By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Obviously the Dolphins were going to run a lateral play, right? Hail Mary not even in the cards?
That’s not how Bill Belichick was approaching the play that will go down as the Miami Miracle.
The fallout continues after Kenyan Drake’s stunning 69-yard touchdown, which came after he took the second lateral of the play and sliced his way through the entire Patriots defense en route to one of the most unbelievable endings you’ll ever see in the NFL. That includes more questions for Bill Belichick, who had safety Devin McCourty off the field (his only missed defensive snap of the game) and Rob Gronkowski on. Obviously, Gronk’s mere presence made the final breakdown possible.
The only reason Gronk is ever on the field for those game-ending we-need-a-miracle plays is to bat down Hail Mary attempts in the end zone. Apparently, Belichick believed that was a possibility for Ryan Tannehill when he would’ve had to throw it 70-plus yards. Why was Gronkowski on the field in a situation where Tannehill almost certainly wasn’t going to throw the ball anywhere near the end zone?
“It was his ability to play the deep, long throw,” said Belichick during his Monday conference call.
Belichick didn’t actually believe Tannehill had a shot at pay dirt, but still thought it could’ve happened at what, the 10? The 15?
“I think it was a little too far to get into the end zone, but certainly a deep pass in that situation is a possibility,” Belichick added. “I wouldn’t rule that out.”
Any regrets after watching the miracle unfold?
“I think there’s a lot of things that could have been better on that play,” said Belichick. “I think there are a lot things that could have been better in the entire game. I think the game was won by a lot more than that play.”
The coach isn’t necessarily wrong there. Jonathan Jones missed a tackle before a lateral was even made. J.C. Jackson appeared to let up thinking Drake was going out of bounds, but instead it was a missed tackle by Kyle Van Noy. From there, Drake was behind everyone else except Gronkowski.
And considering all the poor tackling and angles taken on that play, who’s to say that the Dolphins couldn’t have scored on a 50-yard catch and 19-yard run after the catch?
Still, it’s about as easy of a second-guess as you’ll ever get with Belichick. Even if you can wrap your head around the idea of defending against the Hail Mary there, if it gets to a “Break Glass in Case of Emergency” situation, who do you want going for a tackle in the open field? Gronkowski or McCourty?
The Patriots tend to have all their bases covered as far as defending against situations in the game. In this particular instance, their situational work backfired as tremendously as it ever will under Belichick. That’s why this loss should be on the coaches more than anyone else.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.