Belichick's mojo kicked in the nuts
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Nov 15, 2009
Patriots fans bitch at us every time we bring this up. But it's about time that Patriots fans shut their f'in pie holes, pay attention for a moment, and bow in fearful worship of the enlightening brilliance and the painful truth of the Cold, Hard Football Facts.
And the painful truth for Patriots fans, as we've noted before, is this: BILL BELICHICK HAS LOST HIS MOJO. He's no longer the coach who can be counted on to weave magical victories out of pixie dust and waiver-wire cornerbacks.
Instead, he's the guy whose defenses can be counted on to collapse in criticial moments of big games.
Now, we understand what Bill Belichick was thinking when he went for it on 4th & 2 from his own 28 with just over 2 minutes to play in the fourth and with his team sporting a 34-28 lead.
He figured that, either way, the Colts needed a TD to win. And he figured he'd give his team the ball back with as much time to play as possible in the event that the Colts did score said TD. He also figured that there was a very good chance that his team would gain the 2 yards on 4th down and make the whole point moot, anyway.
But Belichick figured wrong. The Patriots came up short on they play ... a play that will go down as the biggest and most talked about decision of the 2009 season. It's a play that changed the the entire complexion of the 2009 playoff race, essentially ceding the No. 1 seed and homefield advantage to the Colts halfway through November.
New England's coach right now is kind of like the individual equivalent of the team that reads all its press clippings and think it's better than it really is (hello, San Diego!) – so it starts making foolish decisions that finally cost itself key games at critical moments.
The 4th & 2 decision was just the most recent example of a call that can be debated and will be debated. The Patriots still might have lost the game if they punted and turned it over to Peyton Manning & Co.
But that decision is not the reason why Belichick's mojo was kicked in the cojones once again.
The missing mojo
The reason Belichick's mojo will wake up Monday morning with black & blue gonads continues to lay with the fact that his defense continues to crumble in key moments of critical games. In fact, it's been years since a Belichick defense came up with a huge stop at a critical moment in the biggest game of the year.
Seriously, name the last time a New England defense made huge stops late in big games to preserve victory.
Sunday night the Patriots entered the fourth quarter with a 24-14 lead and complete control of the game. They had stymied Manning. They had dominated almost every aspect of the game. They had everything go their way. The jumped out to a 31-14 lead just a minute into the fourth. The Patriots had dominated the Colts.
Yet they lost 35-34, as Manning and the Colts torched them for three fourth-quarter touchdowns (along the way adding yet another signature victory for the Manning family over Belichick's defenses).
Sound familiar? Of course it does. Because collapsing in the fourth quarter is now the hallmark of a Belichick defense.
Remember the 2006 AFC title game, against these very same Colts? The Patriots suffered the greatest second-half collapse in conference title-game history. A team which surrendered just 6 first-half points was scorched for 32 second-half points.
Remember Super Bowl XLII? Sure, the mighty New England offense went in the tank. But a defense that surrendered just 3 points through the first three quarters couldn't make a single stop in the fourth: the Patriots surrendered two long touchdown drives in the fourth quarter and lost the game.
Even in some of the great New England victories of the past decade, Belichick's defenses have caved under the pressure of the fourth quarter.
Super Bowl XXXVI? The Patriots surrendered two fourth-quarter touchdowns after holding the Greatest Show on Turf Rams to 3 points over the first three quarters. If not for the late-game heroics of Tom Brady, the Patriots would have blown a 17-3 fourth-quarter lead. Super Bowl XXXVIII? The Patriots surrendered three fourth-quarter touchdowns before holding on for a 32-29 win. If not for Brady's late-game heroics, the Patriots would have blown a 21-10 fourth-quarter lead.
But at least New England won those two games, all those years ago. The blown saves since then have come to define New England and define the once-great Belichick mojo.
And then along comes Sunday night's 35-34 loss. The Patriots had a very good chance to gain a huge road win against a major rival, which would have given them a clear path to the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs and postseason games at Gillette, all but guaranteeing a return to the Super Bowl.
It all fell apart.
Sure, the New England offense committed a pair of critical red-zone turnovers that could have turned Sunday's game into a 48-something rout. But at the end of of the day, the New England defense needed one fourth-quarter stop -- just one -- to emerge victorious. And it failed to make it.
Anybody else notice a trend here folks, or is it just us?
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