I can’t believe it’s come to this.
Never thought I’d think this, not even deep down in the recesses of my brain that I’d never admit to publicly.
Certainly could have never imagined I’d type this sentence for all the digital world to read.
But the harsh reality is that Patriots supposed GOAT coach Bill Belichick needed to think a little bit more like former Jets and Chiefs leader Herm Edwards late in Sunday evening’s 35-29 overtime loss to the Cowboys.
If there was one thing that Edwards -- who now leads the Arizona State football program -- was known for during his NFL head coaching career it is, you guessed it, his emotional declaration that “YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME!”
Somewhere along the line in New England’s 2-4 start to the 2021 season, including an 0-4 record at Gillette Stadium, Belichick seems to have forgotten that fundamental fact of competition. Has gotten too cautious. Too fixated on his longstanding underlying belief in not losing games, in letting other teams make the mistakes to lose.
Guess what? It’s not working. I’ll say it again and a bit louder for those in the cheap seats. It’s not working!
While it’s an approach that may have served him well at times over the years – insert Tom Brady disclaimer here! -- sometimes you just have to….PLAY TO WIN THE GAME!
That was never more evident than on the Patriots coin-toss winning first drive of overtime against the Cowboys.
After getting a first down on a 14-yard completion from Mac Jones to Jakobi Meyers, consecutive runs left a third-and-3 from the Patriots 46. An incomplete back-shoulder throw for Nelson Agholor – and a missed call by the officials – led to a fourth-and-3 from the 46.
Punt or go for it? A simple question with given all that had gone on during the evening’s back-and-forth crazy affair what should have been a simple answer.
And who would rather have make the not-so-tough decision in this situation than Mr. Situational Football himself Belichick? A guy who’s won Super Bowls with both his gut and his brain.
Well, in hindsight, probably Edwards.
With little thought, Belichick punted the ball back to the Cowboys, later explaining the ill-fated decision away with some cockamamie reference to Dallas kicker Greg Zuerlein’s strong leg and extended field goal range.
Predictably, a Dak Prescott-led offense that had already churned out more than 400 yards of offense, including driving 50 yards or more on each of its four previous possessions in the third and fourth quarters, got the ball back and moved it rather easily once again.
Seven plays later the Cowboys danced away winners on CeeDee Lamb’s 35-yard touchdown reception.
And Belichick was left a loser once more.
His defense, one that played a season-high 89 snaps over nearly 40 minutes of playtime, was spent. In the end it was also hung out to dry by its head coach.
In one simple decision Belichick showed no faith in his rookie QB’s offense, execution and ability to get a “gotta have it” play and misplaced faith in his aging, slowing, gassed defense.
What ever happened to the Belichick who once went for it on fourth-and-2 in his own end against Peyton Manning and the Colts trying to avoid watching Indy decimate his defense as it had all day? The guy who went for the win rather than hoped that the other team would lose?
Apparently, at least for now, he’s gone.
Left is a shell of his former genius self. A guy playing too cautiously, too conservatively with a dated approach that doesn’t fit his current lot in football life.
The Patriots have had a puncher’s chance in most of their losses this season, and certainly did on Sunday against the Super Bowl-contending Cowboys.
But their coach chose not to throw that punch, but rather took one on the chin.
Maybe if the Patriots played TO WIN THE GAME! a bit more often this season New England would actually have a few more wins.
Certainly felt like that was the case this week.