This was one of the most humiliating losses in New England sports history. And no one should have to tell you that that's a pretty high bar to jump.
I won't be the first to say it and you can be certain that I'll be far from the last. But I'll say it anyway.
WHAT THE HELL WAS BILL BELICHICK THINKING?
Okay, technically, I do know what he was thinking. He was thinking that all my offense has to do is get two yards on this next play and the game's over. But if they don't, Bill? Then you have problems. And everyone in New England cursing you out for weeks, possibly years, on end.
Ordinarily this situation (4th & 2 on your own 28 yard line) is a no-brainer. You punt. You simply punt. There isn't even anything to consider. Even if you're fairly confident that you can get those two yards, the potential downside is too horrifying to risk it. The only reason Belichick would go for it would be to keep the ball out of the increasingly dangerous Peyton Manning's hands. But if you're concerned that Peyton Manning can take the ball 70 yards on you, shouldn't you be even more concerned about leaving him only 29? Huh?
It also sends a terrible message to your defense. Boys, we can't trust you to keep a team from going 70 yards in under two minutes and driving it all the way into the end zone. How pathetic is that?
The Pats had already done some dumb things in the game. They tried to sit on their lead (which, truth be told, should have worked) in the fourth quarter. And they blew two timeouts in bizarre fashion, which precluded them from challenging the spot on The Play of Stupidity. Although they probably would have lost the challenge anyway.
But another play that no one is mentioning in the shuffle was almost as important. Here's the situation. Manning and the Colts are storming down field in what looks like an inevitable touchdown drive. Their first play is an easy 15-yard pass to Reggie Wayne. On 1st down from the 14, Manning hands it off to Joseph Addai. He zips through a giant hole and looks like he's headed for the end zone. Vince Wilfork and Ron Brace make a herculean effort to drag him down at the 1. Great play? Maybe if there were only 5 seconds left. There is 1:20 left on the clock. This is important.
If Addai scores the touchdown, the Pats have 1:10 or so (after the kickoff return) to try to get into field goal range. Even with no timeouts, it's possible. After the tackle, the clock runs down to 0:36 before the next play starts and when the Colts finally punch it in there are only 16 seconds left.
Now, I'm sure some will say that you never let someone score on purpose. You give your defense a shot at stopping them. And yes, they may have stopped them. But Belichick already made it quite clear that he didn't think he could stop Manning from gaining 70 yards. Why would he think he could stop him from getting 1?
This is a game that was in the bag. That isn't smart analysis. It's just a fact. There is no excuse for losing this game. Give credit to Peyton Manning for taking full advantage of the Pats' terrible decision-making and execution in the fourth quarter, which they started with a 17-point lead. Even with that, not any schmo could have pulled this out. It took a superstar. But the Pats should have known better than to give him the chance. Shame.