EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- For the first 67 minutes and 43 seconds, rookie Chris Jones was having himself a dream game. Ten tackles, two sacks, three tackles for loss. All for the overlooked, undrafted kid from Bowling Green.
Then, into the blissful dream, came the van packed with chainsaw wielding clowns.
Freelancing on a 56-yard overtime field goal attempt, Jones -- lined up to the left of teammate Will Svitek -- looped behind Svitek and shoved forward. Immediately, an official’s flag flew.
The call was against Jones, an unsportsmanlike penalty for “stacking and pushing from behind.”
The 55-yarder that went wide was wiped off the board. Soon after, Jets kicker Nick Folk made good on his second chance and the Patriots were handed their second loss of the season, 30-27.
Rule 913, newly instituted this season, states that players can’t push teammates from behind on field goal tries.
Bill Belichick maintained in his postgame press conference that the ban only applies to individuals lined up off the line of scrimmage at the “second level.” Jones was on the line then, after the snap, stepped behind the burrowing Svitek.
Either way, the Patriots lose. And Jones took the heat.
“The mistake was mine,” he said. “I take it. I put it on my shoulders. It was all my fault. Nobody else’s.”
Jones was asked if he knew the rule.
“We probably talked about it before,” he said. “It just slipped my mind at the time. Now I know it, and I just gotta use that in the upcoming weeks we have coming up so I don’t do it again.”
When asked after the game about the play, Svitek said he had no comment. Jones said that it wasn’t just instinct to do it.
“It was something I planned, trying to get that extra push,” he said.
Still, Jones wasn’t crystal clear when explaining whether that play was called on the sidelines by special teams coach Scott O’Brien or whether he went rogue.
And that’s a pertinent question because -- on a 56-yarder in overtime -- it’s a gamble if the coaching staff called for Jones to loop behind Svitek.
You put the officials in a position to flag you on a heretofore uncalled technicality. And if your defense is going to be that you thought you could do it if the player stepped back after the snap, that’s a tissue-thin defense.
Because a field goal from that distance needs a lower trajectory, it makes sense the Patriots wanted a direct push up the middle.
Belichick would have needed to either see a replay or be told by someone upstairs before his press conference to have been as sure as he was about Jones not committing a foul.
“We weren’t on the second level when we pushed him, no,” Belichick stated.
Asked if he agreed with the call, Belichick said, “You can’t push from the second level. I didn’t think we did that.”
Jones, meanwhile, took the bullet.
“I was confused at first, didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “Then when I realized what it was, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s my fault.’ ”
At least one teammate was wasn’t going to hear of Jones blaming himself.
“He said it’s his fault?” said cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. “I’m gonna go over there and talk to him. As I see it, it’s a team thing. Nobody’s fault. There were a lot of mistakes throughout the whole game. Nobody played a perfect game. He can’t get down on himself because it’s a team thing.”