After the New England Patriots won the coin toss to start overtime against the Denver Broncos, there was confusion on the field among the Patriots players that called “tails.” All indication from the players was that they elected to receive the ball first, which is the obvious choice in overtime coin tosses, particularly when the alternative is putting Peyton Manning on the field. Instead of receiving the ball and trying for the early touchdown to end the game, Bill Belichick decided to defer the ball to the Broncos and chose which direction the Patriots would play.
At first the call was confusing and immediately drew memories of the infamous “4th and 2″ game, where Coach Belichick opted to go for it, even though the Patriots would be giving Manning and the Colts a short field to score. He’s been criticized for that call ever since by some, but if it had worked he would have been praised for the gutsy move. If Peyton had scored on the opening drive of Sunday night’s OT, the criticism and insults would be heard to no end. Even the Patriots captains were confused by Belichick’s decision.
“We all looked at each other like he was crazy — then we all asked again and again and again,” Logan Mankins told Comcast SportsNet’s Postgame Live. “And we just wanted to make sure we were doing exactly what he wanted.”
Coach Belichick’s decision to give Manning the ball and instead choosing the field position so that his team had the wind at their backs was genius. It was a risky move to give Peyton the ball, but he knew that the Patriots defense had done a good job at stopping him most of the game. If it weren’t for the three early Patriots turnovers, one could argue the game would have been a one-sided blowout by the Patriots.
By ensuring he was throwing into the wind, Belichick guaranteed that Peyton would have an even harder time throwing the ball than he already had that night. The wind also prevented Denver from attempting a long field goal with Matt Prater, who has proven he can hit long targets. This came into play on the Broncos second drive of OT, when they faced fourth down at the Patriots 37-yard line. If they had the wind on their side, Prater could have tried the 54-yard field goal and would have had an excellent chance of winning. He’s made four field goals of 50+ yards this season and his career longest is 59-yards.
Thanks to this gutsy call, the Patriots are now 8-3 and have a chance to claim the #1 seed in the AFC should Denver lose again this Sunday in Kansas City. Tom Brady is now back in discussion for the MVP award, and he improves to 10-4 against Peyton.