Roughly 12 hours after what is sure to become one of the most discussed coaching decisions of his remarkable career, Patriots coach Bill Belichick stuck to his call to go for it last night on fourth and 2 from the 28-yard line, the defining play of the Patriots' 35-34 loss in Indianapolis.
"The same thing I said after the game -- I thought it was our best chance to win," Belichick said at a press conference. "I thought we needed to make that one play, then we could basically run out the clock. And we weren’t able to make it."
Would he do it again?
"You only get once chance," he said.
When Belichick opted to win the game with his offense, it led many to believe he showed a lack of confidence in his defense. Former linebacker Tedy Bruschi, speaking as an ESPN analyst, was especially critical of Belichick in that light.
A handful of Patriots players last night said it did not shake their confidence -- cornerback Leigh Bodden said he believed it gave them more confidence, because it showed Belichick thought they could stop the Colts from the 30-yard line. This was Belichick's response:
"I tell the team, and I think they believe, that I do what I think is best for our football team to win every game," Belichick said. "I put the team first, and I put those decisions first. I hope everybody understands that."
When the Patriots threw incomplete on third and 2, Belichick had already decided the Patriots would go for it on fourth. But a couple of players on the punt team trickled on to the field, and offensive players who saw them started running off. The play forced the Patriots to call their final timeout, which would prevent them from challenging the spot after Kevin Faulk's catch on fourth down.
"That wasn’t cleanly handled," Belichick said. "I’ll take responsibility."
The Patriots had burned their other timeouts, too. Before first down of that drive, the Patriots used one because of what quarterback Tom Brady said was a "personnel miscommuncation." The Patriots used their first timeout in the third quarter, when Wes Welker saw the makings of a negative play. Belichick lauded Welker's timeout and said he was about to call the timeout himself after seeing the defense.
Another controversy surrounded whether Faulk was stopped short of the first-down marker. Faulk was dropped inches short by safety Melvin Bullitt. Faulk said last night he thought he had the first down. Belichick did not share his opinion, but he did say that Faulk ran the pattern the correct length.
"I think he had the first down when the ball hit him in his hands," Belichick said. "Where it was finally marked and all, he was a little bit short. He was across the 30-yard line when the ball touched him."
Quickly, three more bits and pieces:
- Belichick said the following of Reggie Wayne, who caught 10 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner: "I can't say enough about Reggie Wayne. That guy's the best receiver we cover every year. He seems like he just keeps getting better." Jonathan Wilhite covered him most of the night. "Really, I thought Wilhite played well," Belichick said. "Those were some great throws and great catches. It's hard to say much to Wilhite other than he did about all he could do on those plays."
- The several players who were hurt last night, most notably guard Steve Neal and linebacker Tully Banta-Cain, have their status still up in the air. "Not really a whole lot of new information," Belichick said.
- Julian Edelman was a game-time decision last night. The Patriots weren't sure if he was going to play until about two hours before kickoff.