Patriots gunner Brenden Schooler’s blocked field goal Sunday night was actually worth more than the 3 points he swatted away from the Dolphins’ scoreboard.
And although the Patriots couldn’t capitalize on their subsequent opportunities during their 24-17 loss, Schooler kept them in the game longer than they would have otherwise been.
To understand why, let’s take it from the beginning.
As kicker Jason Sanders and the Dolphins lined up for a 49-yard attempt late in the third quarter, Schooler darted across the line of scrimmage from the sideline, perfectly timed the snap and sprinted into the backfield to block the kick and preserve the 17-3 deficit.
It’s unclear how the Patriots coaching staff and Schooler identified a tell from the Dolphins’ operation. It’s possible Schooler spotted a trend from Dolphins holder Jake Bailey, a former Patriots teammate, or the Patriots simply picked up on Miami’s snap count.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick credited Schooler and special teams coaches Joe Judge, Cam Achord and Joe Houston for putting the plan together and then executing.
“It was a well-executed and well-timed out play,” Belichick said Monday. “It was a big play for us, changed the field position, turned the momentum around. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to capitalize on it, but it was still a really good play on Schooler’s part and well-designed by the special teams coaches.”
After the game, Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel believed the Patriots timed up the snap count, so they made a change for the remainder of the game.
“It was a really cool schematic adjustment by the Patriots. Hats off to them,” McDaniel said. “Hadn’t seen that before, so that was a great job by them.”
That’s where the additional points came into play. Sanders also missed a 55-yard field goal with 2:14 remaining in the fourth quarter. According to those on the field, the timing was off with the Dolphins’ snap due to the change of the count as they worked to prevent another perfect jump from Schooler, and that also impacted Sanders’ kick and kept the score at 24-17.
But for the second time, the Patriots failed to score on their ensuing possession.
Now focusing on the future, will other teams attempt to replicate the Patriots’ unique tactic? And will the Patriots try it again against the Dolphins in Week 8, or against other opponents?
Either way, the Patriots’ special teams are in much better shape this season under Joe Judge’s leadership, and Schooler showed yet again why he could eventually carry the torch from long-time captain Matthew Slater as the team’s special teams ace.