INDIANAPOLIS -- Kevin Faulk hasn't fumbled the ball all season.
And coming into last night's game with the Colts, the entire Patriots team had only fumbled the ball twice all year. But Faulk's bobble, at least perceived by the officials, on a fourth-down play late in the game cost his team a spot, a first down, and the chance at finishing off a satisfying victory against the Colts.
On a fourth-and-2 play with 2:08 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Patriots up 34-28, Faulk took a short pass from Tom Brady and tried to extend himself for a first down. Faulk appeared to bobble the ball, but he held onto it as he fell to the ground, tackled by Colts defensive end Raheem Brock. Faulk, in the opinion of the officials, came up short of the first down.
"He had a better angle than me," Faulk said of the official. "I thought I caught it. I didn't feel a bobble."
"He caught it and it looked like he was past [the first down]," said Brady.
The bobble, the officials ruled, halted Faulke's forward progress. So despite making the catch, Faulk did not earn the first down. The Patriots had no timeouts and could not choose to review the play. Plays are automatically reviewed under two minutes, but the game had not yet reached the two-minute warning when the ball was snapped.
"We've got an opportunity to win the game, said Brady. "It's all you can really ask for as an offense. We've been working on that play for a long time. We came about a half a yard short...coach has a lot of confidence that we can gain a yard and a half and win the game."
Much has been and will be made of the decision to run the play at all, a decision that rested in the hands of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. But the usually steady-handed Faulk refused to blame his coach after the game.
"It doesn't matter what decision Bill's making, we have to execute the play no matter what," he said. "You can't be surprised at that point in time. The game is on the line. You have to be able to go and get it done."
"We've worked on that one a long time," Belichick said of the play.
In the daze that was the Patriots locker room after the game, Faulk could be excused for not wanting to talk about the play that will be the subject of sports talk radio for days, if not weeks.
"I don't have time to talk to you all right now," Faulk said when the media first approached his locker. But after letting off some steam, the veteran Patriots running back apologized a few minutes later and took questions from reporters on what was ultimately the game's deciding play.
He said he was just happy he was the one to get the opportunity to get his team over the top, no matter how the play turned out.
"That's all you can ask for as a player in general," he said of the chance.
The play marred an otherwise fine game for Faulk. He rushed the ball 12 times for 79 yards, an average of 6.6 yards per carry. His biggest play of the game came at the 3:07 mark in the first quarter, when he ran up the middle from the shotgun for 29 yards.
One reporter even called last night Faulk's best game of the season.
"Look at my face and tell me if it really matters right now," said Faulk. "I'd give it all back for a win."