The game of the week looked like laugher most of the way but we all should know by now that you can not count out the Colts and Peyton Manning, particularly in primetime. Manning did not have a sharp overall game with two interceptions and some sloppy plays from the offense but the Colts are now 9-0 and in complete control of the AFC. The big story of course was the reckless gamble by Patriots coach Bill Belichick late in the game, and it is a decision that will be talked about for a very long time.
Of the all time coaching blunders the decision to go for it on 4th and 2 with just over two minutes remaining at their own 28 will be mentioned on the short list. The move is defensible in a lot of ways as the defense for the Patriots had just been picked apart the previous two series and there was ample time for the Indianapolis offense. The Patriots also feature two of the best receivers in the NFL as well as a clutch big play running back in Kevin Faulk who would be the eventual target on the play. It was certainly a major gamble and a move that a coach without Belichick’s resume would not ever dare make. It should not be mentioned among the gaffes of pure stupidity like the ’78 Giants Pisarcik/Csonka fumble when taking a knee would have won the game or Marty Morningwheig’s decision to kickoff in OT and play the wind. Belichick’s certainly showed little respect for his defense and there could be repercussions in the locker room as the year goes on but much of that aspect is probably overblown in the media as it makes for interesting talk radio fodder.
More questionable is the series of events leading up to the final 4th down play as the Patriots had to take two timeouts on that drive, one inexplicably on 1st down after the possession change and another before the fateful play. Those timeouts certainly would have changed the series for the Colts and the Patriots might have had more time to work with after the score. Also is Belichick had made the decision that he would go for it on 4th down, the 3rd and 2 play should have been on the ground or at least a certain short completion at the line of scrimmage to make the Colts either use their final timeout or getto the two minute warning. The incompletion was a free timeout for the Colts and allowed for more time on the clock and less urgency in the final drive.
Once Manning and the Colts got down within the 14 on the first down pass, Belchick’s lack of confidence in his defense should have continued and the Patriots should have allowed the Colts to score. Joseph Addai broke a solid run but was tackled at the one yard line and the clock ticked away. The Colts were happy to not score quickly and still had a timeout in the bag if they had a negative play. If Addai scores on the play, Tom Brady and the New England offense that had delivered great results all night would have had plenty of time to get into field goal range to take the lead back.
Lost in all of the criticism of Belichick was the 4th down play itself as it was an incredibly close call. Kevin Faulk did not catch the pass cleanly and his juggle cost forward progress that would have cleared the marker. Even with the bobble it looked like an unfavorable spot and one that should have been reviewed. Belichick could not challenge the play as it came at the warning and no booth review was deemed warranted.
While the Colts are now sit on a commanding perch in the AFC at 9-0, New England has left some room for the Jets and Dolphins to get back into the race. The Patriots face both teams in the next three weeks with a game at New Orleans in between and even if New England rebounds the Bengals have to feel good about their chances at a top two seed considering the next three games are against Oakland, Cleveland, and Detroit. The Colts are no lock for the top seed as the last three weeks have featured shaky performances and ATS misses and the remaining schedule is very difficult including the next two weeks on the road against Baltimore and Houston. In the NFC the Saints also moved to 9-0 but also had to hold off a serious upset threat. New Orleans is 0-3 ATS the last three weeks after a 6-0 start and the defense has allowed 27 points per game the last four weeks.
gst prepare for a much more favorable match-up agiaine games this season and the bye week should allow an ailing defense to get