The Patriots watched most of their 20-0 lead evaporate against the Dolphins after allowing back-to-back touchdown drives in the second and third quarters.
The second of those -- a 25-yard pass from Matt Moore to Kenny Stills -- appeared to fall on the shoulders of Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy. It appeared as though Van Noy's responsibility was in the deep middle of the field, but he did not get deep enough, and Stills was wide open for a score that made the game 20-14.
Asked about the play in a conference call on Tuesday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick sounded exasperated. Not necessarily with Van Noy, but with himself.
"What was supposed to happen was we were supposed to have the pattern covered but we didn’t," he said. "Yeah, I mean I think really that play is probably more my fault than anybody else’s. There were certainly things that could’ve been better on it, but in the end we have some flexibility in our coverages, and we make adjustments in coverages from time to time based on a formation or based on the type of pattern that another team is running.
"I think this was just one of those where really the players, they were trying to do the right thing. We were trying to get to something that would’ve helped us, but it just kind of didn’t work out and that’s, again, really probably more my fault because we just didn’t have it clean enough. It just wasn’t presented well enough, not that they didn’t understand it, and it just obviously didn’t play out the way we wanted it to."
The Dolphins lined up initially with a three-by-one set that became a three-by-two, five-wide set with Moore in the shotgun. When running back Damien Williams motioned out wide, linebacker Dont'a Hightower (on the right edge) can be seen signalling to Van Noy in the middle of the field. Simultaneously, Devin McCourty signals to Patrick Chung, and Chung drops to help Eric Rowe and Hightower with Williams and slot receiver Jarvis Landry.
From his spot seven yards off the line of scrimmage, Van Noy immediately looks to Stills at the snap and settles into a zone near the Patriots' 10-yard line. Expecting help behind him, Van Noy watches Stills run right by him and makes no sudden move to pick up the receiver until Moore's pass is floating over his head.
The closest safety to the play was McCourty, but he was occupied by a receiver running to the front corner of the end zone on his side.
In the end, whatever Hightower and McCourty were signalling to their teammates in the moments just before the Dolphins snap didn't appear to get communicated to Van Noy.
"The players are trying to do the right thing," Belichick said. "They had the right idea. We were trying to apply something, and we just didn’t quite have it right, and that really goes back to me more than anybody else, so I’ll take that one."