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Colts vs Patriots 2009: Pass the smelling salts - to Belichick, too

Over an eight-year rivalry, Colts vs Patriots 2009 is the most outlandish. Credit a moment of madness by Belichick.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / November 16, 2009

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick walks off the field after Sunday night's loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

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By midnight, former Patriot turned broadcaster Rodney Harrison – a man so ferocious he was once voted the NFL's dirtiest player – was marshalling all his strength to keep from weeping like a child on the air. Boston talk radio hosts were yelling at one another as though on the verge of blows. And across New England, disbelief rose like a mushroom cloud.

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Somehow, improbably, unbelievably, the New England Patriots had lost to the Indianapolis Colts Sunday night, 35-34.

Over 12 games between Patriots and Colts since 2001 – a series of games rightly deemed the Rivalry of the Decade – there has been none as outlandish as this. In fact, Steve Sabol and his NFL Films crew would be hard pressed to find many equals among his reels of football history for the title of Most Dramatic and Mind-Boggling Turn of Events to End a Game of Football.

It was not merely the fourth-quarter comeback engineered by Colts quarterback Peyton Manning – shackled for so much of the game, so often mumbling to himself like some hobo as he trudged from the field – that made this game extraordinary.

It was not that last diving catch by Colt receiver Reggie Wayne that left the fan asking for smelling salts, wondering if he was actually being "Punk'd" by Al Michaels.

If ever a moment called for Jack Buck, it was this:

Two minutes and eight seconds to play. The Patriots leading by six. They have the ball at their own 28 yard line. It is fourth and 2.

At that moment, the sporting world must assume, Patriot coach Bill Belichick's mind whirred into furious motion.

Option 1: I can do what 31 other coaches in this league would do and punt the ball to the Colts. I can put as much field between my end zone and Manning as humanly possible. I can bar the gates, prepare the boiling oil, send on my firstborn son as extra defensive cover in the dime package. Anything to make it harder for the Colts to score seven points.

Or ...

(And this is where only Belichick dares to roam – an area of such supreme confidence that it does not border on arrogance but rather overflows it in flood-tide, a realm where common sense is the requiem of those too cowardly to trust brilliance in all its frightening forms.)

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