I wrote this in response to last night's Patriots-Colts game which was decided by a last second touchdown by the Colts. The main points of contention were a controversial coaching decision by the Patriot's coach, Bill Belichick, and a close call at the end of a pivotal play. I originally posted this in a forum, but I like to repost writings I'm particularly happy with.
I had phoned it in on this game. I missed the first part of the game reading to Kevin, and generally trying to convince him that yes, he did need to go to sleep. Then I turned it on and Indy was already pretty far behind and things looked rather bleak for them. For most of the game I decided my time was better spent with the volume muted and me catching up on Google Reader.
I started paying a little more attention in the second half, but I was prepared for it to ultimately be a let down with some sort of controlling performance late in the game by the Pats. I kept the game on, but it was either muted or half-muted the whole time. I keyed in when they scored making it 28-34 with almost 3 to go. Now it was interesting, but for whatever reason I couldn't bear to watch. I figured that Brady would throw a series or short passes then they'd just sit on the ball after a first down or two. So I was surprised when it got to 3rd down. Either the game would end there, because a first down would at least allow the Pats to run out most of the clock, or we'd get to see Peyton's two minute drill.
When the 3rd and 2 pass was almost intercepted my heart raced. I saw the frustration on the defenders face that he had the ball and couldn't complete the pick, which may have been a pick 6 if he had. I said to the TV, "but it doesn't matter because you stopped the pass, so you'll get it back on the next play."
So I dropped my eyes back to the reader figuring I'd have a few moments of uneventful punt return and commercials. I was stunned to see the offense on the field for 4th down. It was scary. That offense is imposing in such a situation. I didn't event think to question the coaching. I was in too much shock at the audacity. I'm not a pro football player, but I can imagine that the Indy defense had to feel some of that apprehension. Two yards of 11 guys versus Brady & Belichick, and I considered the 11 guys the underdogs.
It was close, but I think officials got it right. There are close calls, bad calls, and controversial calls. That was not a bad call. For it to be a bad call there would have to be clear evidence that the official got it wrong. Most of the evidence appears to confirm the official got it right or at least that it could go either way. It wasn't a controversial call, because I think that only a true Pats homer would argue the call at this point (or someone that didn't see it). It was a close call.
There's no point arguing close calls after the time to challenge has passed. The game is full of those and you can count on at least one per game going against you. Pats fans really should never complain about close calls, the team has had more than their share of close calls go their way in the last decade, not to mention that they tend to be on the winning side of controversial calls more often than not as well. In fact, it was the Pats success that is often credited to their luck with calls that led me to realize this about football. Good teams can win even when a bad call, let alone a close or controversial one, goes against them. Good teams also capitalize on calls that go their way. It's the mark of a great team when both of these happen.
What you can't do is try to blame the refs. It's not the refs fault that the Colts were within 6 that late in the game. It's not the refs fault that they had a close call to deal with, either. If the ball were thrown a yard further then it would have clearly been a first down. Most importantly, of course, it's not the refs fault that they went for it on 4th and 2.
The reason why any armchair quarterback was shocked by that is because you know that this is the one situation where it was a terrible idea. The Pats were at their own 28. The Colts were hot in the 4th but not unstoppable. The play would end with the 2 minute warning giving a premier quarterback with a hot offense 2 minutes to cover 30 yards if you don't make the first. It changed the dynamic of the Colts offense and allowed them the option of the run or the pass, which is important because Manning had already thrown two picks that game and there were clearly moments of confusion between he and his receivers.
So the Pats lost.
Now the kicker: If you're a Pats fan, or a member of their organization, your response should be "big fucking deal." The way you're playing now you're in the hunt for a first round bye in the playoffs, and you're surely going to win your division. So, you'll likely see these guys again, right? These guys that squeaked one out on you. These guys who've collapsed several times against you in the playoffs. And you'll be driven. You'll be mad that they stole it from you last time. Maybe they'll be cocky. And it will be the rematch of the year.