The Patriots took a gamble with a trap-block attempt in the second quarter of their loss to Indianapolis in Week 10. They sent nine men to run up the middle, while two players covered a pair of Colts split out wide.
There was no one back to receive the punt, what Rigoberto Sanchez kicked 69 meters. The Patriots went three-and-out on their next two possessions.
Patriots special teams coach Cam Achord said taking such a risk on special teams is nothing new.
“That’s the plan,” Achord said. “If you really look back at it over the last few years, we’ve run it multiple times and the results have usually been pretty much in our favor.
“We had a free rusher there who came out number-wise and he was able to make a good punt and it rolled a little bit further than expected.
“So I think you just have to think about the whole thing. It was an aggressive call and they were obviously executed there. Thanks to Sánchez who got the ball off.”
When asked why the Patriots had nine players rush instead of 11, Achord said the two on the outside were needed to keep the Colts from attempting a fumble.
“You still have the threat of a pass for those guys if you don’t cover them up,” Achord said. “So you have to make sure that you are still healthy when it comes to not giving the ball away to the opponent.”
The failed punt block attempt was one of two specific plays during the Colts game that made Kraft Group president Jonathan Kraft angry, according to the former Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich.
“Jonathan is becoming very vocal, very vocal. He just wasn’t happy,” Ninkovich said during a recent “Dan and Ninko” podcast. “So he was very angry twice. He was very angry. They didn’t have a returner on any of the punt rushes. They tried to block the punt.
“He said, ‘Why don’t we have a returner there?’ This is stupid. The ball will get stuck there and we’ll get to the 1-yard line.” He was so angry. (Robert) Kraft however, it is quite balanced.
The QB question
Running back Rhamundre Stevenson can be counted among the growing group of Patriots players who are publicly saying it isn’t important to know which player will be the starting quarterback ahead of Sunday’s game against the Giants.
“I feel like even if you’re a practice squad player, or a starter, you might not get all the reps, but we’re learning the same things here,” Stevenson said. “Everyone receives the same knowledge. We sit in the same meetings.
“So that quarterback position, I feel like they’re all coached the same way. They know what to do on the field, so that doesn’t really bother me.”
David Andries, Deatrich Wijs, Matthew Slaterand others have recently made similar comments.
When asked about the pattern, Slater said he hasn’t heard much discussion on the subject in the locker room. Or at least the players know better than to have the conversations around him, he joked.
“I think most of the guys in this building are focused on doing their jobs better and with more consistency,” Slater said. “And they realize, ‘Hey, whoever plays quarterback, whoever plays receiver, whatever the position is, let me worry about what to do.’
“I think culturally, when you get into a bad place, you start to worry about what everyone else is doing. You point fingers – “Hey, this guy has to do this” – instead of turning the focus inward and worrying about what to do.
“So I think we handled that the best we could. There is a lot of maturity in this group. Hopefully it will remain that way in the future.”
Versatile and valuable
Linebacker Jahlani Tavai is eight tackles away from equaling his record of 69 last season.
He’s played a role in two of the Patriots’ last three takeaways, tipping the pass that led to them by Myles Bryant interception against the Colts, and forcing a fumble against the Commanders.
Tavai also intercepted a pass against the Raiders.
“I think Jahlani has a lot of versatility within his game plan,” linebackers coach said Brian Belichick said. “On the ball, off the ball, rush, coverage, man, zone, inside pressure, outside pressure. I think we’ve always seen that with Jahlani.
“He has been given some more opportunities here lately and he has taken advantage of them. He’s got really good instincts and he’s just a really good athlete.
“He does a lot of things very well, so I think that helps him, but also that he is smart and can communicate well. So that helps a lot of the guys around him and it helps him know what other guys are doing.
“I’m not surprised by the production he’s had, but it’s good. Good to see him going out there and doing it. So I’m happy for him and hopefully it stays that way.”
Sign up for Patriots updates🏈
Get the latest news and analysis delivered to your inbox throughout football season.