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Contrast in media reaction from Patriots' OT losses is striking

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Before we turn the page to the New England Patriots' next opponent, the Miami Dolphins, one leftover thought lingered at this address.

Bill Belichick's decision to kick off at the start of overtime in the team's 26-20 loss to the New York Jets has been hotly debated. The reaction was sharp, and I think the primary reason for that was the unconventional nature of the choice. It sparked the natural question, "Why wouldn't you put the ball in Tom Brady's hands at the start of overtime?"

I wish I had thought of it at the time, but the answer to that question played out before our own eyes Nov. 29 in Denver.

The Patriots won the overtime toss in that game against the Broncos, and elected to receive. After three disappointing plays -- an incompletion over the middle to tightly covered Brandon LaFell, a sack that was more a result of coverage than the initial rush, and then a throw-away incompletion when no one was initially open on third down -- the Patriots punted to the Broncos and surrendered significant field position (Denver's 43-yard line).

Three plays later, the game was over.

I don't recall too much media-based outrage at the time, but in retrospect, analysts probably had a stronger case to pan that decision than the one Belichick made against the Jets. Consider that the skill-position players Brady was throwing to in overtime against Denver were LaFell, receiver Keshawn Martin, tight ends Scott Chandler and Asante Cleveland, and running backs James White and Brandon Bolden.

On that day, one could argue that playing for field position was the smarter choice.

But Belichick hardly faced any criticism that I recall because he went with the conventional choice, even if it didn't serve his team well. Don't remember hearing anyone call him arrogant, like I heard in the aftermath of Sunday's loss. That's crazy talk.

About two decades ago, I remember listening to one of my favorite professors in college tell students in lecture hall that we study history, in part, so we don't repeat some of our mistakes in the future. I think that also applies to what we saw Sunday.

It's also why there is great respect for Belichick's approach as it relates to outside criticism.

Belichick could have protected himself from criticism and elected to receive against the Jets, just as he did against Denver on Nov. 29. But he was willing to subject himself to the criticism because he felt history was about to repeat itself.

No, it didn't work out like he planned.

But to ignore what happened four weeks earlier in Denver would be a major flaw in any analysis of the decision.