New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 28: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots exits the field after the first half against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on December 28, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

By Matt Dolloff,

Someone on the Patriots replay staff screwed up big-time. Bill Belichick was pissed. But at the end of the day, the head coach has no one to blame but himself.

So when he chucked his sideline phone in disgust after making a highly questionable challenge, he summed up the 2020 Patriots experience. Disorganized, poorly executed, and coming up just short in a million situations that have piled up to what will be at best a 7-9 team.

Belichick had good reason to abuse the phone, regardless of fault. The Patriots decided to challenge a completed catch by Bills tight end Dawson Knox on Buffalo’s first drive of the third quarter. Problem? Knox pretty clearly got both feet down with possession. The ruling on the field stood, but could have been straight-up confirmed.

Not only was it odd timing to throw the red flag in the first place, the challenge itself was shockingly bad for a Bill Belichick-run operation. Belichick knew it.

Bill Belichick was caught on camera spiking a sideline phone after the Patriots horribly botched a challenge call. (David Butler II-USA TODAY)

Bill Belichick was caught on camera spiking a sideline phone after the Patriots horribly botched a challenge call. (David Butler II-USA TODAY)

“I mean, it was a good call [by the officials],” Belichick said after the game when asked about his outburst. “It was a good catch. The challenge was obviously not successful, as it shouldn’t have been, so…”

It was the latest indication that Belichick’s operation simply hasn’t been as smooth as it was even a year ago in Tom Brady’s final season. To be fair to Belichick for a moment, with a lesser coach this roster might have been in the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes. But Belichick is also in charge of roster-building, and he gets a poor grade for that this year. And now we’re left wondering what happened with his staff after Monday’s debacle.

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Patriots director of football research Ernie Adams has often been credited with being Belichick’s “eye in the sky” of sorts for situations like the challenge, so it’s fair to wonder what the hell Ernie saw. What Patriots fans saw for most of that game was a team that simply had too many roster holes, most notably at quarterback, to compete in the AFC, regardless of what the coaching staff did.

But the one deserving of the most blame for the totality of that mess was the guy who spiked the phone.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 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? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff or send him a nasty email at