When Bill Belichick is pressed about a questionable coaching decision, his common refrain is to grumble into the microphone and repeat some variation of the mantra, “We’re just doing what we think is best for our football team.”
That was his response Sunday when he was asked about the Patriots’ drop kick, but it was nothing more than a boldfaced lie.
In that spot, Belichick wasn’t “trying to do what was best.” He was trying to show off, and the results were disastrous.
The Patriots lost to the Eagles 35-28 at Gillette Stadium Sunday in one of the more bizarre games of the Belichick and Tom Brady era. Philadelphia scored 35 unanswered points to erase a 14-point deficit, which is the biggest lead the Patriots have blown at home since Belichick was named head coach 15 years ago.
The downfall started with 7:46 left in the second quarter after the Patriots had scored their second touchdown of the contest to extend their lead to 14 points. Instead of kicking it away, which every other team in the world would’ve likely done in that spot, the Patriots decided to get cute. Stephen Gostkowski tossed the football to safety Nate Ebner, a former Rugby standout, who kicked it 24 yards. The Eagles were ready for it and recovered the ball at their own 41-yard line. The Patriots handed them a short field for no reason whatsoever.
Here a look at that Nate Ebner drop kick: pic.twitter.com/hWSIe5Z4l9
— Rachel G. Bowers (@RachelGBowers) December 6, 2015
Eight plays later, the Eagles scored their first touchdown. The Philly onslaught, which was inflamed by two special teams blunders and a Brady pick-six, commenced.
They deserved that. A drop kick? Ok let’s get back to taking this game seriously
— Lou Merloni (@LouMerloni) December 6, 2015
For the second consecutive game, special teams mishaps largely cost the Patriots a win. Last week against Denver, Chris Harper’s dropped punt precipitated a Broncos comeback. Sunday, a blocked punt touchdown and 83-yard punt return touchdown helped sink the Pats. Chip Kelly and his staff was better prepared than Belichick and his minions.
Despite getting outcoached, the Patriots had a chance to stop the bleeding early in the third quarter. Brady completed a 24-yard pass to running back James White to set up a first down from Philadelphia’s one-yard line. But instead of taking the time to run a normal play, the Patriots inexplicably hurried it up. They ran the no-huddle offense in hopes of catching the Eagles off-guard. But instead, White was dropped in the backfield for a four-yard loss. Brady threw the pick-six shortly thereafter. Once again, Belichick and the coaching staff tried to get too cute.
For most of the first half, the Patriots were outplaying the Eagles. Philadelphia only gained 50 yards in its four drives prior to the ill-timed drop kick. The Patriots were getting ready to pull away, but their momentum was abruptly halted.
On most weeks, Belichick’s adroitness is one of the Patriots’ biggest advantages. But on Sunday, it led to their downfall. Belichick just got too clever for his own good.
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