FOXBOROUGH — 4th and 2, meet The 2-Minute Surrender.
Two different halves. Bill Belichick believing in one side of the ball more than the other. Both failing, and it could end up costing the Patriots a decade apart.
One happened in a 2009 Week 10 game against the Colts with 2:08 remaining from their own 28-yard line. Bill Belichick didn't trust his defense to hold a 34-28 lead against Peyton Manning, so he decided Tom Brady and Kevin Faulk would have better odds converting, even deep in their own end.
Faulk was ruled 1-yard short, Manning scored the game-winning touchdown four plays later and the Patriots finished the season as the AFC's third seed and lost at home to the Ravens in the wild-card round.
Belichick probably wasn't wrong to think that way ... but it didn't help a limping defense to feel better about itself the rest of the season.
Ten years later, in a 10-10 game with the 4-11 Dolphins, Belichick could have taken one of his three timeouts with 1:45 left before halftime and tried to take a lead. He didn't use a single timeout — before the punt, or following two punchless runs.
I finally got Belichick to give the semblance of an answer on the topic after the game, and he did explain his rationale: with the Dolphins having all three of their timeouts, he was worried about them gaining a foothold before halftime.
"Yeah, we'd see what kind of field position we got, and then if we could advance the ball, then we'd take them," Belichick said. "But, we didn't want to give the ball back with their timeouts at the end of the half, either."
Essentially, Belichick, this time, didn't trust his offense, which at that point was the gang that couldn't shoot straight with the Dolphins following Julian Edelman with two players as soon as he entered One Patriot Place.
Like his offense 10 years earlier, Belichick thought his high-priced and uber-experienced gang of Boogeyman would, eventually, win the game. After all, that's basically been the 2019 season plan since the Patriots showed up to training camp with Larry, Curly, and a Broken-down Moe for offensive weapons around Brady.
Why not go down with the ship?
Patriots went on to lose 27-24 and were relegated to the AFC's No. 3 seed for the first time since that '09 outfit and will host Mike "Patriot Place" Vrabel and the Tennessee Titans who, if you squint enough, look an awful lot like those old Ravens.
The ship be sinking.
Again, Belichick probably wasn't wrong with his rationale. But it's probably not going to instill much confidence into Brady & The Misfit Toys for a long postseason run. Although, let's be honest, Brady basically knew this was coming for a while anyway.
Here's the thing, though, about what happened on Sunday: Belichick made his choice and it didn't work out — but it didn't cost the Patriots the game. Brady, his pick-six and Overmatched Mohamed Sanu didn't either.
It was the defense.
Those Boogeymen and their t-shirts.
That cornerback and his Defensive Player of the Year campaign.
Those mostly green assistants who had never been in this spot before.
The unit that Belichick put all his hopes and dreams into when he kept absolutely everyone from last season (much to the chagrin of the offense) to the point they had starting-caliber players who barely had defined roles ... completely let the team down.
In case you weren't paying attention, Brady and his jalopy of an offense:
- Drove 82 yards to tie the game at 10-10
... and the defense gave it back by allowing an 83-yard touchdown drive where Ryan Freaking Fitzpatrick faked Ja'Whaun Bentley out of his shoes on the goal line.
- Drove right back 75 yards and scored on an Elandon Roberts' 38-yard catch and jaunt to tie the game again
... and the defense allowed a 49-yard drive for the go-ahead field goal.
- Drove right back 60 yards and scored the go-ahead scored on a screen pass to James White that saw both Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason make like Hodor in Game of Thrones #HoldTheDoor
... and then the Boogeymen let Freaking Fitzpatrick drive 75 yards to win the game.
You can complain about Brady all you want, call him old, say he was wearing grandma's shoes, say Alex Guerrero's healing touch must have moved out of town when he sold his house ... You can say Sanu Sucks in any number of different alliterations, and curse Josh McDaniels and wish he went to Indianapolis to party with Jim Irsay.
Sure, say all that if you want. But it wouldn't be the truth.
Say it with me:
THE. OFFENSE. DID. ENOUGH. TO. BEAT. THE. DOLPHINS.
Just about everyone has said, at some point this year, if the Patriots' offense could get into the 20s, that should be enough against everyone besides, perhaps, the Ravens and Chiefs. That might be dicey.
It should be plenty to beat the Dolphins ... at home ... with a bye on the line.
It was not. And that's the defense's fault. Period.
I don't want to hear anything about how the defense really only allowed 20 points because of Brady's pick-six ...
Complete and utter rubbish.
If you forgot what I just laid out up there ... the Patriots' defense allowed 17 points to the Dolphins in the second half or, in other words, a pace for 34 in a game. And Miami's average field position for the game was their own 21-yard line. Only once did the Dolphins start a drive outside its own 25, and that resulted in a field goal. No short fields. No other turnovers. The Dolphins drove on the Boogeymen's butts. Repeatedly.
The Patriots got picked apart, by a four-win team with a former Harvard quarterback throwing and running the ball all over the yard, with no running backs, and weapons outside of DeVante Parker who wouldn't start many other places (except New England, those guys would be stars here if, you know, the Patriots thought people who can run and catch were allowed by NFL rules).
Where did it all go wrong? Oh, let us count the ways with the Hall of Shame for this debacle: