It’s probably worth noting that — even if you think Bill Belichick was wrong not to punt on fourth and two from his own 28 late in last night’s Colts-Patriots game — he’s not the only one responsible for the Pats’ loss. It took a pretty spectacular collapse by New England (or, depending on your point of view, a pretty spectacular comeback by Indianapolis) just to get the game to that point. That said, let’s talk about Bill Belichick anyway.
Former Patriot Rodney Harrison described it as “the worst decision” in Belichick’s coaching career, a sentiment mostly echoed by Harrison’s colleagues in the Sunday Night Football booth. And another former Patriot, Teddy Bruschi, argues that the result of the fourth-down attempt didn’t even matter, because the mere decision not to punt is an insult to the Patriots defense.
But there are plenty of folks on Team Belichick today, and they have math on their side. The Times’ Fifth Down blog looks at the win probabilities of going for it versus punting, and concludes that it was the right move based on leaguewide statistics, and at worst a wash when you factor in an above-average Colts offense. Not one but two Huffington Post bloggers come to his defense, one of whom does so by using a chart that we admittedly don’t fully understand. And Dan Shanoff agrees that Belichick was justified, suggesting that it will lead to a larger discussion about “the value of analytical reasoning in coaching decisions.” It’s days like this when we wish Sports Shouting was a real thing.