FOXBOROUGH — Although there was plenty to feel good about in the aftermath of Sunday’s 31-21 victory over the Denver Broncos, Patriots coach Bill Belichick offered a harsh self-criticism for his handling of a botched third-and-goal call from the Denver 1 just before halftime.
Even though the Patriots went 11 for 17 on third-down conversions, Belichick was still bothered by the mised opportunity just before halftime. Von Miller tackled Brandon Bolden for a 4-yard loss as the Patriots tried to execute a no-huddle third-and-1 run. Bolden was held to a 1-yard gain on second and goal from the Denver 2.
The Patriots had to take their final timeout of the half with six seconds remaining and settled for a 23-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski and a 17-7 halftime lead. If the Patriots scored a touchdown, they would have taken a 21-7 lead at intermission.
“I could have done a better job with that,’’ Belichick said Monday. “The whole situation – the play, the whole thing – it wasn’t a great personal highlight for me.’’
After Sunday’s game, Belichick defended a botched call in the fourth quarter on fourth and 5 from the Denver 37 with 8:08 left that resulted in a strip-sack of Tom Brady. The Broncos took possession on the New England 43.
Six plays later, Peyton Manning found Brandon Stokley with a 5-yard TD pass that cut New England’s lead to 31-21 with 6:43 remaining.
“Trying to pick it up,’’ Belichick said postgame when asked about his decision to go for it. “It was too long for a field goal. The ball was on the 30-whatever yard line, so we were just trying to pick up the first down.’’
Asked why he opted not to punt, Belichick said, “Because we didn’t have very far to go. We would have gained some yardage if we punted it, possibly, depending on how good the punt was. We would have had to protect it and that. I thought we had a good chance to pick it up there; we just didn’t do a good job on it.’’
Belichick said after Sunday’s game there were a “handful’’ of negative plays that could use improvement.
“Offensively, we had about four penalties, we had four negative runs, four sacks, and we had a couple of fumbles and we lost one of them,’’ Belichick said. “There were a couple of other times where the ball came out.
“Defensively, we had one run over 10 yards and about six passes over 10 yards. Kickoff return, we had one penalty there. We had one penalty in the kicking game, we had a penalty where we had a return out past the 30-yard line.
“I don’t think any of those were back-breaking plays but they were plays where we’d like to play better, so let’s start with those. It remains a handful — two handfuls — whatever it is.”
On the plus side of the ledger? The Patriots seemed to have more positive than negative plays.
“Well, we had the advantage in turnovers, we certainly had a big advantage in rushing yardage and time of possession,’’ Belichick said. “We were able to get into the red area more than they were. Both teams were successful in the red area for the most part.
“We didn’t get the one at the end of the half, which was another thing we could’ve handled a little bit better. When we get down there, we need to convert those into touchdowns, which is what we needed to do yesterday,’’ he said. “Usually, when you play Peyton [Manning] and a team like that, usually you need to get more than two-three field goals. There were some good things. Had good kickoff coverage, so there were plenty of good things and plenty of other things we could’ve done better.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.