Shanoff's WUC: Belichick Made The Right Call

Today's Calls: Bill Belichick vs. Hindsight, Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson vs. Chris Johnson, TCU vs. Texas, Brandon Jennings vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, John Wall vs. Xavier Henry and More. ↵

↵Bill BelichickThe Opening Pitch: Bill Belichick made the right call. ↵

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↵That the Colts stopped the Pats on 4th-and-2, setting up their game-winning TD drive deep in Pats territory, is irrelevant. The fact is the call was the right one. ↵

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↵Coaching decisions in the NFL are a mix of knowing the percentages and intuition based on experience. And the percentages said that the Pats were better off trying for two yards to secure the win — even in their own territory — than willingly giving the Colts back the ball, wherever. ↵

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↵And even if you don't believe the stats, your gut instinct would affirm that a bet on Tom Brady and the Pats offense to get two yards to secure the game was a better one than hoping the Pats D could stop a Colts offense that was basically unstoppable in the 4th quarter, whether they were going from the Pats' side of the field or their own. ↵

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↵That's why to call this a "gamble" that "backfired" mischaracterizes the situation: It wasn't a "gamble"; it was actually the superior of two options. And it didn't "backfire"; the Colts would have scored just as easily off a punt. Going for it was the only reasonable option. ↵

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↵It's easy to second-guess, because it didn't work out. I think you'll find the hot trend today is actually defending Belichick's move. ↵

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↵Hopefully, it allows for a larger conversation about the value of analytical reasoning in coaching decisions. It certainly helps that it was Belichick who made the decision — he has the cred to back it up, even when it doesn't work out this time. Lesser coaches would be getting roasted — of course, lesser coaches would have wimped out and punted, inevitably losing anyway. ↵

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↵The shame is that this highly public result — and accompanying hand-wringing — will reinforce mindless play-calling choices, even when the analysis supports making the non-traditional choice. ↵

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↵The sports world can divide into two camps: Either you think Belichick made the right decision — despite the result — or you lambaste him for it. (But I suspect if the Pats had converted it, those nay-sayers would be saying, "Belichick: What a genius!" The more analytically minded would be saying, "Success or not, it was the right choice.") ↵

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↵If the Pats find themselves in the exact same scenario in the AFC championship game, I think — I hope — they would do the same thing. Chances are that next time, it will work. ↵

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↵That's why he went for it this time. ↵

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↵NFL Talking Points: ↵

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↵— Back in August, anyone have the Bengals ahead of the Steelers in the AFC North after Week 10, including a gritty head-to-head win to cinch it? ↵

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↵— So much for ...: All that Cowboys mojo. ↵

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↵— Just when you think Reggie Bush couldn't be more irrelevant, he goes and proves himself valuable. ↵

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↵— The silver lining to the Titans otherwise sorry season: Chris Johnson has established himself as the best all-purpose player in the NFL. ↵

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↵— This week's Just-When-You-Thought-You-Understood-The-NFL moment: The Redskins beat the Broncos. (Close runner-up: Panthers over the Falcons.) ↵

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↵— Injury Watch: Brian Westbrook with another concussion — is his career over? Or just severely restricted? ↵

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↵— If you had to pick one of these two QBs to stake your franchise on, would you take Chad Henne or Josh Freeman? (The Dolphins are presumably very happy with where Henne is right now.) ↵

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↵— Fantasy Play of the Day: How many weeks were won (or lost) when MJD pulled up a yard short of a TD, letting the Jags milk the clock entirely before beating the Jets? ↵

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↵— Fantasy Stud: Sidney Rice. In a walkover win for the Vikings, Brett Favre-to-Rice was unstoppable. ↵

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↵CFB Weekend Hangover: USChadenfreude. I love how everyone thought things couldn't possibly get worse for USC than getting pasted at Oregon. Oh, it can get worse: How about an even bigger throttling — and not just at home, but by Stanford, which just owns USC at the Coliseum. Let's enjoy it (oh, really really really enjoy it) — USC will be back, quickly. ↵

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↵(Speaking of which: No team has a more impressive pair of wins than Stanford's over USC and Oregon.) ↵

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↵Meanwhile: TCU's blistering win over Utah was better than any win Texas will have this season — certainly better than any win Texas will have in the final stretch of the season. (Not that it helped TCU's BCS ranking.) ↵

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↵My BlogPoll Ballot Top 10: (1) TCU, (2) Texas, (3) Alabama, (4) Florida, (5) Cincinnati, (6) Boise State, (7) Georgia Tech, (8) Pitt, (9) LSU, (10) Stanford. (USC: Unranked. Check out the complete poll here.) ↵

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↵My Heisman Ballot: (1) Toby Gerhart; (2) C.J. Spiller, (3) Josh Nesbitt. ↵

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↵NBA Talking Points: Brandon Jennings has turned himself into the most must-see player in the NBA. More than LeBron. More than Wade. More than Kobe. More than Durant. He's seven games into his NBA career and he is already legendary. A double-nickel (after going scoreless in the 1st quarter — and 29 points in the 3rd — will do that for you.) Catch him again tonight at 8, at home against the Mavs. He seems ready to move on. ↵

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↵Rockets beat Lakers in L.A.: Any of you preseason experts still doubt Houston? ↵

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↵MLB Hot Stove: Curtis Granderson to the Cubs? Plus: Your team might get Dan Uggla, but don't expect him to move from 2B. ↵

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↵CBB Weekend Openers: Here's how good John Wall is — he didn't play in Kentucky's opener, and his backup, Eric Bledsoe, scored 24 to pace UK. ... Maybe we're focusing on the wrong super-frosh: Kansas' Xavier Henry opened with a team-high 27. ... You can already tell things are not right at Mississippi State. ... Tonight: More Kentucky must-see-ness. (The real must-see is Tuesday morning at 6: St. Peter's vs. Monmouth, if only for the novelty of hoops on TV at 6 a.m.) ↵

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↵Recruiting: Harrison Barnes picks UNC. I'm not sure North Carolina is a great place for any freshman with his eyes on a "one-and-done" college career, but Barnes could do worse than using Marvin Williams as a template: One season at UNC, one national title — followed by being the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA draft. ↵

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↵The Last Word: "We tried to win the game on that play. I thought we could make the yard. We had a good play, we completed it. I don't know how we couldn't get a yard." — Patriots coach Bill Belichick ↵

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↵Let's hope we get a Pats-Colts rematch in the playoffs. Last night’s game more than matched its Game-of-the-Year expectations. ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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