DENVER — There was a lot of second-guessing going around New England after the Patriots’ AFC Championship Game loss on Sunday.
The Patriots lost 20-18 and passed up two easy field goals in the fourth quarter, electing instead to go for first downs and coming up short, turning the ball over on downs on both tries.
The Patriots’ first chance for a field goal came with 6:03 remaining in the fourth quarter, when they were down 20-12. They had three timeouts remaining and went for it on fourth-and-1. The Patriots were expected to try a quarterback sneak with Tom Brady, but the Broncos had the line clogged, anticipating the same. They instead went for a play-action pass to wide receiver Julian Edelman that was sniffed out perfectly by Broncos cornerback Chris Harris. Edelman was stopped for a 1-yard loss.
“Yeah, they were looking for the sneak, and we had to do a little misdirection,” Brady said. “It wasn’t really Julian’s guy who got him, it was the guy who fell off, so he made a pretty good defensive play. He had the other guy in man coverage and just kind of was there waiting for it.”
Their second chance for a field goal came on fourth-and-6 with 2:25 left in the fourth quarter, when the Patriots still had three timeouts and were trailing 20-12. Brady attempted a pass into the end zone to tight end Rob Gronkowski that was broken up by cornerback Aqib Talib.
The Patriots had a chance to tie the game with 12 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter after Brady hit Gronkowski for a touchdown. They couldn’t convert on the two-point conversion, however, and didn’t recover the onside kick.
Does Patriots head coach Bill Belichick regret passing up field goals in those situations after all is said and done?
“No,” Belichick said after the game.
And why did Belichick choose to go for it rather than kick field goals?
“It was the score and situation in the game,” Belichick said.
That the Patriots had a chance to tie the game at all shows Belichick’s decision wasn’t a completely regrettable one. The Patriots were able to stop the Broncos on ensuing drives in 81 seconds and 26 seconds, respectively. But they could have won the game with a touchdown rather than continuously attempting to tie the game with a two-point conversion, which is a much less likely scenario.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images