Belichick Blunder May Cost Patriots Playoff Bye

Bill Belichick made a critical error on the final play against Miami on Sunday

Taz and the Moose
December 10, 2018 - 10:12 am

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It was perhaps the most exciting play of the week, and it probably never should have happened.

Trailing 33-28 with seven seconds to go, the Dolphins burned the Patriots with a pass and double lateral, as Kenyan Drake eluded Rob Gronkowski to score the game-winning touchdown as time expired. 

A lot went right for Miami on that play – and a lot went wrong for New England.

“The one thing that stood out to me, you talk about having Gronkowski back there,” 22-year NFL veteran Sean Landeta said on Taz & The Moose. “Obviously you want to have a tall guy to knock down the Hail Mary, but where they were on the field, they weren’t going to throw that ball in the air into the end zone.”

Indeed, the Dolphins had to go over 70 yards on the final play. Bill Belichick might not have accounted for that.

“If you put nine guys back on the 10-yard line and let them catch it in front of you, they probably wouldn’t score,” Landeta said. “Now, I know this is after the fact and that almost never happens, but I think Bill will look at that again and say to himself, ‘If I’m against a team where they can't put the ball in the air in the end zone, I don’t need to have that 6-7 tight end back there. I need to have a professional tackler – a defensive back, a linebacker or even a defensive end.’”

The Patriots fell to 9-4 with the loss – and it could cost them a bye in the playoffs. Miami (7-6), meanwhile, is knocking on the Wild Card door.

Many NFL teams practice end-of-game scenarios like this, and the Dolphins are no exception. It’s possible, though, that not everyone takes those midweek simulations seriously.

“You probably can visualize a team practicing that and guys maybe laughing as they’re doing it and having fun because of all the laterals and craziness,” Landeta said. “But that’s where the coaching is so important. The coach has to get across to these guys, ’Look, this may happen, and we can’t have this play work in a game if in practice you’re throwing it and lateraling it and laughing and thinking it’s something that won’t happen.’ So the coaches really have to bear down and say, ‘Look, even though this is a gadget play, you have to run this play thinking you can make it work.’ 

“After that, you have to get lucky,” Landeta continued. “I’m sure that play will be broken down, and a lot of us will see things that if one (Patriot) would have made one little different move, it wouldn’t have worked. But what an exciting finish. That’s one of the great things about football – just the fact that that can happen.”

The Patriots travel to Heinz Field for a pivotal showdown with the Steelers (7-5-1) this Sunday, while the Dolphins travel to Minnesota to take on the Vikings (6-5-1). All four teams are battling for playoff spots – and positioning.