Monday, November 16, 2009

Bill Belichick Could Have Learned Something From John Mackovic

When New England lined up last night to go for fourth and two against Indianapolis, all I could think about was the Big XII Championship game in 1996.  The national sports media are all over Bill Belichick for his decision, and they have their reasons.  You fail to execute, and you practically give the game to Peyton Manning and the Colts.  Even if you execute, you still may not win the game as it may not be possible to run the clock out without another first down.  And most importantly, the message Belichick sent his defense:  "I don't trust you."

Now, there is an argument to be made that going for it on fourth and two in that situation is actually Smart Football.  The stats do make a solid case for Belichick's decision to go for it.

But here's the bigger problem.  If you are going to go for fourth and two, running a two yard route leaves you zero margin for error.  As painful as it is for Husker fans to recall, here's how John Mackovic handled a similar situation 13 years ago:

If  you are going to make the decision to go for the first down, you can't take a chance on executing the play and still failing to get the first down.  Belichick left himself zero room for error in that situation last night.  If you are going to try to win the game with offense, do it.  It's like a pitcher in a bases loaded situation in a tie game in the bottom of the 9th with a 3 ball count.  You can't afford to try to nip the corner; ball four loses the game.  You've got to throw a strike and hope the batter misses or someone fields the ball.

At least give yourself a chance.  Bill Belichick chose the wrong combination.  If that's the play-call for 4th and 2, you'd better punt because it requires perfection on the part of your team.

4 comments:

Orlando said...

By punting, he is sending a message that he doesn't trust his offense to get two yards. It works both ways.

Husker Mike said...

His offense already had three chances to get a first down, and failed to do so.

Mitch said...

Everybody gets to commit mistakes every now and then. Too bad for Bill he committed one when everyone's watching. One team's victory is a just the fans' reward. Better luck next time. Thanks for sharing.

Orlando said...

The defense had 2 chances the previous two drives to stop them from driving 80 yards for 6 points. It's a wash either way.

It's not a foregone conclusion that the Colts are going to score a TD with the short field anyway. The defense could still stop them. They didn't.

Belichick's mistakes included poor clock management, passing on 3rd down instead of running, and calling a play that required perfect execution to succeed. Not the decision to go for it on 4th down, which was statistically superior to punting.

The defense is what should be held responsible after allowing 21 points in a quarter.