Needing a first down to seal the game, Belichick decided to go for it on fourth-and-2 from his own 28 with 2:08 to go. The Patriots called their second timeout of the drive, leaving them with none, to set up the play: A short pass from Brady to Kevin Faulk(notes), something the 2007 NFL MVP had repeatedly used to burn Indy’s young, depleted pass defense all night.
Not this time.
Faulk made a juggling catch but safety Melvin Bullitt(notes), who replaced Bob Sanders(notes) in the lineup, came straight up the field and drove the Patriots running back into the ground a half-yard short of the marker.
The miss gave Manning 1 minute, 57 seconds and all three timeouts—an eternity for the three-time MVP—and he went right to work.
Manning hooked up with Wayne for 14 yards. He let Joseph Addai(notes) carry the ball for 13 yards, down to the Patriots 1. He sent Addai inside again on first-and-goal, the same play Addai scored on to win the 2006 AFC Championship game, but he got nothing. So Manning went back to Wayne in the end for the win.
The Pats got the ball back on the kickoff after that last TD with something like 9 seconds left, and the clock promptly ran out after one in-bounds completion by Brady.
After the game, play-by-play guy Al Michaels asked a couple of analysts about Belichick's decision -- former Colts coach Tony Dungy and someone else, whose name I forget. Both agreed that Belichick made a bad call, not punting on 4th & 2 from his own 28. I thought so too, at first, but re-thinking it, I think Belichick made the right call given the amount of time left in the game (just over 2 minutes). He probably figured that, if the Pats didn't convert, the Colts would likely score a TD -- but starting from his ~28 yard line, they'd score it quickly, leaving plenty of time for the Pats to get into range for a game winning field goal afterwords. And that's probably what would have happened had Pats defenders not stopped Colts RB Joseph Addai at the 1 yard line on his 13 yard run.