Bill Belichick laments Patriots' mistakes in shocking loss to Raiders
BOSTON -- For two decades, the staple of the Patriots organization was almost always making the right decision in critical moments, allowing opponents to fumble games away more often than not. Those days have been gone for some time, though Sunday marked the last time that anyone around the country may not be fully up to speed on that reality.
The Patriots committed an unforced error at the end of regulation of a tie game, turning a potential season-saving victory into a heartbreaking loss. That mistake was hard to even fathom, with Rhamondre Stevenson lateraling a ball to Jakobi Meyers, who then hurled a ball backward to the middle of the field in hopes of extending the play. Instead, his throw found Chandler Jones, who bulldozed Mac Jones en route to a 48-yard touchdown scamper to end the game.
It was a play that's typically only attempted when a team is trailing, in a desperate attempt to score the winning points. In a tie game, with both teams ready for overtime, the risk far outweighed the reward -- especially when considering the intended target of that throw was the not-so-mobile Mac Jones.
After the loss, head coach Bill Belichick summed up that sequence succinctly.
"I'd say we made a mistake," Belichick said.
When asked specifically if Stevenson was told to lateral the ball on that play, Belichick said, "I would say we made a mistake on it. You know, play didn't work. Made a mistake on the play."
Belichick was asked if the coaching staff told the players prior to the snap to go down and get to overtime rather than trying a desperation lateral play.
"Yeah, well, obviously that would've been better than the result," Belichick said. "Yeah look, we've talked about situational football, we talk about it every week. But we've obviously gotta do a better job playing situational football and not making critical mistakes in the game."
The Patriots also had an ugly offensive sequence in the first half, failing to score after getting a first-and-goal from the Raiders' 2-yard line. It was a sequence that involved Belichick calling timeout just before a snap, which came before a touchdown that did not count. Two burned timeouts and a penalty on fourth down pushed the ball back to the 6-yard line, forcing New England to settle for a field goal.
To Belichick, that was another case of too many mistakes.
"Yeah we need to try to eliminate all of the mistakes that we made. All of us," he said.
Belichick was asked if Jones snapped the ball too quickly on his QB sneak that didn't count due to a false start penalty on Jonnu Smith on the fourth down in that sequence.
"There was obviously a mistake on that play too," Belichick said.
Yet another issue sprung up just before halftime, when Adrian Phillips and Jabrill Peppers were looking at each other and setting up their blocking when long snapper Joe Cardona sent his snap back to punter Michael Palardy. An unblocked rusher blocked that punt, giving the Raiders prime field position. Las Vegas scored a touchdown before halftime to take a 17-3 lead.
"Yeah, so that was a mistake on the play," Belichick said of the blocked punt.
Belichick was asked if the mistake was made by Cardona for snapping the ball too early.
"It was a mistake on the play," Belichick answered.
As for his overall message to the team after a gut-punch loss like that, the coach -- as expected -- focused on the mistakes.
"Yeah, we have to eliminate those mistakes," Belichick said. "We just gave up some critical big plays. So we need to eliminate those, keep making the good ones, and stop making the critical bad ones."
The biggest gaffe was, quite obviously, the Stevenson-to-Meyers-to-the-wrong-Jones lateral to lose the game. On that play, Meyers took the blame for trying to do too much, Stevenson took the blame for putting Meyers in that position, and Jones took the blame for being unable to tackle Chandler Jones to get the game to overtime.
Clearly, there was no lack of accountability from the players involved with perhaps the most baffling play to end a game in NFL history. There also wasn't too much in the way of colorful details from the head coach when it came time to explain all of the mistakes being made by the Patriots.
It was only two NFL weeks ago when Al Michaels stated that the Patriots' clock mismanagement before halftime against the Bills was uncharacteristic. Sunday's loss ought to wipe away that perception once and for all. The mistakes have become the norm, and the Patriots commit them with regularity. On Sunday, a historic mistake cost them the game -- and, likely, their shot at the playoffs.
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