Commentary

Pats' fourth-down choice a no-brainer

Though it didn't convert late in the game, New England had the odds in its favor

Updated: October 25, 2010, 1:04 PM ET
By Bill Barnwell | Football Outsiders
Tom BradyDonald Miralle/Getty ImagesWith a suspect pass defense, the Patriots were better off going for it on fourth down.

No one does fourth-and-short quite like the New England Patriots and Bill Belichick.

When the Patriots showed that they were going to attempt to convert a fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter against the San Diego Chargers at midfield just as the two-minute warning hit, we all thought the same thing: This didn't work last year. The Colts' famous stop of Kevin Faulk just short of the first-down marker ended up creating a game-winning opportunity for Peyton Manning and led to infinite second-guessing. And when the Patriots were stuffed again on fourth-and-short this time around, New England fans who were against the call last year undoubtedly got out a few expletives and cursed their fate for being saddled with one of the game's most aggressive (if successful) coaches.

The move ended up being just about irrelevant once Kris Brown's game-tying field goal attempt hit the goalpost. But was Belichick right to go for it? A look at the numbers and the formation of a decision tree should give us a good idea of whether or not it was the correct call.


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Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) is a staff writer for Grantland.