The blame for Chris Jones’ penalty in overtime doesn’t rest on Chris Jones, said Bill Belichick. It rests with the Patriots coaching staff. Speaking on a conference call Monday morning, Belichick said that, while he appreciated Jones trying to shoulder the blame for looping behind Will Svitek and pushing him forward on Nick Folk’s 56-yard field goal attempt, Jones was doing what he was told.
The Patriots -- as Belichick indicated in his postgame press conference -- were under the impression that only players lined up behind the defensive line were prohibited from pushing teammates forward. "Obviously, we are wrong," Belichick said. “It's our job to understand the rules and whatever the bottom line is we didn't do it properly."
Belichick declined to go into whether he felt the league gave proper clarification of the final rule. The initial proposal specified “second level” players as being the ones banned from pushing. Also, VP of officiating Dean Blandino seemed to frequently specify “second level” in his discussions of the new rule.
At a March 18 press conference discussing the rule change, Blandino shared a video with assembled media showing linebackers pushing teammates into offensive linemen. “That’s this play here,” Blandino said. “You see the second level -- the pushers -- that’s going to be UNR. That’ll be a 15-yard penalty for pushing from the second level, so that’s something that this rule change will prohibit as well.”
Jeff Fisher, head of the NFL Competition Committee spoke at that press conference as well, and in discussing the rule said, “It’s the pushing and the loading up specifically on the guard and tackle that got ugly.” Blandino then offered, “Yes, the pushing from the second level, pushing the down linemen into the formation is illegal as part of this.”
Further, in the NFL’s 2013 case example, the new rule is explained using an instance of a player in a two-point stance pushing forward. Regardless of how the Patriots got it in their heads they could loop and push, they were mistaken. They didn’t do a good enough job of getting their questions answered if they had them, and they paid the price.
- Tom Curran, CSN New England