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Posted: Monday November 16, 2009 2:33PM; Updated: Monday November 16, 2009 3:05PM
Jerome Bettis
Jerome Bettis>INSIDE THE NFL

Bus Stops: Belichick sends message that Patriots are scared of Colts

Story Highlights

Patriots of the past never had to make desperate calls like that

Maybe preseason thoughts on the Broncos not being good were correct

Stanford's Jim Harbaugh did the right thing by running up the score

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Peyton Manning and the Colts have the inside track on AFC home-field advantage.
Damian Strohmeyer/SI

If I had been on the Patriots' sideline Sunday night, I might have seen it a different way, but I hated Bill Belichick's call to go for it on fourth-and-two against the Colts. As a player, you get shortsighted when you're involved in the game. On every fourth-and-two in my career I guarantee I was saying, "Give me the ball." And I'm sure the players on that New England sideline were down with the move. That's the nice thing about being a player -- it was never your call. "Blame the coach! I'm just doing what he says." You can get away with being irrational as a player. It ain't your say and it ain't your fault. Maybe Tom Brady liked it, but players aren't in the right frame of mind to make that call.

Bottom line, it was a poor call in the situation. (If New England had been up seven, perhaps I'm a little more comfortable with the move.) You've got to force a team to beat you. Instead the Patriots beat themselves by handing Peyton Manning a small field. Simple as that.

Now here's the big picture problem that I see: After that call, people in the New England organization ought to be thinking, "Was Bill nervous? Was he scared of the Colts? What message does his call send to us?"

Think about it. This was, at the end of the day, a desperate move. The Patriots have controlled this series for years and they never had to make desperate moves like that; the Colts did. If Tony Dungy -- the underdog -- had made that call a few years ago, we would have understood. But all of a sudden Belichick is saying, "This is what we have to do to beat the Colts; we have to take this one amazing risk, otherwise Peyton Manning will probably march down the field and beat us."

The Patriots have always been the bullies in this rivalry, but last night they admitted, "We have to attempt something extraordinary to beat Indy." And that marks a huge change in thinking. The tide has mentally turned on one bad coaching decision. I see a power shift.

You just know Larry Johnson's phone line is blowing up today. Injuries piled up in Week 10. Brian Westbrook went down with a second concussion in three weeks, plus Ronnie Brown, Cedric Benson, Michael Turner and Julius Jones are all nicked up. I'd never have thought it last week, but there will be a line to talk to Larry Johnson. Somebody like the Falcons will definitely be talking to this guy. Do I like it? Nah. One week away from football isn't going to teach Johnson any lesson. But I think it's safe to assume he'll be back on a team this week.

My applause to Maurice Jones-Drew, who knelt down at the Jets' goal line yesterday to help run the clock out. That stuff never crossed my mind. Maybe I wasn't that smart, or maybe I was vain, but when I had the opportunity to score a touchdown I wasn't stopping for anything. The way I saw it, it was the coach's job to manage the time; it was my job to get across the goal line. If I punched it in, I'd done my job.

Give them credit: Cincinnati did a fantastic job of preventing Ben Roethlisberger from creating anything outside the pocket. When the Bengals had opportunities to take Ben down, they did it. Pittsburgh went 3-of-15 on third-down conversions and that was the key. They didn't get to sustain drives. As a player, that's a killer, walking off the field like that on short possessions.

I'll be the first to remind these guys that there's hope in the Wild Card, as that's where I see these Steelers headed.

Did you see Titans owner Bud Adams throw up the double-barreled bird at the Bills? What in the world was this guy thinking? Players get crushed when they make mistakes, so I'm interested to see how it's handled when an owner does the same. In the same week that Chad Ochocinco got fined $20,000 for what I thought was a pretty hilarious joke, let's see if Roger Goodell holds owners to the same standard.

Maybe we were right about the Denver Broncos and, more importantly, Kyle Orton after all. Teams let this guy sit back and do his thing for the first few weeks and his stats were eye-popping. Now that he has our attention, people are finally getting after him, and I think we're seeing a truer picture.

I remember starting 5-1 with the Rams during the first year we played in St. Louis, in 1995, and people got all excited about Chris Miller. I think some people finally started to take us seriously, they threw some pressure his way, and by the end of the year we were 7-9. I'm not burying the Broncos yet, but maybe we had this team pegged right.

Everybody wants to criticize Stanford and their coach, Jim Harbaugh, for running up the score on USC this Saturday, going for a two-point conversion late in the game when they led by more than 30 points. But I loved it. USC has been dominating Stanford for years, and finally the Cardinal had an opportunity to lay it on the Trojans heavy. So what else are they supposed to do, pull up? I applaud the move. Hell, hang 100 points on those guys.

Remember, everything you do in college football is for recruiting. Stanford recruits against USC, so if they have a chance to humiliate their recruiting rivals on the field, they've got to take it. I'll tell you from experience, this incident will carry a lot of weight when Jim Harbaugh is in some kid's living room recruiting against USC. "We took on a juggernaut," he can tell that kid, "and we slapped 'em in the face."

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