INDIANAPOLIS – Are you still shocked?
You should be. It's next to impossible to fathom how the Patriots lost to the Colts. How they squandered a 17-point, fourth-quarter lead.
How they went for it on that fourth down.
We've seen this before. This season, in fact. Week 3, clinging to a six-point lead against an undefeated Atlanta, New England was backed up at its own 24-yard line and decided to go for it on fourth down. They ran Sammy Morrisup the gut for the necessary yard, and then another for good measure.
But that was still early in the game. Had the play not worked and the Falcons scored to take the lead, the Pats would still have had plenty of time to mount a comeback.
This was for it all. At the end of the game. Against the 8-0 Colts. In their own building.
Make it and the game is over. Don't make it and … well … you risk going home with a 35-34 loss.
After the disaster – years after, perhaps – there's sure to be second-guessing about this play. Almost none could be found, however, in the moments immediately following it. Not among the Patriots, at least.
"We came out here to win," head coach Bill Belichicktold reporters. "Tried to win the game on that play. I thought we could make the yard. I thought we had a good play. I don't know how we couldn't get a yard on that completion. I guess we didn't.
"We thought we could win the game on that play. We would have been able to run out the clock or run out most all of the clock. That was a yard I was confident we could get."
From their own 28-and-a-half yard line, the Patriots needed to get to the 30 for a first down. QB Tom Bradytook the shotgun snap and quickly fired a pass to his right to running back Kevin Faulk, who made the catch but was immediately met by Colts safety Melvin Bullitt. The play happened right around the 30, but the officials spotted the ball inches shy of it. Colts ball.
"We had an opportunity to win the game. That's all you can ask for as an offense," a poised Brady said in his post-game remarks to the media.
"Coach being aggressive … and I love that about him. He gave us a chance to make the play."
Brady added that he wasn't surprised when the coaching staff told him to stay on the field.
"I love the call. The coach had confidence we could make it. I had confidence we could make it. We all did. We hit the pass and came up just short."
After alerting reporters that he needed a few moments to collect himself, Faulk put on a brave face and fielded questions for several minutes. He insisted there was no surprise at Belichick's decision to go for it.
"You can't be surprised at that point. The game is on the line. So, you have to be able to get it done," Faulk reasoned.
"It doesn't matter what decisions Bill makes. We have to execute the play no matter what."
On the other side of the ball, New England's defense found itself in the most unenviable of positions – having to prevent Peyton Manning and his momentum-stealing Colts from going 30 yards to win the game.
"You have to ask Bill. I don't know why he went for it. I guess he thought we could get it," said LB Adalius Thomas.
"It's not my decision," CB Leigh Boddenobserved. "He had faith in the offense to get two yards. You have to look at it that, if we didn't get it, he had faith in the defense that we could stop them."
"It's Peyton … " Thomas concluded. "We had a chance to stop them and didn't stop them."