If ever a moment called for Jack Buck, it was this:
Two minutes and eight seconds to play. The Patriots leading by six. They have the ball at their own 28 yard line. It is fourth and 2.
At that moment, the sporting world must assume, Patriot coach Bill Belichick's mind whirred into furious motion.
Option 1: I can do what 31 other coaches in this league would do and punt the ball to the Colts. I can put as much field between my end zone and Manning as humanly possible. I can bar the gates, prepare the boiling oil, send on my firstborn son as extra defensive cover in the dime package. Anything to make it harder for the Colts to score seven points.
(And this is where only Belichick dares to roam – an area of such supreme confidence that it does not border on arrogance but rather overflows it in flood-tide, a realm where common sense is the requiem of those too cowardly to trust brilliance in all its frightening forms.)
Option 2: I can go for it. I can try to keep the ball out of the hands of Manning, who has stomped on my young-and-tiring defense in the fourth quarter with hob-nailed boots. I can put the ball in the hands of my best player, quarterback Tom Brady, and trust him to win the game for me.
I am Bill Belichick. I choose Option 2.
Patriots gain one yard. Colts' ball.
Fifty-five seconds later Wayne's languid form – never hurried, ever graceful – falls to the turf with bedlam cradled in his taut fingertips.
Yes, Mr. Buck: "I don't believe what I just saw."
The team of mathematicians that broke the Enigma code would need a month simply to divine from the game film exactly how the Colts won. How the Patriots lost. Both. Heaven help the analysts at ESPN's "NFL Gameday."