FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Before officially turning the page on the New England Patriots' 20-18 loss last week to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game, having Patriots coach Bill Belichick's detailed explanations on a few coaching decisions that didn't produce the desired results is important.
Thus, here were four things that stood out along those lines from his season-ending interview on Boston sports radio WEEI's "Dale and Holley" program:
Trailing 20-12 with 6:03 remaining and going for it on fourth-and-1 from Denver's 16-yard line: “We were going to do that if it was fourth-and-short. It was third-and-11, and if it had stayed there or somewhere in that neighborhood -- fourth-and-11, fourth-and-8, fourth-and-whatever -- we would have taken the points. Fourth-and-1, that’s a relatively high-percentage conversion -- in the 75-80 percent range, generally speaking. We felt good about what we had in that situation, but it didn’t work out. We hadn’t been down there a lot. You don’t know how many more opportunities you’re going to get with six minutes to go in the game. Down by eight, I don’t think there was a lot of second thoughts about that. The yardage definitely had something to do with it. If it was fourth-and-longer, it would have been a different decision, play the percentages and take the points in that situation.”
Trailing 20-12 with 2:25 remaining and going for it on fourth-and-6 from Denver's 14: “Not sure that we’re going to have another possession. One more first down -- it depends on how it happens, of course -- if they run three plays and get a first down, that would make it hard for us to win. With 2:20 to go in the game, whatever it was, again being down with that kind of field position, we felt like we had a good chance to score. If we had gotten the ball back again, we would have gotten it back quite a bit further away from the goal line than where we were at that point. We were down there, felt good about the situation and where we were. The bad part about that situation -- second-and-1 at the 9, it ended up being a fourth-and-6 play. We had several plays we could have helped ourselves with. Fourth down was fourth down, but the other plays (two incomplete passes sandwiched around a Marcus Cannon false start) were not what we wanted or needed them to be. That was kind of what happened on that series.”
Assessing how the game unfolded: “There are a couple aspects of the game. One is having control of the game on the field. Another is having control of the game on the scoreboard. I felt like defensively, we gave up a couple touchdowns in the red area there that we’d certainly like to have back. We gave up points on a turnover, which wasn’t related to the defensive issue. Then we gave up another field goal on a short-yardage run that broke through. But I felt like we had control of the game, we didn’t have control of the score. Offensively, even though we gained some yardage and so forth, we didn’t really have a lot of scoring opportunities for the majority of the game. We had the turnover [on the lateral], which put the ball there on the , and then we kicked a couple field goals. It wasn’t like we were down inside the 5-yard line. Field position was definitely a big part of it. They did a good job of putting us in bad field position on several drives, so even though we were able to gain a couple first downs or move the ball a little bit, it was only to marginally change field position, it wasn’t really to threaten the score. I’d say overall, all of our scoring opportunities in that game were very limited in the first 53 minutes of the game. And then it was a combination, with field position, even though we didn’t score when we were down there, we were able to get the ball back and had a good punt return, we didn’t lose a lot of yardage in the exchange. So we were able to get into scoring range a lot quicker than we did the majority of the game. So that part of it was a lot different than the rest of it, for the most part.”
On whether using tempo on offense could have helped slow down the pass rush: “Yeah, I think it could have been. I’d say that some of the things we wanted to do, sometimes you’re not able to do them for one reason or another. That’s sometimes the case; there are a variety of reasons and circumstances. I’d say everything that we wanted to do in that game we didn’t feel was totally at our disposal. So we did what we felt we could do and tried to do it the best we could. There might have been other options, but we didn’t, for one reason or another, feel those were good options.”