The Patriots jumped out to an early 7-0 lead Sunday when Jamie Collins blocked a 41-yard field goal attempt and Kyle Arrington returned it 62 yards for a touchdown, but the Dolphins contend the Patriots should have been flagged for illegal formation, the touchdown should not have counted, and the Dolphins should have been given 5 yards and a first down.
A Dolphins source said the team submitted the play to the league office on Monday for an official review. While the outcome of the game wouldn’t change if the league rules in favor of the Dolphins, the officiating crew could be downgraded in its performance review, which would affect their grades for officiating playoff games.
Miami contends that Collins was lined up too close to the line of scrimmage and that his feet were aligned in the same area as the defensive linemen, which would put seven Patriots defenders on that side of the formation. NFL rules prohibit more than six players lining up on one side of the formation, for player safety reasons.
Collins rushed through a gap created by Vince Wilfork and Sealver Siliga and blocked Caleb Sturgis’s attempt.
This is the second controversial field goal play involving the Patriots this year. An official warned Dont’a Hightower of being improperly lined up right before Chris Jones blocked a potential game-winning field goal attempt on the final play of the Patriots’ Week 7 win over the Jets, but it is common for officials to help players line up correctly before the snap.
On Monday, Bill Belichick praised the players involved in the blocked kick, saying it was “really well executed all across the board.”
“It was kind of an unusual play, where generally on kick blocks, we see players on the line of scrimmage get through and alter the path of the ball,” Belichick said. “In this case, Jamie started behind the line of scrimmage and a gap opened up with Vince and Siliga where he was able to shoot through the gap, and with his athleticism and length, get his hand on the ball.
“It was well executed by a number of guys — without that gap, [Collins] might not have gotten through . . . It was well executed by the entire unit, using the blockers, creating space, getting through that space, doing it in the proper way that it affected the flight of the ball.
“In this case, we hoped the penetration by Jamie would get us the block. Kyle’s role on that play was to do what he did: occupy the wing and then if the ball was blocked, put himself in position to scoop and score, which is exactly what he did.”
Belichick said Arrington’s timing was perfect as well — if he hadn’t gotten to the ball as quickly as he did, he likely would have been tackled close to the line of scrimmage. Because he got to the loose ball so quickly, he was able to use his speed to outrun the Miami players to the end zone.
See you there
Following the Broncos’ AFC West-clinching win over San Diego on Sunday, Denver defensive tackle Terrance Knighton didn’t use the word “guarantee” when talking about the Broncos and the Super Bowl, but he might as well have. And he mentioned the Patriots.
“It doesn’t matter what happens. At the end of the year, we’re hoisting that trophy,” Knighton told the Denver Post on Sunday night. “I don’t care if New England doesn’t lose again. I don’t care where we have to play. I don’t care who our opponent is.
“We’re not going to be satisfied until we hoist that trophy. So if we’ve got to go to New England and win somewhere we’re not used to winning, we’re going to make it happen.”
The reporter asked Knighton if he was really that confident.
“Write that,” he responded. “And put a big period after that one.”
And then he amended his punctuation. “Exclamation point!”
Should the Patriots and Broncos play in the postseason, it’s a certainty — one might say, it’s guaranteed — that the Patriots will see Knighton’s words.
When asked about Tom Brady’s 17-yard run early in the third quarter and Brady’s decision to drop his shoulder and take on safety Walt Aikens rather than slide to protect himself, Belichick essentially chalked it up to the heat of the moment.
“I’ve coached for a long time and I don’t question players’ decisions on the field when they try to make them to help the team win,” the coach said. “And I think that they do the best that they can out there . . . I’m not saying every decision is a great one, but every decision is made with the intention of helping us win, and so I don’t second-guess those.”
Game rates highly
Sunday’s win was the second-most watched 1 p.m. Patriots game in the Boston market, the team announced. The game earned a 38.6 household rating on CBS, trailing only the Patriots’ Week 15 win over the Jets in 2007 (40.4 rating). Sunday’s game garnered a 72 market share, behind only the 75 market share for the 2007 finale against the Giants that clinched a 16-0 regular season.