With the Patriots and Dolphins tied 17-17 late in the third quarter on Sunday, New England coach Bill Belichick took a timeout so that the Patriots could kick a field goal with the wind at their backs, rather than wait until the fourth quarter and kick into the wind. Belichick said it was his old boss Bill Parcells who schooled him on the importance of factoring the wind into his decisions.
“I’d say one of the biggest decisions and most critical decisions that I’ve ever been a part of on that was in the 1986 NFC Championship Game against the Redskins,” Belichick said. “It was a windy day in Giants Stadium. We’ve had many of those and we won the toss and Coach Parcells elected to take the wind which wasn’t very common. It wasn’t a very common decision because, let’s face it, you take it in the first quarter you’re not going to have it in the second quarter. That was what he decided to do and we were able to really take advantage of that situation against the Redskins. We got three stops and 17 points and we had a 17-0 lead at the end of the first quarter in part due to the wind, good defense and good offense helped of course. But the field position was huge and that ended up being the final score of the game. That decision, the initial points and the way that the game started really was a huge part of what was reflected in a huge degree to that decision that Bill made. That was a good lesson for me to learn in my career. It was a great decision by Coach Parcells.”
In the third quarter on Sunday Stephen Gostkowski’s 48-yard field goal with the wind at his back was good, and Belichick said that made it worth giving up a second-half timeout in a close game.
“When the clock was running there, we wanted to try to give ourselves a chance,” Belichick said. “Of course in a close game like that, the game was tied at the time, you hate to waste timeouts because they can be valuable at the end, as we’ve seen many times this year, but I felt like it was worth it to be able to have a better opportunity on the kick. Not saying that Steve couldn’t have made it going the other way, I just think it would have been a harder kick based on the conditions that were out there yesterday.”
The wind was a significant factor for the Patriots in the third quarter, as they went from a 17-3 deficit to a 20-17 lead. Not only did Gostkowski make his 48-yard field goal with the wind at his back, but the Dolphins missed a field goal in the third quarter into the wind. All three of Gostkowski’s kickoffs in the third quarter were touchbacks, while the Dolphins’ kickoff into the wind in the third quarter only reached the 10-yard line. The Patriots also had two punts with the wind in the third quarter and averaged 50.5 yards on them, while the Dolphins’ two punts into the wind in the third quarter averaged 39.5 yards. The wind was a significant advantage, and Belichick was wise to keep the wind at his back as long as he could.