A slight explanation of Bill Belichick's decision to kick off to the Jets in overtime
I think a lot of us are still trying to figure out exactly what in the blue hell Bill Belichick's thinking was in overtime yesterday. Some think he wanted to throw the game because Pittsburgh lost to Baltimore, which is ridiculous.
There are also some who believe, during his press conference, that he was covering for Matthew Slater, which would make sense. But Belichick rarely, if ever, makes excuses.
At first, everyone, including myself, thought Slater messed up based on his facial reaction that was caught on camera. If you were watching it live or saw a highlight of it, you can certainly understand why everyone thought this to be the case.
Apparently, Belichick told Slater if the Patriots won the coin toss, that they were going to kick off to the Jets. Slater then asked Belichick a few times if he was sure that's what he wanted to do.
“I asked him three or four times just to make sure I’m not the guy that goes up there (and decides) ‘We want to kick off.’ So I double checked three or four times. I think he was looking at me like, ‘Are you concussed?’ because I kept asking him.
“You never question coach’s decision-making. He’s the best in the business and we trust him fully.”
Belichick supposedly didn't tell Slater which end of the field New England wanted to defend, and so Slater said he wanted to kick before he specified which side of the field he wanted.
Here is the transcript of the coin toss at MetLife. Seems like Slater just made a mistake. Game-changer. pic.twitter.com/ajuyE0u2Ml
Here's a clearer explanation of Belichick's mistake.
Not the ultimate outcome, but the failure to properly communicate to Slater that he needed to specify the end of the field New England wanted to defend. The transcript of his conversation with referee Clete Blakeman shows that Slater requested to kick before he picked the direction he wanted to kick, and the NFL rulebook very clearly gives primacy to first utterance. (A team can elect to kick, receive, or pick an end of the field. To start a game, it can also defer its choice until the second half. Deferring obviously wasn’t an option with a single overtime period. [Deferring has led to its own rules confusion; it’s actually possible to receive the ball to start both halves, if the other team screws up.])
Belichick isn't a stranger to kicking off in overtime. Remember the 2013 game against Denver when he kicked off into the wind? That ended up working out, but this isn't 2013 and there was no wind at MetLife Stadium.
Belichick said afterwards that they were hoping the defense would be able to make a stop and get the offense solid field position, but that obviously didn't happen. Obviously field position matters, especially in overtime, but the defense gave up 439 yards of total offense and were getting shredded by Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brandon Marshall, Kenbrell Thompkins (remember that name?), and whomever ran the ball at any point up the middle.
ESPN came out with an interesting piece after the game that showed numbers suggesting Belichick's decision was the wrong one. You can read it in full here, but to sum it up, if the Patriots had taken the ball to start overtime, they would have had a 53.6 percent chance of winning. His decision to kick off to the Jets dropped New England's chance of winning to 46.2 percent, a 7.6 percent decrease.
This'll be talked about all week and will probably be looked at as one of Belichick's dumber decisions. The good news is the Patriots are still the No. 1 seed as of right now, and home field advantage is still very much in play for them.