Bill Belichick made it clear that the Patriots are expecting more from their punt returners than what they got from Cyrus Jones in Monday's game with the Ravens.
But, so as not to single-out Jones, Belichick also made it clear that Jones' miscue was one of several in his team's 30-23 victory.
The second-rounder out of Alabama found himself close to a bouncing Sam Koch punt with just under seven minutes remaining in the third quarter. He accidentally kicked the ball back toward the Patriots sideline and the Ravens recovered, providing them with a 75-yard swing in field position.
Two plays later the Ravens were in the end zone to make the score 23-10.
"I mean any punt-returner, once we don’t field the ball then we have to get out of the way and keep it from hitting us," Belichick said. "Yeah, that’s a fundamental thing."
Belichick was asked why he decided to continue to give Jones opportunities despite the fact that he has ball-security issues throughout the season, most recently muffing a punt in New England's Week 13 win over the Rams.
"We have confidence in all of our players," Belichick said, then referring to his team's two additional turnovers against the Ravens -- a third-quarter fumble by Matthew Slater on a kickoff return and a second-quarter interception thrown by Tom Brady.
"We've seen Slater fumble before. We've seen Brady throw an interception before, too. We'll always do what we feel is best for the football team based on the situation and the particular game and what we're dealing with."
Belichick may still have a level of confidence in Jones, but he pulled the rookie from all return duties following Slater's fumble.
Moving forward, should the Patriots want to make a more permanent switch in the return game, they could turn to Patrick Chung, who returned two punts on Monday. Griff Whalen, who was inactive, is another option, as is Julian Edelman, who is the most accomplished returner on the roster.
Edelman may also be the team's second most valuable offensive player now that Rob Gronkowski is on injured reserve, and so an increased workload in the kicking game may not be ideal.
"I’ll do what the coaches as me to do," Edelman told WEEI's Ordway, Merloni and Fauria show Tuesday. "I personally love doing punt returns. That’s a passion of mine. If my number gets called, my numbers gets called and I will do it like a bat out of hell."