The play the Patriots called to free up Brenden Schooler off the edge to block a field goal attempt by Miami’s Jason Sanders is one that every NFL special teams unit will attempt to replicate, analyst Cris Collinsworth said on NBC’s broadcast Sunday night.
But putting a player in motion on a block attempt is not a new concept for the Patriots. Jonathan Jones made a similar play on a punt block last year, special teams coach Cam Achord said.
“It’s just outside-of-the-box thinking, I guess,” Achord said. “No different than any other time you’re bringing a guy from a block standpoint in motion like Jon Jones last season against the Colts.
“There’s things you’re looking for as the game goes on, whether it’s a snap or maybe it’s a guy that’s set, a hand movement, the holder’s head, you know, different things. We go through the process just looking for any keys or details that can give you an edge.”
The Patriots lined up with nine men at the line of scrimmage, ready to rush. Matthew Slater played behind the line, and Schooler lined up so far on the outside that the TV angle didn’t show him until he sprinted to his place among the edge rushers.
Schooler timed the sequence expertly, arriving next to Kyle Dugger as the ball was snapped. Dugger took an inside angle as he attempted to rush past blocker Christian Wilkins, and Schooler came flying in from the outside. Wilkins attempted to get one hand on each player, but Schooler had too much momentum to be stopped. He ran right past Wilkins and dived to block the kick.
Achord pointed to Schooler’s height, length, and quickness as reasons why the Patriots picked him to come off the edge in motion.
“He’s obviously a tall, long guy, so let’s start there,” Achord said. “The length, being able to stretch out and get to the block point. If you have a guy that’s 5 foot 6, for example, and he lays out, maybe he doesn’t get there.
“Then there’s the quickness and acceleration. Any guy that’s coming off the edge on a field goal rush team — it was Jack Jones a lot for us, or Jon Jones — there’s one trait they all have: They’re all quick and they’re all fast.”
The play was just the latest example of how the Patriots strive to innovate on special teams, Schooler said after the game.
“It’s a testament to our coaching staff, because when they drew it up and told me what I was doing, it was like, ‘All right, I trust you guys,’ ” Schooler said. “But I had never seen anything like this before.
“It’s awesome, getting to see the new innovative stuff, and getting to go out there, execute, and make a play for your team.”
A tough lesson
Demario Douglas fumbled the ball in the first quarter Sunday and didn’t play on offense the rest of the game.
He made a catch and juked past a defender for what would have been a key conversion for a first down on third and 8, but Miami linebacker Bradley Chubb chased him down and punched the ball out from behind.
The rookie receiver said he needed that experience to learn from, but hated that it had to happen in the game. Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien said it was a tough moment during an otherwise strong rookie season.
“Ball security is obviously a huge part of what we preach,” O’Brien said. “I have a lot of confidence in Pop Douglas, as I do with all the players that we have.
“I think as the game played out the other day, because of what we did, the packages that we went to whether we were in no-huddle or some of the things that we were doing, it just wasn’t Pop on the field.
“At the end of the day, we have to do a better job of continuing to get everybody involved in the game plan throughout the game, and that’s what we’ll do. I think Pop will learn from what happened on Sunday, but Pop has had a really good rookie experience so far, from OTAs to training came to where we are now.”
Play it through
Fumbling the ball on a kneeldown play at the end of the game is a rare occurrence. But it’s exactly what Tua Tagovailoa did.
The Patriots were unable to capitalize on the miscue — an example of why they need to play through the whistle, defensive line coach DeMarcus Covington said. They missed an opportunity to get the ball back.
“We should execute that better, knowing that they’re going to kneel down,” Covington said. “There’s always that one-in-a-million time where the quarterback is going to do exactly what he did.
“We normally would hit the center to mess up that exchange, which is on them, they mess it up themselves. That’s why you continue to play every snap, even if they’re kneeling it down.”
Khari Thompson can be reached at email@example.com.