A lot of factors went into Bill Belichick‘s controversial decision to take the wind to start overtime on Sunday night, but, in the end, it was nothing more than simple strategy.
After winning the coin toss in overtime on Sunday, Belichick curiously chose to give his offense the easier weather conditions rather than taking the ball and the first chance to win. The decision was a hot topic for debate, as it gave Peyton Manning and the Broncos the first crack at the win, but Belichick says it was the right call given the circumstances.
“You never want to give Peyton Manning and that offense, you never want to just hand them the ball but I just felt in that particular situation with the wind being as significant as it was, that we just had to stop them from getting into the end zone. If we could do that, then we would have a significant advantage in the overtime period,” Belichick said on a conference call with reporters on Monday. “I felt like there was about a 20-yard difference in field position [on opposite sides of the field] to just attempt a field goal, let’s put it that way. I felt like that was a big enough advantage to try to keep the wind.”
Belichick’s decision payed off for the Patriots, too. Manning was unable to lead the Broncos down the field to a score on either of their first two drives, and the Patriots, who were afforded some good fortune on a punt late in overtime, had the wind at the their backs for Stephen Gostkowski‘s 31-yard game winner.
The call was risky, but Belichick wasn’t the first coach to ever make take the wind in that situation either. In fact, it was an experience he had as an assistant coach under Bill Parcells with the New York Giants that actually gave him the idea in the first place.
“I go back to the 1986 NFC Championship Game, where Coach [Bill] Parcells against the Redskins took the wind to start the game and we went ahead 17-0 and that was the final score of the game. I really think that that decision was a big decision in that game and a big decision ultimately in that team’s championship,” Belichick said. “I learned a lot from that. I’m not saying that that’s always the right decision. Clearly each situation is different but there’s a place for it. I think there’s a time when it’s right. I just thought that last night was the right time for us. But that decision by Bill in that game, it just was a good lesson for me that it’s such a huge factor in the game, if the conditions are what they are. It can be such a big factor in the game that it’s worth making that decision if you feel it’s that significant. He did it in – there are not many games bigger than an NFC Championship game – he did it in that game and I think that was probably the difference in the game.”
Much of the knowledge and strategy Belichick uses on a weekly basis, including some of his strange decisions, stem from his years working under Parcells, so it’s no great surprise that his mentor was the reason behind yet another one of the Patriots’ controversial calls. That’s not to say Belichick does or even would do everything that Parcells did in his career, but there is an undeniable connection between the two, and obviously the Tuna had an impact on Belichick’s thinking in a key moment in arguably the biggest game of the regular season.