FOXBOROUGH — Bill Belichick placed the blame for Sunday’s controversial overtime penalty in a loss to the Jets squarely on himself Monday morning, admitting it was his fault and the fault of the coaching staff that Patriots players were unclear on the pushing rule, which was instituted this season.
“It’s our job to understand the rules. Whatever the bottom line is, we didn’t do it properly,” Belichick said.
The Patriots coach even used a phrase he doesn’t utter often, particularly after a loss: “We are wrong.”
Patriots rookie defensive lineman Chris Jones was flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty — which technically should have been unnecessary roughness — for violating Rule 9, Section 1, Article 3, during Nick Folk’s 56-yard field goal try: “players cannot push teammates on the line of scrimmage into the offensive formation.”
In discussing the call during his postgame news conference on Sunday, Belichick noted “we weren’t on the second level when we pushed him.” There is no mention of players coming from the second level in the rule.
Game referee Jerome Boger clarified to a pool reporter that the rule states that one teammate cannot push another teammate into the opponents’ formation. On replay, Jones is pushing Will Svitek forward just after the snap.
Belichick was asked on Monday where he got the notion of second-level players being part of the rule, and he said, “Because obviously we are wrong. What else is there to say? We’re wrong.”
Asked further if the rule was not properly articulated by the league, Belichick responded, “Look, it’s our job to understand the rules. Whatever the bottom line is, we didn’t do it properly. So what else is there to say?”
Belichick emphasized that the blame does not lie with Jones, who admirably stood at his stall in the visitors’ locker room at MetLife Stadium and said it was his fault for getting penalized.
“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, we just have to do a better job there.”
Asked if Jones was acting on instinct, Belichick again pointed the finger at himself and his staff.
“No. We have to coach him better,” Belichick said. “What he did was basically what he was being told to do. We just have to coach it better. That’s not Chris Jones’s fault.”
It wasn’t the first time Jones pushed a teammate on a field goal attempt; against the Saints the week before, he can be seen pushing Svitek from behind on a 39-yard field goal by Garrett Hartley.
NFL Network reported that Jets coaches talked to officials before Sunday’s game about a few violations they had seen from the Patriots on film, including pushing on field goals.
During his Monday press conference, Jets coach Rex Ryan did not confirm or deny that the discussion had taken place.
“Let’s put it this way: We watch every single play of the opponent,” he said. “The coordinators and coaches watch every single play of every single game. We’re aware of the opponents’ tendencies and everything else.”
It is not uncommon for coaches and even players to try to call the officials’ attention to tendencies of players or teams in certain situations if they appear to be in violation of the rules.
Jets offensive lineman Willie Colon told Newsday on Sunday he overheard officials say they had warned the Patriots about pushing on a previous field goal attempt during the game.
In going over the field goals from Sunday, it does appear that one Jets player did push another on Stephen Gostkowski’s tying 44-yard field goal attempt at the end of regulation, but it was not called.
The Patriots were the ones caught and penalized, and it’s not uncommon that certain calls are missed — on the Patriots’ winning touchdown pass against New Orleans, left tackle Nate Solder essentially put outside linebacker Junior Galette in a headlock trying to keep him away from Tom Brady, and there was no call.
Belichick owned up to the mistake, and the Patriots began the work Monday of getting ready for their first matchup of the season with the streaky Dolphins, who have lost three straight games after winning their first three of the season.
“I want to move past it because it’s over with now,” defensive captain Rob Ninkovich said. “It’s something that you live and you learn, and now we’re looking forward to Miami and just leaving the Jets behind.”