Why Belichick’s late-game decision in Pats-Eagles was ‘non-sensical’

Why Belichick’s late-game decision in Pats-Eagles was ‘non-sensical’ originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The New England Patriots did plenty of things right in their narrow loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1. But there’s still room for plenty of second-guessing — including of Bill Belichick’s decision-making.

The Patriots trailed the Eagles 22-14 early in the fourth quarter when Belichick kept the offense on the field for a fourth-and-8 attempt at Philly’s 36-yard line. The gamble paid off, as tight end Hunter Henry snagged Mac Jones‘ pass attempt with one hand to pick up the first down.

Four plays later, New England faced another fourth-down situation — fourth-and-3 — from the 17-yard line, well within field goal range for rookie kicker Chad Ryland. But rather than take the points and make it a five-point game with 9:39 remaining, Belichick opted to go for it again, and the result was an incomplete pass that gave the ball back to the Eagles.

That decision came back to bite Belichick in the final minutes; the Patriots drove down to Philly’s 20-yard line but trailed by five instead of two and failed to find the end zone in a 25-20 loss. Had they taken the points earlier in the game, it’s possible they could have set Ryland up for a game-winning field goal.

When asked about the decision to go for it on fourth-and-3, Belichick gave his standard company line — “I felt like it was the best decision for the team” — then got snippy with a reporter who asked a follow-up question.

“Made the best decision we could at the time,” Belichick said. “Didn’t know we would be down there multiple times. Six minutes to go in the game. I don’t know. If we had kicked it, I’m sure you would be asking why didn’t we go for it.”

While such a response is nothing new for Belichick, NBC Sports Boston’s Patriots Postgame Live crew wasn’t here for either Belichick’s decision or his postgame explanation.

“It’s a cop-out,” former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson said of Belichick’s postgame answer, as seen in the video player above. “He just gets away with saying it’s best for the team and doesn’t want to answer the question. He should answer that question.

“I mean, it just doesn’t make sense. I know you’ve got to be aggressive against Philly and maybe take your shot, but not at the end of games in critical situations. … Just saying it was the best decision for the team — I don’t think that’s an acceptable answer.”

For Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran, Belichick not taking the points is even more puzzling in light of his decision to invest a fourth-round pick in Ryland while cutting veteran kicker Nick Folk prior to the season.

“You can’t roll the dice on a fourth-round kicker and release your veteran and do something bold like that, and then turtle for a 38-yard field goal (attempt) to bring you within three,” Curran said. “That, to me, is non-sensical.

“You have to be one or the other. ‘He’s our guy, he’s going to kick it. And I really believe that.’ Or one other aspect is, ‘We love the way our offense is moving the ball. We love the way Mac is playing. We love the game. Billy O’Brien is calling right now. In for a dime, in for a dollar. We already went for one fourth down and converted it. Let’s do it again and let’s get our seven.’ That could be the mentality too.

“But what to me is difficult is, it’s just a cop out. It’s not a complicated answer and it doesn’t really compromise you if you say, ‘We had picked it up earlier and we felt good about picking it up again. We just didn’t do it.’ What’s the big deal?”

Check out the video below for more reaction from Patriots Postgame Live.