1) Nareed's third law of football states: Any risky decision must assume the likely worst case scenario. If you can live with it, then take the risk.
So given the Pat's history and the quality of their offense, the worst case scenario is they fail to convert on 4th and 2, leaving one of the NFL's best offenses in their 28 yard line. Maybe Mr. Bellichick can live with that, but most NFL coaches can't.
2) The play took place before the 2 minute warning and when New England had used up all time outs. In other words there was no chance at all of reviewing the play. 4th down conversions are almost always close plays, and this one was no exception. Had the play been reviewed, I think the officials would have spotted the ball on or past the 1st down marker, ratehr than behind it.
Now, one can argue a coach cannot foresee a bad call. THat's true. But an experienced coach should know, as do all fans, that bad calls are always a possibility, especially in close plays like 4th down conversions. So the decision to undertake a risky, close play with the game riding on it was made without a safety net, thus increasing the risk of failure.
3) An explanation given by many comentators and monday morning QBs is that the New England defense was exhausted, therefore the coach dind't want to trust them with stopping a long Indianapolis drive. Fair enough. But did he want to trust them to stop a short Indy drive? Me, I'd rahter have Indy on their side of the field than on mine.
I'll grant you all my objections, plus Nareed's third law, are very conservative. Football is a highly conservative game, where risks are few and taken almost always when 1) they don't much matter or 2) when there are other options after a failed play. Games are thrown to safeguard an important player for further games. This is so ingrained in the League I've a highly accurate prediction rate on 2 point conversions.
Of course the NFl could change the rules to make the game riskier. Here's an idea: teams can only punt the ball if they are behind their 40 yard line. This wouldn't increase risk much, as the safest play to risk a 4th down conversion is past your own 40, but it's a start.
Oh, as to the Pats game, here are two alternatives I contemplated:
1) Do a tight formation loudly indicating a fullback run, then do a long, highly variable snap count and try to draw the Colts offside. If it works you win the game, if it doesn't you take the delay of game penalty (5 yards) and punt.
2) Do the formation exactly as they did, only Brady punts the ball rather than throw it, meanwhile the wide receivers and tight ends run towards Indy's side. This works only if Brady is a fair punter, and I've no info on that one way or another. But there'd be no Colts players downfeld, so even a measly thirty yard punt would bounce and roll furhter downfield, while New England would be in a good position to cover the ball and kill it inside Colts territory. It cold rattle the Colts a little, too.
However, if you decide to go for it, run a play that will at least get you the first down if you complete it. I don't get how they can complete the pass and not get the first down. In my opinion, good decision, bad play call/execution.
Does Nareed have a 1st and 2nd law of football?
Glad you asked. The First states:
"Any game lost by one score was really lost by more than one score." meaning the game was lost because you allowed the other team to score so much you have to try and catch up at the end of the game. The corollary is "Any game lost by one play was really lost by more than one play."
"You cannot count on the right call from the officials."
Does Nareed have a 1st and 2nd law of football?
The first law of football is ... You do not talk about football.
The second law of football is ... You do not talk about football.
Don't know about risky coaching.
It seems there is some controversy about a decision to attempt some particular play and then a controversy about a referee's call on that play.
My only question is: what was the impact on the bookies?
For what it is worth, here is an article taking the opposite point of view.
I simply disagree with that third law. If you have a higher probability of winning taking the risky decision now, then do so. Following Murphy's Law is just postponing the big play, when your odds of making it may not be as good.
The Laws of Football are descriptive. I've noticed that's how most coaches calculate risk, especially with 2 point conversions. Most coaches are very conservative and take few risks. The attitude of the League's coahes may be wrong, but the law is right ;)
Seriously, it's rare for a big, risky chance to be taken when there's a less risky alternative available. Bellichick's play was one. The only other recent one I can recall was Shanahan in Denver last year vs San Diego when he went for the two point conversion to win, rather than the extra point to tie.
When a team is down and running out of time it will take bigger chances. But then they have little to lose and the defense will probably be playing in a conservative "prevent defense" mode.
I favor trying to convert on 4th and short when your team is driving around mid field. Deep inside your own territory is another matter, more so when you are winning.