A day after the Patriots lost, 20-18, to the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game, Bill Belichick expressed no regrets about going for it twice on fourth down in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots, trailing 20-12, first decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Broncos’ 16 with 6:03 left. Tom Brady floated a pass to Julian Edelman behind the line of scrimmage, and he was tackled for a loss of 1.
Belichick could have opted to kick a field goal there, but on Monday he explained that the eight-point deficit and the situation dictated his decision-making.
“Time and number of possessions that you have left and what you need to do and the number of opportunities that we had to do that,” he said. “It wasn’t very many.”
Belichick maintained he made the right call. “At that time, yeah,’’ he said. “There was no hesitation in doing that.”
Still trailing 20-12 with 2:25 left, the Patriots went for it on fourth-and-6 at the Broncos’ 14. Brady’s short pass up the middle to Rob Gronkowski was incomplete.
“There was like 2 1⁄2 minutes to go in the game, down by eight, fourth-and-5, or whatever it was,” Belichick said. “Yeah, we felt like the best thing to do was go for it at that point.”
Perhaps the Patriots’ strategy would have been different had Stephen Gostkowski not missed the extra-point try after Steven Jackson’s 1-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. But instead, the Patriots trailed the Broncos 7-6 and never caught up. After the Pats scored a touchdown with 12 seconds left in the fourth, they had to go for a two-point conversion, and Brady’s pass was intercepted. Had Gostkowski not missed the PAT, the Patriots would have kicked the extra point and forced overtime.
Belichick refused to place the blame solely on Gostkowski, who had made 523 consecutive PATs since a miss in 2006.
“Steve’s a great kicker,” he said. “He had a great year for us, and as I said at the beginning, I think every player and coach who participated in the game wishes there were a couple of things they would’ve done differently. I feel that way. Everybody I’ve talked to feels that way. I can’t imagine anybody who participated in the game doesn’t feel that way.”
Told that Gostkowski said Sunday that he “lost the game for the team,” Belichick said: “I think we all feel that way — I feel like it’s my fault. I’m sure all the other players who played feel like it’s their fault.”
The defending Super Bowl champions had been favored against the Broncos, but Denver’s suffocating defense and Pyeton Manning’s two touchdown passes to tight end Owen Daniels made the difference.
“It’s the same basic feeling 31 teams, 30 other teams have, and another team is going to have it next week,” Belichick said of the four-time champions’ disappointment. “We’ve been in those situations. We’ve been on all sides of it. We’ve been on the good side of it. We’ve been where we are today, so that’s life, we move on.”