevent-victory defense.

Uh-huh. Right. Groans all around.

We all know the drill with the prevent-victory defense. Seen it a zillion times.

Quarterbacks throw underneath the coverage of it while managing the clock, picking up nice clumps of yardage until they reach the red zone, whereupon the game is decided on a complete or incomplete pass in the end zone.

That is the choice Belichick should have made?

It came down to that anyway, as the Colts burned the clock.

If Reggie Wayne had been unable to grab Manning’s pass - and it was not an easy catch - the Colts would have had two more plays and 13 seconds left at their disposal. Or they possibly would have had only one play left if Manning were sacked.

The subtext to the Belichick fallout is that he thinks highly of himself. He likes to run up the score on opponents. He has won three Super Bowls and been on top seemingly forever. A little comeuppance is good for the soul, right?

So he makes a bold move that ends in defeat - being bold is part of his repertoire - and the piling on commences.

That was NBC analyst Rodney Harrison saying it was “the worst coaching decision I’ve ever seen Bill Belichick make.”

Harrison possibly was speaking as the safety he once was with the Patriots and recognizing the decision as the slap it was to the defense.

Asked whether he would do it again, Belichick said, “You only get one chance.”

Please. He would do it again.

It was the smart play.

Had it worked, he would have been hailed a daring genius this week.

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