Virtually all of New England doubted Bill Belichick on Sunday night when the Patriots coach handed the ball to Peyton Manning at the beginning of overtime, choosing to take the wind instead.
That included team owner Robert Kraft, who scrambled in his box as he and his contingent thought Belichick had lost his mind.
“When Bill chose the wind, I said, ‘What is he doing?’” Kraft said, according to the Boston Herald. “Someone [in my box] said, ‘Don’t you have a phone down there?’ … But I spoke with [Belichick] and chatted about it with him afterward, and once again, he was on top of things. What they figured out was, by choosing the wind, it was an incremental 20 yards that they needed to be able to kick, and sure enough, it was a very wise decision.
“Probably, as a fan, I don’t think 80-90 percent of our fans would think giving Peyton Manning the ball in overtime was going to be in our best interest.”
Kraft is probably right about the fans, considering even the Patriots’ captains were a little concerned.
Kraft gushed about the game, which was the biggest comeback win in franchise history as the Patriots overcame a 24-point deficit after a first half marred by fumbles. Tom Brady paced the team in the second half, scoring on five straight drives, and the defense forced key turnovers to keep the Broncos at bay and set up the offense. In the end, though, Kraft noted it was special teams play that finally got the Patriots over the hump in an overtime that seemed destined to end in a tie.
“Look at that play at the end of the game. It was great,” Kraft said. “I couldn’t go to sleep until four in the morning.”
Kraft wouldn’t quite rank Sunday’s win over the Patriots’ immortal snow game — the final game at the old stadium — but still called this one “pretty cool” considering all the elements.
“I really believe this did something very special for our team,” he said.
And perhaps something very special for the relationship between Belichick and Kraft, who has learned to trust his coach.