One of the main talking points after Sunday night’s showdown between the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots, along with Tom Brady erasing a 24-point deficit and Peyton Manning looking uncomfortable in the cold, was Bill Belichick’s decision to kick the ball away at the start of overtime.
The Patriots won the coin toss at the start of overtime. But instead of taking the ball at the start of overtime, Belichick chose to have the wind at his back. It was the first time a coach chose not to receive the ball at the start of overtime since the league switched to its new overtime format two years ago.
With the 20-mph winds limiting Manning’s ability to throw downfield, the Patriots eventually won late in overtime after a muffed punt gave the Patriots the ball inside the red zone. They won, 34-31, on a field goal.
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“The wind was significant in the game. It was definitely significant,” Belichick said after the game, according to The Boston Globe. “We just had to keep them out of the end zone [on the first possession of overtime], obviously.”
Just a week ago, Ravens coach John Harbaugh considered doing the same thing in the overtime loss to the Chicago Bears, a game that was delayed nearly two hours due to a deadly storm front that rolled through the Midwest.
Ultimately, the Ravens opted to receive the ball and lost when the Bears kicked a field goal on the second possession of overtime. So why didn’t Harbaugh take the wind? The Ravens knew it was blowing hard, but they couldn’t figure out which way it was swirling.
“We had that conversation," Harbaugh said last Monday. "We thought real hard about taking the wind there. It’s not so much deferring. You would take the wind is how you would do that. Then, we just couldn’t decide which way the wind was blowing. Honestly, it was swirling back and forth both ways, and once we had disagreement on which way the wind was blowing, then it was pretty straightforward for me to say we’re taking the ball if we win the toss."
Harbaugh didn’t pull the trigger, but now that Belichick did in a Patriots win in primetime, we could see other coaches kick off at the start of overtime if the wind is a significant factor in future games.