I was about to write a detailed blog using advanced statistics to illustrate why Belichick's decision to go for it on 4th down tonight was absolutely the right decision. Then I realized that someone had already done it for me .
To sum it up. Belichick's Patriots were up by six points and faced a 4th down and 2 at their own 28 yard line with just over 2:00 left in the game. Rather than punt, which just about every other coach in the league would have done (except maybe Sean Payton or Josh McDaniel), he decided to go for it.
Talking about what happened due to this decision is unimportant (and frankly painful for this Patriots fan) so I'll focus on the decision itself. As I mentioned Brian Burke, at www.advancednflstats.com, has already done a great post on this but I'm going to sum it up here in layman's terms and in a way that hopefully will make you realize how obvious this decision was.
Going for it on 4th and 2 at the 28 yard line is successful 60% of the time and if successful would effectively end the game. On average a punt from the 28 would net 38 yards. So a decision to punt would have to be based on an opinion that the extra 38 yards was more valuable than the opportunity to end the game 60% of the time.
Forget everything that Al Michaels and everyone is likely to say about this and think about that for a second. If you were in Belihick's place would you rather have that 60% to end the game or that extra 38 yards in field position?
The advanced stats back up Belichick but I actually think this is a case where a seemingly counter-intuitive decision is actually very straightforward. 38 yards in field position is not worth giving up a 60% opportunity to keep Peyton Manning on the sidelines.