By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Perhaps in the end, it didn’t matter. When Jonathan Taylor broke free for a 67-yard touchdown despite the Patriots’ defense knowing that Indianapolis was in an obvious running situation, the Colts might have shown that they were going to win this game no matter what.
Still, after the Colts’ 27-17 win over the Patriots, one can’t help but wonder why Bill Belichick elected to kick a field goal when facing a fourth-and-goal from the 7-yard line while trailing 20-7 with 9 minutes left in the game.
Turning a 20-7 deficit into a 20-10 deficit takes a two-score game and … keeps it a two-score game. While the appeal of needing a touchdown and a field goal to tie the game is obvious enough, the allure of cutting the lead to six points with a touchdown would seemingly be the overriding factor when making such a decision. And if a fourth-and-goal play failed to result in a touchdown, then the Patriots still would have trailed by two scores.
After the loss, Belichick was asked about the decision. His answer will not shock you.
“I did what I thought was best for the team,” Belichick said.
Analytics showed that by kicking the field goal, the Patriots hurt their chances of winning.
Patriots 4th-and-goal from the Colts' 7
WP go: 9.5%
WP kick: 5.8%
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) December 19, 2021
Reality showed that as well. The Patriots kicked that field goal, got the ball back after forcing a punt, and then drove 82 yards for a touchdown. Despite that, they still trailed by three, and the Colts got the ball with 2:16 left in the game. The Patriots had just one timeout.
If the Patriots had been able to force a three-and-out from Indy, they would’ve gotten the ball back with about 1:10 left in the game, and with no timeouts, needing a field goal to tie or a touchdown to win.
Alas, as mentioned, Taylor ended the what-if game by scoring the hope-killing touchdown, all but ending the game before the two-minute warning.
Of course, allowing a blocked punt that went for a touchdown was more significant, as was Mac Jones’ red-zone interception, as was the defense allowing 226 rushing yards.
“I don’t think we coached or played well enough to win tonight across the board,” a displeased Belichick said. “Everyone. All of us.”
Still … considering the Patriots did score the touchdown on their drive after the field goal, some will always wonder how and why that decision was made to keep a two-score game as a two-score game in the fourth quarter on the road against the NFL’s best rushing team.