Should Bill Belichick have kicked a 56-yard field goal or rolled the dice on fourth and three?

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Sunday night’s biggest game even ended with a thud. Or more accurately a doink.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick opted to have kicker Nick Folk attempt a 56-yard field goal in the rain, in lieu of going for it on fourth and three. Belichick (shockingly) didn’t say much about the decision after the game. On Monday, he said more. But not much.

“It really wasn’t much of a decision there,” Belichick said. “We converted two third downs in the game. Nick kicked well. No, there wasn’t any consideration.”

How can he say there wasn’t any consideration? That’s another Belichickian deflection; surely, it was a close call.

Here’s the simple analysis. Option 1: Folk tries a field goal that matches his career long in the rain despite an issue with his plant leg, and if he makes it Tom Brady gets the ball back with roughly 50 seconds to play. Option 2: Go for it on fourth down, and if it’s converted the Patriots both make the eventual field goal attempt closer and take more (if not all) time off the clock.

In Week Two on Sunday Night Football, the Ravens went for it on fourth down in order to keep Patrick Mahomes from getting the ball back. In Week Three on Sunday Night Football, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers needed only 37 seconds to lead his team to a chance at a game-winning field goal. In Week Four on Sunday Night Football, Brady would have had plenty of time to win the game, if Folk’s kick had bounced in instead of out.

Yes, Belichick has won six Super Bowls. Yes, he’s entitled to far more deference than a guy like, say, Dan Campbell. But Belichick isn’t above scrutiny. The mere fact that he claimed there was no consideration to go for it justifies criticism, because the issue at least should have been considered. And the right call very well may have been to go for it.

Maybe, at some level, Belichick wanted to match wits with Brady. Maybe the coach called for the kick because he hoped for a final battle with Brady. Can Brady get in field-goal range? Can Belichick keep him from doing it?

Whether Belichick would ever admit it or even realize it, I think he wanted to give Brady the ball with just enough time to make it interesting. And it would have been awesome to watch, if Folk had simply made the kick.

Regardless, Belichick insults the intelligence of the average football fan by acting like it wasn’t even a consideration. Surely it was. And a strong argument can be made for going for it.

27 responses to “Should Bill Belichick have kicked a 56-yard field goal or rolled the dice on fourth and three?

  1. I thought he should kick it and just because it was a difficult kick. 59 sec and 2 timeouts is a lifetime to get 40 yards and kick one yourself.

  2. Maybe, just maybe he didn’t want the 4th and 3 to fall onto to Rookie QB. Team can’t run. Kid could have taken 2 steps back if that’s the talk of the week. Maybe Bill was not even going to go there.

  3. This is a tough call. A coach like BB has earned the benefit of the doubt. He knows his team better than anyone. As he said they where 2-9 on third down. He had the leg, just missed it a little. Can’t just look at the over all percentages and apply it to your specific team and situation. That isn’t how analytics work.

  4. The Belichick myth is coming unraveled. No more Brady to bail out this mediocre coach.

  5. Those who are saying he should have gone for it would be the same ones crucifying him if they didn’t make the 4th and 3… FACT.

  6. Great point, I’m glad you are there to second guess BB. Let’s be honest, Brady has been held to 0 TD once since leaving the Pats, and only twice has he had a lower QB rating in a win. Belichick wasn’t afraid of Brady having the ball behind by 2 with 50 second and 1 time out remaining. Not enough to take an unnecessary risk and leave the field with a QB who blames himself for 3 losses in a row. Instead, Jones left the field feeling like he did enough the beat the GOAT and lost on a play he had no control over. And he would be right. He was the better QB in that game, facing a defense most felt was better than the Patriots’ D. He has a long way to go to get where Brady is now, but Pats fans are excited to move forward without Brady at this point. Imagine Jones with a Scharnecchia-coached OL and the studs in front of Brady during his SB years!

  7. Sorry, Florio your post is full of presumptions that don’t hold water.

    First, are you really implying Belichick’s elected strategic option is an insult to the average NFL fan’s intelligence? Do you read the comments on these threads?

    Second, most commentators are miss-reading the statistics on this decision.

    If the Pats got the first down they still have to kick the field goal. To find the probability as a percentage you have to multiply the percentages of both making the first down AND making the shorter field goal. I guarantee that product is well less than the probability Folk would make that kick.

    The only variable that could change that Nexus is multiplying Folk’s chance times Brady’s chance of coming back and scoring a field goal.

    Folk had broken the team record for consecutive kicks made. He had made a longer kick from that point in the field pre-game. The Patriots had a very low percentage of third down success during the game. All of that supports going for the field goal.

    Interesting that you talk about going for it with Brady at QB. How many times in the game did Brady go for it on 4th down?

  8. Good point above that maybe Belichick didn’t want to put it all on Mac Jones’s shoulders at this point in his very young career. I agree that this wasn’t a high-percentage FG try for Folk, even in good weather, and it would have left plenty of time for Brady to get the Bucs in FG position even if he’d made it. But when you add to the equation that the Patriots hadn’t been very successful all night on third down and that their running game is non-existent, it becomes a little more understandable that Belichick opted to gamble with Folk rather than the rookie QB.

  9. The Belichick myth is coming unraveled. No more Brady to bail out this mediocre coach.

    ———————

    He doesn’t know how to build an offense that can score 20 points per game, hence not a HC material.

    If Brady was the QB and had scored 24 points against Dolphins and Bucs (hence easy wins), his believers would have claimed Brady was carried as a game manager. They have no clue how hard it is to 24 points without a deep threat.

  10. BB gets the BOD here. He had confidence in his kicker at that range and look at the replay, he had the distance to make it. A foot and a half to the right and the Pats win the game. I think he made the correct call.

  11. To the naysayers…

    I wonder how well Tom Brady’s career would have been if he played for the Bengals, the Browns or some other average organization for 20 years. Yet I do believe that BB would have and could have built a successful team with a different QB.

  12. I wonder how well Tom Brady’s career would have been if he played for the Bengals, the Browns or some other average organization for 20 years. Yet I do believe that BB would have and could have built a successful team with a different QB.

    —————-

    The Pats team Brady took over was as bad as Browns and Bengals.

    Belichick wouldn’t have succeeded without an offense that was able to score 20+ points per games (Check 1990 Giants and 2000 Pats, and the last 4 games), something he didn’t know how to do. You should have seen it from last 4 games.

  13. If it was only the QB that was responsible for success of a team, then Aaron Rogers should have a lot more SuperBowls to his credit.

    Belichick took over from Pete Carroll, a team that was built by Bill Parcells, and had been to the Super Bowl the year before. The Patriots had a lot of talent before Brady.
    Belichick’s defensive game plan is in the HOF. Super Bowl 2001, 2003 and 2004 the Patriots had a strong defense that allowed Brady to “Manage” the game and learn. Belichick built the team around Brady.
    It’s foolhardy to think the Benagals or the Browns would have had as much success with Brady and a different coach.

  14. If it was only the QB that was responsible for success of a team, then Aaron Rogers should have a lot more SuperBowls to his credit.

    ————————–

    Here comes another Belichick’s believer who pretends not knowing the difference between “Brady did all” and “Brady was the difference.”

    You think Rodgers is more talented than Brady is? Do you know who will be Brady’s play makers before a game? Ya, from neck down, he is more talented; from neck up, he is nothing compared to Brady. That is why a 13 year old fan knows what he will do even before game starts, which makes it much much easier for opponent defenses to prepare (whether they have enough talents to stop him is another issue) and almost guarantees that he will struggle badly in ONE of the playoff games, the reason he couldn’t make back to SB.

  15. As Bruce Arians would say, “no risk it, no biscuit!” Of course if you have a HOF QB, it may be an easier decision. If your QB is a rookie, it’s not so easy to make.

    But it’s a stupid question to ask because had they gone for it on 4th down and not made it, the headline would be ‘why didn’t Belichick kick the field goal?’

  16. What are Belichick’s football commandments?

    1. Do your job (not some one else’s and don’t ignore your duties for personal glory)

    2. Protect the football

    3. Avoid penalties (unless they will save points or give you a strategic advantage)

    4. Win the turnover battle

    5. Red zone play is critical

    6. Personnel decisions need to be transacted at fair value (need a strong middle class)

    7. Need to practice situational football

    8. Take away what the other team does best and make them do something else to win

    9. Special teams are a priority and key to field position

    10. The game is about who scores more points in each game, not yardage

    A QB is key but hardly able to implement all of these important strategies.

  17. Read this article on CBS sports: LOOK: Is this the Patriots’ Super Bowl game plan for beating the Falcons?
    1. Start Fast & Do Your Job Well
    2. Stop The Run
    3. Go After #2 > Attack The Spot (“#2” is Matt Ryan)
    4. Eliminate #11 & No Big Plays (“#11” is Julio Jones)
    5. Win the Turnover Battle = Win Game
    6. Tackling Is The Game
    7. Situational Football
    8. Play Smart & Aware
    9. Most Physical Team!
    10. It’s All About US!!!

    Interestingly, the Patriots failed on points 1, 2 and 3 early in the game, and point 4 a little later. The Patriots trailed 21-3 at halftime; the Falcons had 85 rushing yards early in the second quarter; and Matt Ryan played like the NFL MVP, save for a fumble and a sack, both of which played a part in the outcome.

    The Patriots also didn’t win the turnover battle, though over the final 25 minutes or so they were clinical on points 6-10. As to the final point — yes, defense has been known to win championships, but so too does having Brady on your team. When it was over, he had thrown for 466 yards and two touchdowns and had won his fourth Super Bowl MVP.

  18. Surprised you didn’t mention what seems like an obvious motivation to kick it– you’d rather have the game decided by your 39 year old veteran kicker (who has had wins and losses decided by last minute kicks many times) than your 23 old rookie QB who you’re grooming to lead the franchise for years to come. And let’s be honest– had the kick been taken from a yard closer, it probably would cleared the left stanchion. So it was by no means a preposterous decision. Furthermore, had it gone through and lead to a W, this blog post would be praising Belichick for ignoring a few percentage points in the statistical data and going with his gut.

    Yeah, I wish we could somehow go back and see what would have happened had they gone for it, but that’s water under the bridge. They’re on to Houston.

  19. Plenty if reasons to think the odds were low to get those three yards against the Tampa defense that had been stopping the short plays all night. And longer plays were not much better on the odds. So the FG was actually the best chance of the moment

  20. <>
    ———-
    Tom Brady made a difference, but he couldn’t have done it without a great team behind him. Building that team is no ordinary undertaking. You sound as if Brady would have won 6 SuperBowls with any team he played for. Am I reading that right? When Brady retires, Belichick will be winning more SuperBowls!

  21. Tom Brady made a difference, but he couldn’t have done it without a great team behind him. Building that team is no ordinary undertaking.

    ————————–

    Robert Kraft admitted Patriots used to laugh at teams that spent big in free agency.

    Belichick’s free agency splurge (the way he used to believe was stupid) proved that the reason Belichick could build the team in a way that other coaches couldn’t was because he had Tom Brady (he didn’t have to spend a lot on offense but still had a top offense that played better than Peyton, Rodgers and Brees in playoff). Without Tom Brady, he has to build the team just like how every other coach does. In other word, Belichick himself proved that the system that won Pats 6 SB was Brady’s system, not his.

  22. Brady may be a difference maker, but you still need a talented team and a great coach. Brady would not have won 6 Super Bowls with any other team

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