The coach hailed as one of the NFL's best was a target of columnists, talk radio callers and two of his former players. Why, they all wondered, did he gamble with a six-point lead and just over two minutes to go against the Indianapolis Colts?
Should Belichick have gone for it?
Bill Belichick's decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the Patriots' 28-yard line has been hotly debated. Read what our experts have to say about the decision and then tell us what you think. **Discuss ...**
The gamble failed and the Patriots lost 35-34 after leading by 17 points in the fourth quarter Sunday night.
"The same thing I said after the game," Belichick said at his regular Monday news conference. "I thought it was our best chance to win. I thought we needed to make that one play and then we could basically run out the clock. We weren't able to make it."
An average punt would have left Peyton Manning about 60 to 70 yards from the end zone, a long distance but one Manning has traveled before with little time left.
Belichick was noncommittal Monday when asked if he would make the same decision again.
"You only get one chance," he said.
When that chance ended, the second guessing started.
NBC analyst Rodney Harrison, a safety for Belichick for six years who retired before this season, called it "the worst coaching decision I've ever seen Bill Belichick make."
ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi, who retired this year after 14 seasons as a Patriots linebacker, said, "The decision to go for it would be enough to make my blood boil for weeks. ... I would look at this decision as a lack of confidence in our ability as a defensive unit to come up with a big play to win the game."
Martz: Trying to win
"At first glance, you wonder why he didn't punt the ball. But when you go back and look at the tape, the defense had a meltdown. They played great defense for three quarters of that game, but the last two possessions, the Colts went 79 yards both times in two minutes or less. The Patriots were gassed. They were spent.
» Live chat: More Martz on Belichick
"Everybody's entitled to their opinion out there," he said. "I respect that."
Not everyone piled on.
"I just think that every situation is different," Caldwell said, "There are things that you have to weigh, you have to take into account, and things that are not readily available to the public, so I'm not going to question anybody's decision, especially someone who has won more Super Bowl championships than most people dream about."
It was hardly a spur of the moment decision. Belichick said he "pretty much" decided before the third-and-2 play that he would go for it on fourth down.
"We had a little miscommunication on that as to whether we were going to go (for the first down) or punt it," Belichick said. "That wasn't cleanly handled. Again, I'll take responsibility for that."
Welker called the first with 12:46 left in the third quarter when he spotted the team in the wrong formation, a decision Belichick agreed with. The second came with 2:23 left in the game after a Colts kickoff because "we were heading into a series there and we just wanted to make sure that everything was right," Belichick said.
So with no timeouts left, he couldn't challenge the spotting of the ball a yard short of the first down when Kevin Faulk was tackled after bobbling, then catching, Brady's fourth-down pass.
"I think he had the first down when the ball hit his hands," Belichick said, "and then where it was finally marked and all was a little bit short."
But, he said, "it doesn't really matter" if he disagreed with the spot.
Then the defenders returned to the field, defenders who may feel their coach lacks confidence in them.
"I tell the team, and I think they believe, that I do what I feel like is best for our football team to win every game," he said. "I put the team first and I put those decisions first. I would hope everybody understands that."
What will Belichick's message to them be when they return to practice Wednesday?
"We'll start getting ready for the Jets," he said. "That's what we do every week, start turning the page and we move on."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press