The New England Patriots fell to 1-3 on the season after losing to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on “Sunday Night Football” in Week 4. While the Patriots were able to hang around against the defending Super Bowl champions, the loss did feature a couple of questionable decisions by coach Bill Belichick that seemingly directly altered the outcome of the game. The most notable came on New England’s final drive of the night.
After the Bucs were able to travel 45-yards down the field and kick a go-ahead field goal to give them the 19-17 lead, the Patriots would get the ball at their own 25-yard line and eventually move the ball deep into Tampa Bay territory. After an incomplete pass from Mac Jones intended for Jakobi Meyers, New England was facing a fourth-and-3 situation at the Bucs 37 yard line with just under a minute to play. It was at that point where Belichick put the game on the shoulders of kicker Nick Folk, who was asked to put them back in front with a 56-yard field goal attempt.
And it came up just short.
While hindsight is 20/20, there was some immediate question as to whether or not the Patriots should have elected to keep the offense on the field and attempt to move the chains on the fourth down try. After all, Mac Jones had completed 19 straight passes against this secondary at one point in this game and the weather conditions at the time at Gillette Stadium were less than ideal from a kicking standpoint. That said, Bill Belichick told reporters on Monday that there was really no doubt that going with Folk was their best course of action.
“It really wasn’t much of a decision there,” said Belichick. “We converted two third downs in the game. Nick [Folk] kicked well. No, there wasn’t any consideration.”
The Patriots did struggle on third down converting just two of their nine attempts on the night. That was largely thanks to an inferior rushing attack that totaled -1 yards on the night. However, Jones and the passing attack were able to throw for 16 of their 20 first down conversions on the night, so the question is warranted.
The other questionable decision by the coaching staff came just prior to halftime. Instead of possibly going for it on fourth-and-2 from the Buccaneers 44-yard line, New England elected to punt the ball back to Tampa Bay, who would eventually drive down the field with less than two minutes and kick a 44-yard field goal prior to the break. Both instances the Patriots decided against putting their foot on the gas and stayed conservative. While that may prove to be wise in other situations down the line, it didn’t do them any favors on Sunday.