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To challenege or not to challenge

On Nov. 4 of last year, the Patriots led the St. Louis Rams 33-14 early in the fourth quarter. After a 16-yard touchdown pass from Marc Bulger to Tory Holt, the Rams lined up for a two-point conversion, attempting to cut the Patriots lead to 11. Bulger handed the ball off to Marshall Faulk up the middle and Faulk surged forward extending the ball out towards the goal line. The referees declared it a successful conversion although the replay showed Faulk never broke the plane of the goal line. Bill Belichick challenged the play but after further review, the call was upheld.

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]()Now, flash forward to this past Sunday. In a similar situation, Panthers running back Stephen Davis was stacked up at the goal line by the Patriots defense and extended the ball forward, trying to score. The referees called it a touchdown but the television replay showed Davis clearly did not break the plane. While fans waited for the referees to blow a whistle and stop play before the extra point was kicked, the red flag never came out of Belichick's pocket.

It makes you wonder that if in the back of his mind, the Patriots coach was thinking back to last November. At his press conference, Belichick even referred to the call in the Rams game in his explanation of why he didn't challenge the Davis touchdown. "We challenged the two-point conversion in the St. Louis game and even looking back on it, I still think it was a good challenge," Belichick said. "That was a tough one for me."

Belichick admitted the play was close but at best it would have been second and goal from the one-inch line. He said the team saw the play but he didn't see a need to throw the red flag. "I didn't think there was enough evidence to warrant a challenge."

While Belichick was firm in his explanation that he saw the play and didn't think it warranted a review, many Patriots fans watching the game on television probably came to a different conclusion. Virtually all of the replays provided by CBS showed that Davis came up short of the end zone.

The only thing the Patriots could have challenged on that play was the spot of the football. Despite the fact that Davis appeared to have fumbled the ball before he reached the goal line, that aspect of the play could not be reviewed. The play was dead once the referee signaled for a touchdown.

Belichick went on to say that it would be a good idea if the NFL put cameras parallel to the goal line, like they do in tennis, so teams could get a better view if a player scores or not. He said the idea has been brought up many times in the past but the league refuses to do it. When asked why Belichick simply replied, "You'll have to ask them."

There is no question the Patriots could have reviewed Davis' first touchdown but in the grand scheme of things it probably wouldn't have changed the outcome of Sunday's game. The team played poorly and one call certainly wasn't the reason why the Patriots left Carolina with a loss. As Belichick said, "We need to do a better job of coaching and playing in all three areas of the game. I think we are a better football team than what we showed." The Patriots better hope their coach is right because next up is a visit to the 2-0 Steelers who have won their first two games by a combined score of 61-14.

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