Week 15 of the 2021 NFL season saw a lot of head coaches going for it on fourth down and opting for two-point conversion attempts instead of extra points, thus creating a lot of second-guessing when these moves didn't produce the desired results.
One important decision where a head coach decided to kick a field goal instead of going for a touchdown on fourth down was Bill Belichick late in Saturday night's game between the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts.
The Patriots coach wasn't overly optimistic about his team's chances of converting a 4th-and-goal from the Colts' 7-yard line with Indy leading 20-7 with 8:57 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Nick Folk kicked a 25-yard field goal to trim the deficit to 20-10. This set up a scenario where the Patriots had nearly nine minutes to get a stop on defense and score a touchdown, and then get another stop and score again to tie the game or go ahead.
What went into Belichick's decision to try the field goal instead of running a 4th-and-goal play? He surprisingly gave a detailed answer in his video press conference with reporters Monday morning.
"It’s still a two-possession game and now it’s a field goal. I thought there was enough time left that we would have enough possessions to be able to score 10 points, which we conceivably could have," Belichick explained. "It would have been, was it 4th-and-goal on the 7? Is that what it would’ve been? I didn’t feel great about converting 4th-and-goal from the 7.
"Had there been less time and there’s a situation where you would go for it or I would go for it on 4th-and-goal at the 7, absolutely. I didn’t think, in that game situation, that would’ve been the best decision. I thought that would’ve passed up three points and that would’ve taken two touchdowns. At the end of the game, especially in the dome, having a chance at a 50-plus yard field goal, I think it’s a lot better chance than scoring a touchdown and having a six-point differential as opposed to a three-point differential, relative to the chances of converting a 4th-and-7.
"At some point, I definitely would have kept the offense on the field on 4th-and-7 with less time or no timeouts. You can, certainly, take that scenario further, so then you get into the grey area of which one would you do if there’s less time, fewer timeouts, whatever."
The Patriots did get a stop on defense and scored a touchdown to cut the Colts' lead to 20-17. The problem was that late TD came with 2:25 remaining, so there wasn't much time for New England to get another defensive stop and score again.
Although it didn't matter when Colts running back Jonathan Taylor ran through the Patriots defense for a 67-yard touchdown in the final two minutes to secure Indy's 27-17 win.
Maybe the outcome would've been different had the Patriots gone for it on fourth down, but Belichick's explanation did make plenty of sense. Sometimes you make the right decision and it still doesn't work out. This probably was one of those instances.