By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com Staff Reporter Follow @dannypicard
FOXBORO --Bill Belichick isnt afraid to go for it on fourth down.Everyone in New England and the rest of the football world knows that.
And the Patriots coach proved that to be true once again onSunday at Gillette Stadium against the San Diego Chargers.
Clinging to a 20-14 lead with just under 12 minutes left inthe fourth quarter, Belichick decided to keep Tom Brady and the rest of theoffense on the field for a 4th-and-4 at the San Diego 49-yard line.
Bradys attempted pass to Deion Branch was incomplete, andNew England turned the ball over, while giving the Chargers pretty good fieldposition and a chance to take the lead. After the game, Belichick acknowledged that the decision to go for it was tied to the health of his punter, Zoltan Mesko, who was injured earlier in the game.
But still, they went for it on fourth down, and they failed to convert.
Three plays into San Diego's ensuing drive, runningback Mike Tolbert was stuffed in the backfield by Jerod Mayo, and lost theball, leading to Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich recovering the fumble at theNew England 39-yard line.
Oh yeah, it was big, said Ninkovich after the game. Rightafter that fourth down, we didnt make it, and we had to go out there and makea stop. That was a big play in the game for us, and then the offense went downand scored with that. So it was a big turn for us in that game.
Brady drove his troops 61 yards down the field and capped itwith a 17-yard touchdown pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski, giving the Pats a28-14 lead after the two-point conversion, with 8:40 left in the game.
New England went on to win 35-21, but had Ninkovich neverrecovered Tolberts fumble and the Chargers went on to score a touchdown fortheir second straight possession, then many would be talking about Belichicksdecision to go for it on 4th-and-4 from midfield.
Its all hypothetical. But the bottom line is, New Englandsdefense bailed out the rest of the team on that San Diego possession thatfollowed a failed fourth-down conversion.
Ninkovichs fumble recovery was just one of four turnoverscaused by the Patriots defense in Sundays win. But given the circumstancesand timing, it was the most crucial.
It was great, said Patriots safety Sergio Brown after thewin. Like we said, we went into the game trying to get turnovers, and it feltlike all of them were perfect timing. We felt good about it, and were glad wewere able to come up with it.
Its huge for us, said Patriots wide receiver Wes Welkerabout his defense causing turnovers. Any time we can get stops, its an extrapossession for us, and I think we need to take better advantage of thosechances and make sure were putting points on the board and playingcomplementary football out there with each other.
Danny Picard is on twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.