Twice in the last three weeks, the Patriots have been burned after electing not to go for it on a fourth down.
On Oct. 3, New England instead sent Nick Folk out for a late-game 56-yard field goal against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He missed, and the Patriots lost. On Sunday, the Patriots decided to punt on 4th-and-3 near midfield in overtime and eventually watched Dak Prescott lead the Dallas Cowboys to a dramatic 35-29 victory.
Both decisions deserve second-guessing. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on Monday was asked whether he considered going for it on fourth down in overtime.
“No, not really,” he said during a “Greg Hill Show” interview, as transcribed by WEEI’s Ryan Hannable. “With (Cowboys kicker Greg) Zuerlein, his field-goal range, they can play on a pretty short field there, so if that’s when you’re talking about one first down could probably beat you there.
“So, no, not really.”
Belichick’s point makes sense in a vacuum but ignores the context of the game. Prescott was moving the ball at will against the Patriots defense, which prior to the final possession had been on the field for 75 plays. The odds of forcing Dallas to punt were stacked against them.
Ultimately, those kinds of decisions are partly responsible for the Patriots coming up short in one-score games so often over the last two seasons.