By Tom E. Curran
FOXBORO - You people got your DVRs. Take another look at the fake punt called by Patrick Chung near the end of the first half. You know, the one that turned a manageable four-point deficit into an 11-point halftime deficit? Right, that one.
When you take a look, you'll see that Sammy Morris gets his block at the right end of the line and seals the Jet on the outside. But look further to the right and see that gunner Matt Slater takes an inside release on the punt, bringing theJets' outside man back toward the line of scrimmage. Had Slater released outside, the blocker would have trailed him downfield and Chung would have had some room to roam.But, the way things were unfolding, the blocker would have seen what was developing and made the play.
Long story short? It appears Slater didn't even get the audible, and that mistake would have doomed the play even if Chung hadn't flubbed the snap. "There are a lot of things that can happen on a lot of different plays," coach Bill Belichick said Monday when asked about Chung having the latitude as the personal protector to make that call. "Really, Im not going to get into a detailed analysis of one play. There are a thousand things that could happen."
Asked if he would have signed off on the play given the time and field position, Belichick again demurred. "I mean, we can go through a thousand hypotheticals, so what happens, happens. Ill let you deal with all the ifs, ands and buts." Belichick was in a relatively upbeat mood on this Monday morning. Matter of fact and grudgingly accepting of the fate the Patriots now face. "You always think your seasons going to continue," Belichick said. "We had a lot of confidence going into the game and it didnt work out, so its a disappointing day. We had our chances yesterday, but in the end, we couldnt make as many plays as they did, so thats the result. Thats playoff football. "There were certainly a lot of good things that happened for us this season, but that definitely gets overshadowed by the final results," he continued. "Well have to work hard to get back to this point in the future. Well go forward. There are a lot of things in the future that are questions that we just cant answer and probably wont be able to answer for quite a while a lot of things that are out of our control as an individual football team that are related to a bigger picture. Well deal with those in due course."
Translation: The looming labor battle between players and owners which may result in a work stoppage.
As for the game itself, it was still worth kicking through the glacial pace of the final couple of drives. To that, Belichick said, "There are five minutes to go in the game over five minutes to go in the game we were stopped on the fourth-and-13, but if we score on that drive, its a one-score game with five minutes to go in the game. Its not the position you want to be in, but its not a bad position to be in. Without the score, now youre down by two scores with five minutes to go now thats a problem." And it was. Belichick and his staff will now coach the AFC team in the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. To that, Belichick said, "Its definitely not where you want to be. Well go out there and do it."Heindicated thegame planwould revolve around . . . golf. You could sense Belichick's realization that, if the first two drives the Patriots had ended differently, the day would have ended differently.
"The first two drives, we took the ball right down the field," he said. "It wasnt we had one or two bad plays in there but for the most part, however many plays it was 14, 15 plays were good plays. We moved the ball. We mixed it. They did what they did. We had a lot of success with moving the ball, staying on track and putting ourselves in position, really, to score a lot of points there on those two drives. We ended up with three and thats not what we hoped to end with based on the way those two drives started. We felt like we should have had more points in that, but we didnt."
And as a result, a bitter playoff loss is what the Patriots are focusing on. Proof? Given the chance to take a victory lap about the 14-2 regular season, Belichick offered: "It was good."