Bill Belichick made the decision to go for a fourth-and-1 from the Patriots own 12 yard line with with 2:24 left in the Sunday Night Football game against the San Francisco 49ers.
New England failed to convert, San Francisco tacked on a field goal and went on to win the game. Afterward, fans and sportswriters criticized Bill Belichick’s decision.
Until the fateful call, the Patriots had gone on a frenzied rally to erase a 28-point deficit. Trailing 31-3 midway through the third quarter, the team rattled off four unanswered touchdowns to tie it at 31. But San Francisco roared back, taking only one play to regain the lead at 38-31.
That led to the failed fourth down conversion. Belichick decided to try to keep his high-powered offense on the field rather than punting back to the 49ers with two timeouts and the two minute warning still remaining.
Many sports writers and internet forums have criticized the Patriots coach for taking an unnecessary risk, especially considering that the Patriots had held the 49ers to three-and-outs on four of the previous five drives.
CBS Boston writer Michael Hurley defended Bill Belichick’s decision:
“It was absolutely a pivotal call and it without question led directly to the team losing, but it didn’t cost the Patriots a victory and it wasn’t at all similar to the infamous fourth-and-2 in Indianapolis in 2009.
“Had the Patriots punted instead, their best-case scenario would have been stopping San Fran, using two timeouts and the two-minute warning, forcing a punt and then driving the length of the field with no timeouts to tie the game. Possible? Sure, of course, but any number of events could have changed those plans. One 49ers first down wins the game for San Francisco, and driving the entire field against the Niners’ defense is hardly an easy task, regardless of the previous scoring drives.”
After the game, the always terse Patriots didn’t have much to say in defending his decision, Yahoo! Sports noted.
“It was fourth-and-1,” Bill Belichick said of his decision.