At long last, we can repurpose a famous John Madden quote from yesteryear to lambaste the Patriots for something that happened yesterday.
Take a knee.
Take a knee.
TAKE A KNEE!
The Patriots famously declined Madden’s suggestion two decades ago in the closing seconds of Super Bowl XXXVI. Instead, Tom Brady moved the ball up the field and Adam Vinatieri kicked the closing-time field goal that toppled the St. Louis Rams.
But on Sunday, in Las Vegas, against the Raiders, a healthy dose of knee-taking could have helped New England’s fading playoff chances.
Once again, the Pats did not take a knee. And by not doing so, they set in motion one of the goofiest endings in NFL history, which in turn set the stage for some Hall of Fame buck-passing by Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
In devastating loss to Raiders, Patriots show they aren’t playing like a well-coached team
You’ve no doubt already seen a thousand screenings of the play in question, but decorum requires that we offer a bit of a recap. With the Pats looking at third-and-10 from their 45, three seconds remaining in regulation, the game tied, overtime looming, a draw play sent Rhamondre Stevenson up the middle and then toward the right sideline for 23 yards. As he was going down, he lateraled to Jakobi Meyers, and, in a bit of role reversal, the former star quarterback at Arabia Mountain High School (Ga.) ran the other way and then threw the ball in the general direction of New England’s real quarterback, Mac Jones.
Had the play worked, maybe Mac marches all the way to the end zone. The Pats would have won the game, and Belichick and his embattled coaching staff would have been on center stage explaining how, having read about the Canton Bulldogs running this very play against the Toledo Maroons in 1923, had been back-pocketing it for use in exactly this type of situation.
But if the play was ever going to have a chance to work, it would have required these 2022 Patriots to have been “coached up” in such a way that all the tumblers would click into place. Alas, that doesn’t happen with the Patriots anymore. Not this year, anyway. So instead, the toss by Meyers was grabbed by former Patriot and current Raider Chandler Jones, who wiped his feet on Mac and then proceeded merrily to the end zone.
NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE IT. @chanjones55 TOUCHDOWN FOR THE WIN.
? FOX pic.twitter.com/Rw64tmSqSK
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) December 19, 2022
Raiders 30, Patriots 24. But in the aftermath of this stunning, history-making, soon-to-be-a-major-motion-picture of a loss, after Patriot after Patriot after Patriot stepped up to the mic to more or less say, “Blame it all on me,” there was one member of the traveling party who would have none of that.
And that would be Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
The coach did allow that the Patriots “made too many mistakes,” and he’s been known to use that as an umbrella policy that covers everything from offense to defense to special teams to flood to hurricane … to coaching. But as for that last play, he said, “The play didn’t work.” He spat out the words “made a mistake on the play” without citing who made the mistake, though the question referenced Stevenson.
He was asked, “if there was any coaching point, after you called the draw, to say the play’s over, just fall down and go out of bounds?”
“Yeah,” Belichick said. “Well, obviously that would have been better than the result.”
He paused and added this: “Yeah, we talk about situational football. We talk about it every week, but we’ve obviously got to do a better job playing situational football and not making critical mistakes.”
He was also asked if he considered having Mac Jones throw a Hail Mary.
“Taking a shot at the end zone?” said Belichick. “Couldn’t throw it that far.”
Bill Belichick Live Postgame Press Conference: https://t.co/cYhorUvKQa
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) December 19, 2022
What Mac Jones could have done is take a knee. Settle it in overtime. Instead, there ensued this clown car of a play so mad, so crazy, that when the game was over, reporters were asking Pats people, just to make sure, if they were all in the know that the game was tied, that the Pats were not trailing. Under those circumstances, the play call would have raised no eyebrows at all, the Pats doing something desperate to get back into the game.
If we may stoop to cliche, that’s the play you call when you’re trying to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. In calling the play, they ignored another cliche, popularized by the late John Madden: Take a knee.
Even Raiders coach Josh McDaniels, the former longtime Belichick assistant, seemed stunned by what he had just seen.
“When (Mac Jones) handed it to the back, I thought, ‘OK, tackle him, go to overtime,’” he said.
“But when I saw the ball in the air and I saw Chandler underneath it, I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God, we might have a chance at this.’ When he caught it, I saw Mac was back there and I was hoping he could avoid whatever effort that Mac had to tackle him and hope he had enough juice left in his body to get to the end zone.”
Chandler Jones had plenty of juice. And Mac Jones had zero chance to make the tackle. But of course he took the blame, casting himself as the goat who didn’t make the big, game-saving play.
“I gotta tackle the guy,” he said. “It’s on me and it’s my fault … so I tackle him, and then we play for overtime. So it’s on me. We gotta make that. Not good enough by me.”
That’s rubbish, of course. Disgruntled Pats fans can criticize Jones for his quarterbacking, and they can certainly criticize him for the pouting and whining he did for much of the first half. But to expect (Mac) Jones to haul down (Chandler) Jones, a 6-5, 265-pound defensive end, is silly.
Most of us can agree that Rhamondre Stevenson probably shouldn’t have lateraled the ball to Jakobi Meyers.
We can all agree that Meyers shouldn’t have thrown in the direction of Mac Jones.
But why are we even having this discussion? Why the play was even called is the real question.
The answer is that it’s The Patriot Way in 2022.
(Photo of Mac Jones: Chris Unger / Getty Images)