Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bill Belichick Is Still Smarter Than You

- Guess he does have a drinking problem. And don't call me Shirley. -

Current Standing: 8-2, 1st Overall

I know it's bad for me.

I have a family history of high blood pressure, and I should try to reduce stress whenever possible. So when you get right down to it, I shouldn't let little things like this bother me.

But there's only so much willful stupidity a guy should have to take. When I see the same talking heads who have defended Bill Belichick through thick and slightly-less-thick start calling for his head as if their brains were Etch-a-Sketches, my eye starts twitching again. Look, I know about the 24-hour news cycle, and I know that I'm part of the problem as a blogger, but let's look at the facts here.

You like numbers? Let's start with some numbers. Advanced NFL Stats calculated that, yes, actually, going for it on fourth down was the greatest way to increase the Pats' win probability. Now, you may say there are some problems with this analysis. That's okay, there's a followup that answers a lot of the common complaints.

All right, so win probability makes your head hurt. Fine. Well, how about this: to that point in the game, the Pats had gained 475 yards for an average of six yards per play. Six. And add in the fact that the Colts scored two touchdowns on 79-yard drives in a grand total of 11 plays. Time of possession on both drives? About two minutes.

This isn't about "disrespecting the defense" or any of that hindpsychology bullcrap. Your defense is tired, and so is theirs. Your offense is the strength of your team, and so is theirs. The only advantage you have -- besides the lead -- is the fact that you have the ball. Why willingly surrender that advantage, when the league average on fourth down conversions is around 60 percent? Besides, your defense still has the opportunity to stop the Colts if you fail anyway.

Having said that, there are at least two or three calls on that drive that seem questionable. Why are the Patriots burning a timeout after a kickoff, and again after the third-down incompletion? For that matter, why are the Pats throwing on third down anyway? An incompletion stops the clock, and it's right before the two-minute warning. Don't give them the extra timeout! If you run the ball on third down, you kill more time. If you're not worried about the two-minute warning, what about this: if a third-down run gives you a fourth and short, you hustle to the line and have Brady fall forward on a sneak as soon as the referee sets the ball down. It's almost impossible to defend against.

Belichick isn't going to be shell-shocked by this. He won't suddenly lose the ability to make late-game decisions, and he won't develop some sort of drinking problem. Surely. His consolation should come from the fact that, the more level-headed and thought out the reaction, the more likely it is that the reaction supports his decision.

If that's not enough, well, there's always the Jets to take it out on.


  1. You're completely right. All this bullshit and no one's calling out Del Rio for telling MOJO to down it. YOU ALWAYS TAKE THE POINTS. Always. Imagine if they missed that field goal.

  2. It was a risk. If they had made the first down, he'd still be a "genius".

    The New England sports media over-hypes everything.