Dan Shaughnessy

Little reason in some of these arguments

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / November 17, 2009

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It did not look any better in dawn’s early light.

Groggy Patriot Nation woke up yesterday and wondered, “Did that really happen?’’ Perhaps it was some Ambien-induced hallucination. A bad dream. Hangover haze.

Sorry, people. It’s reality. The Patriots actually blew a 31-14 fourth-quarter lead against the Colts Sunday night in Indianapolis. In a skull-imploding move that no doubt had Amos Alonzo Stagg rolling over in his grave, Bill Belichick went for a first down on fourth and 2 from his 28 while leading by 6 points with 2:08 to play.

The Patriots spin machine was in overdrive yesterday (speaking of spin, nice try by the Red Sox - raising ticket prices on the day after Belichick channeled Grady Little).

There are New England football fans who’d support Belichick if he pledged to eradicate indoor plumbing. And the Kraft family’s media partners do a nifty job spreading the gospel of Bob, Bill, and Tom. But the blind loyalty was put to the test on the day after the disaster at Lucas Oil Can Boyd Stadium.

Patriot Mondays are generally back-slapping festivals of congratulation and celebration. After a standard media session (which sometimes in cludes reporters who are not working for the team), Belichick and Patriots players fulfill contractual obligations with their soft-tossing media partners. Legions of Bruschi-jersey-wearing folks nod sagely and wonder how their team will outsmart the next tomato can on the schedule. Hakuna matata.

There was heightened interest in Belichick’s presser yesterday. Channel 4 (WBZ, home of Patriots “All Access’’) interrupted “The Price is Right’’ with live coverage of Belichick’s explanation of the Sunday night debacle.

Good symmetry. The Price is Right, but the Call is Still Wrong.

Naturally, Belichick stuck to his guns. It didn’t matter that he’d been ripped by some of his ex-players (check out comments from Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, and Christian Fauria). It didn’t matter that the football universe knew it was a bad idea to go for the first down. Bill’s not going to admit he was wrong. You don’t win Super Bowls second-guessing yourself.

“I thought it was our best chance to win,’’ said Belichick, repeating his postgame remarks. “I thought we needed to make that one play and then we could basically run out the clock. And, we weren’t able to make it.’’

Would he do it again?

“You only get one chance.’’

Any awareness of the firestorm he ignited?

“I don’t think I’m probably up on all the commentary [phew, maybe I’ll escape the Nixonian Enemies List],’’ he said. “Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I respect that.’’

Cool. And we respect you, Bill. You know we do. You are the greatest local coach since Red Auerbach. But we are a little worried about the late-game clock management, the decision to play prevent defense when Indy got the ball down 13 with four minutes to play, and your total lack of confidence in your defense. Your team dominated the Colts for 56 minutes Sunday night. But how can we expect a Super Bowl run if you won’t let your defense do its job? You used to be in Peyton Manning’s head. Now it looks as if Manning is in your Motorola headset.

Why is it so terrible to say that this was a mistake? I think I’ve actually been wrong two or three million times over the last 25 years. Bet all of you could say the same thing.

A photo feature asked fans to rank blunders by Boston coaches and put Belichick’s gaffe alongside Don Cherry’s Too Many Men on the Ice, Don Zimmer’s decision to start Bobby Sprowl in the Yankee Massacre, John McNamara leaving Bill Buckner on the field in ’86 and, of course, Little’s moment of paralysis in Yankee Stadium in 2003.

The youngsters at forgot to include Joe McCarthy’s decision to start Denny Galehouse in the 1948 one-game playoff against the Indians.

Patriots-at-Colts was not a playoff game, but it was the most important game of the 2009 season and it could have enormous implications when the postseason rolls around.

Appearing on his contractually obligated gig on WEEI, Belichick was asked about the critical comments from Bruschi and Harrison and said, “I didn’t see Tedy’s comments. I have a lot of respect for those guys. Like everybody else, they’re entitled to their opinions.’’

Does he think he made the right move going for the first down?

“Yeah, absolutely,’’ he said.

That’s our guy Bill. Given the chance, he’d do it again. And in New England he’ll always have people telling him it was the right thing to do.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

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