BOSTON (CBS) — Many Patriots fans are waking up Monday morning wondering why Bill Belichick had Rob Gronkowski on the field for the final play in Sunday’s devastating loss in Miami.
But it’s not just arm chair coaches taking part in cross-examinations of the embarrassing play that cost the Patriots a victory. Some of Belichick’s former players are questioning the decision as well.
Gronkowski was out there to combat a potential Hail Mary pass from Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill. In that scenario, it’s not the worst idea in the world to have a 6-foot-7 juggernaut out there to knock down a desperation throw.
But with 69 yards to cover, it was pretty clear that the Dolphins were not going to ask Tannehill to rear back and chuck it into the end zone. They instead went with a hook-and-ladder play, and after a pair of laterals following Kenny Stills’ initial 14-yard reception, Kenyan Drake was racing his way 52 yards into the end zone for the game-winning score.
Gronkowski took a bad angle and couldn’t chase down the running back, and shouldered most of the blame after the stunning 34-33 loss. But sending out Gronk in place of Devin McCourty — a professional safety and Pro Bowler at that — was an extremely questionable decision by Belichick.
“Yeah, well, they could throw it deeper,” the head coach opined following the loss. “They could have run the Desperado-type play, which is kind of an in-between 20-yard pass, then it turned into a Desperado [with multiple laterals].”
It seems like a case of Belichick overthinking things, out-geniusing himself in the process. That’s what former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison said on Football Night in America hours after the loss.
“Coach Belichick outsmarted himself having Rob Gronkowski on the field for a 70-yard Hail Mary and keeping his best defensive player on the sidelines, Devin McCourty,” Rodney Harrison said on Football Night in America.
Former New England linebacker and current ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi also questioned Belichick on Twitter.
“Gronk was in because that is a ‘last play’ defense. The last play can be a hail mary pass. In a situation where chances of a hail mary are low, the ‘jumper’ (Gronk) should be substituted for another safety/DB. For tackling purposes. That was not done,” Tweeted Bruschi.
While McCourty and New England’s other defensive backs struggled with their tackling all day on Sunday, he would have had a much better shot at tracking down Drake than Gronkowski on that final play. After all, that’s what a “safety” is for — a team’s last line of defense on big plays such as Sunday’s last-second miracle by the Dolphins.
At least one former Patriot was pretty amped about the play; that would be current Dolphins receiver Danny Amendola.
“I’ve never seen anything like that in my entire life,” Amendola said after the win. “It was [flippin’] crazy.”