Key penalty, weak offense led to Patriots’ loss
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Bill Belichick is taking the blame for the overtime penalty that led to the Patriots’ latest loss.
There’s still plenty to go around for his team’s mistake-filled performance.
Tom Brady and the offense continued to struggle. The battered defense couldn’t contain Geno Smith.
Even Rob Gronkowski failed to catch a key pass in his much-anticipated return from offseason forearm and back surgeries.
The result: a 30-27 overtime loss to the New York Jets on Sunday.
“Just a lot of plays we left out there that we have to, moving forward, learn from,” New England defensive end Rob Ninkovich said Monday.
The most glaring was the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on rookie defensive tackle Chris Jones as Nick Folk tried — and missed — a 56-yard field goal attempt.
Jones was called for violating a new rule this year that prohibits a defensive player from pushing a teammate forward into the offensive formation on a field-goal try.
So Folk got another shot two minutes later and connected on a 42-yarder for the victory.
Afterward, Jones, who didn’t join the Patriots until he was claimed off waivers Sept. 11, blamed himself.
On Monday, his coach absolved him.
“I think Chris is obviously trying to do the right thing by stepping up and taking responsibility, but that’s not his responsibility, it’s ours,” Belichick said. “We just have to do a better job of coaching that. It’s not his fault, that’s on me (and) the coaching staff.”
And, Belichick said, “What he did was basically what he was being told to do.”
After the game, Belichick was upset that the call was made. He said the push didn’t come from the second level of the defense, the group behind the front line. But the rule doesn’t mention where the player who does the prohibited pushing is lined up.
“Obviously, we are wrong,” he said Monday. “What else is there to say? We’re wrong.”
His players were eager to move past that. They’re focusing on next Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins in what suddenly looms as a key game in the AFC East that New England has dominated for a decade.
The Patriots (5-2) lead the Jets by one game, the Dolphins by 1½ games and the Buffalo Bills by two.
“You’d have to ask Bill about the (penalty) call,” safety Steve Gregory said. “I’ve moved on. I’m on Miami now.”
“I want to move past it because it’s over with,” Ninkovich said. “You live and you learn and now we’re looking forward to Miami and just leaving the Jets behind.”
Especially with all those mistakes.
On offense, the Patriots were 1 for 12 on third-down conversions and trailed nearly 2-to-1 in time of possession. Brady completed fewer than half his passes for the third time this season, already his single-season high.
He did, however, throw a pick-6 when Antonio Allen intercepted a pass intended for Gronkowski and returned it 23 yards.
“That’s a ball I shouldn’t throw,” Brady said. “You can’t do that, throw interceptions for touchdowns.”
On defense, Ninkovich let Smith scramble past him for an 8-yard touchdown and a 24-21 lead in the third quarter.
“With a (quarterback) that can run, as a defensive lineman it’s our job to keep him in the pocket,” he said. “That’s my fault.”
Gronkowski was supposed to give the offense a big lift. And he did catch eight of the 17 passes thrown his way.
“He opens it up for the outside receivers,” wide receiver Aaron Dobson said. “He’s a big target in the middle of the field so I feel like defenses have to respect that.”
But Gronkowski couldn’t make a one-handed catch down the middle of the field with the ball at the Jets 26-yard line with 36 seconds left and the Patriots trailing 27-24. They had to settle for a tying field goal.
“I had it. I brought it in. And I dropped it,” he said.
But the play that probably will be remembered the most was the pushing penalty that was called for the first time against any team.
“I don’t really know what was going on,” Dobson said, “but it was definitely a tough thing just to have it happen like that at the end of the game.”
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