Sunday night’s biggest game even ended with a thud. Or more accurately a doink.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick opted to have kicker Nick Folk attempt a 56-yard field goal in the rain, in lieu of going for it on fourth and three. Belichick (shockingly) didn’t say much about the decision after the game. On Monday, he said more. But not much.
“It really wasn’t much of a decision there,” Belichick said. “We converted two third downs in the game. Nick kicked well. No, there wasn’t any consideration.”
How can he say there wasn’t any consideration? That’s another Belichickian deflection; surely, it was a close call.
Here’s the simple analysis. Option 1: Folk tries a field goal that matches his career long in the rain despite an issue with his plant leg, and if he makes it Tom Brady gets the ball back with roughly 50 seconds to play. Option 2: Go for it on fourth down, and if it’s converted the Patriots both make the eventual field goal attempt closer and take more (if not all) time off the clock.
In Week Two on Sunday Night Football, the Ravens went for it on fourth down in order to keep Patrick Mahomes from getting the ball back. In Week Three on Sunday Night Football, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers needed only 37 seconds to lead his team to a chance at a game-winning field goal. In Week Four on Sunday Night Football, Brady would have had plenty of time to win the game, if Folk’s kick had bounced in instead of out.
Yes, Belichick has won six Super Bowls. Yes, he’s entitled to far more deference than a guy like, say, Dan Campbell. But Belichick isn’t above scrutiny. The mere fact that he claimed there was no consideration to go for it justifies criticism, because the issue at least should have been considered. And the right call very well may have been to go for it.
Maybe, at some level, Belichick wanted to match wits with Brady. Maybe the coach called for the kick because he hoped for a final battle with Brady. Can Brady get in field-goal range? Can Belichick keep him from doing it?
Whether Belichick would ever admit it or even realize it, I think he wanted to give Brady the ball with just enough time to make it interesting. And it would have been awesome to watch, if Folk had simply made the kick.
Regardless, Belichick insults the intelligence of the average football fan by acting like it wasn’t even a consideration. Surely it was. And a strong argument can be made for going for it.