No one knew it at the time, but the Patriots’ strike late in the game Thursday night was ultimately New England’s last attempt at a comeback. Bill Belichick, despite having three timeouts, allowed the Bills to finish the game with three falls to their knees after the Patriots failed to recover a hit in the game with 1:57 left.
Initially it seemed that Belichick had no intention of pulling back the curtain on this decision following his team’s 24-10 defeat. But after a short pause, the famous silent coach decided to share the motivation for his decision.
“I thought it was the best thing to do for our team. In the Baltimore game, we went the other way and lost Mack for three weeks,” Belichick said. “I didn’t think it was worth it.”
Belichick hinted at his approach at the end of the third week when New England lost to Baltimore. After trailing 37-26, the Patriots attempted to make a two-point game in the final three minutes. Instead of scoring, New England suffered an injury to quarterback Mack Jones that ultimately sidelined him for the next three games.
With this sequence in mind, Belichick ultimately decided it was better for his team to drop the proverbial white flag on Thursday night than to give his offense another opportunity. While his reasoning makes sense, and despite the fact that a hitback against the Bills would have been unlikely, Belichick’s decision not to use all the resources at his disposal still baffles the second-best coach in NFL history.
Equally puzzling is the Patriots’ inability to make the necessary adjustments to offense in 12 games of the season, especially after their third loss. New England, ranked 31st in the NFL in third down efficiency, scored just 3 of 12 on third down Thursday night.
“A combination of things,” Belichick said of his team’s failures with a third loss. “Today I would just say that we did not do enough. There were some opportunities, but we weren’t able to take advantage of them.”