By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Bill Belichick knows a few things. For one, he knows the NFL rule book inside and out, better than just about anybody else on the planet. That knowledge has certainly aided him during this 20-year stretch of NFL dominance.
But he also knows that whenever he shows off that knowledge of the rule book, his exploitation of a quirk or a little-known rule tends to lead to a national discussion about how that rule must be changed. Such is the cycle of life in the NFL.
And so, after Monday night’s 33-0 victory, Belichick was asked if the back-and-forth dance between him and Jets head coach Adam Gase in the fourth quarter was a case of gamesmanship. Belichick said no, and that his team was just doing what was legal to drain extra time off the clock.
“No, it was just the way the rules are set up,” Belichick said regarding his team committing consecutive delay of game and false start penalties while lined up for a punt. “We were able to, you know, run quite a bit of time off the clock without really having to do anything.”
After a brief pause, Belichick added: “So … it’s probably a loophole that’ll be closed. It probably should be closed. But right now it’s open.”
Bill Belichick continues to rewrite the NFL’s rule book. pic.twitter.com/mIJHsGbbgO
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) October 22, 2019
The situation came in the fourth quarter, after Brandon Bolden was tackled two yards shy of the first-down marker on a third-and-9. The Patriots’ punt team took the field to kick a mercy punt from the Jets’ 33-yard line, with the score at 33-0.
Had the Patriots snapped the punt inside of the 40-second play clock window, the play would have begun with around 10:25 left. Instead, the Patriots stood still, happy to let the play clock expire on a delay of game penalty.
Gase declined that penalty, and the teams lined up yet again. The clock was at 10:23 but began to wind after the ball was set, with a fresh 25-second play clock given to the Patriots.
That new play clock ran the game clock down to 9:58, when Bolden committed a false start penalty — a rather intentional false start penalty.
Gase declined that penalty, too. But the Patriots were given yet another 25-second play clock, allowing them to drain the clock all the way down to 9:43 before finally snapping the football and kicking the punt.
Interestingly, the game clock did not wind with the play clock, but it nevertheless allowed the Patriots to take another 15 seconds or so off the clock.
So, instead of snapping the ball with 10:25 left in the game, the Patriots were able to kill another 42 seconds of game clock without really doing anything.
For those curious — if the Patriots had taken a second delay of game penalty, it would have been unsportsmanlike conduct. But because the Patriots switched up their infractions, that 15-yard penalty did not exist.
Belichick is right — that’s a loophole that ought to be closed, as the exploitation of such a rule in a close game could make a huge difference.
Yet because this one came in a 33-0 dismantling of a division rival, the situation was a bit more comical than usual.