FOXBORO -- It's like clockwork.
Every time the Ravens attempt a field goal or an extra point, holder Sam Koch looks in at long-snapper Morgan Cox. Then he looks back at kicker Justin Tucker. Then he looks in at Cox again. Moments later the snap arrives, and more often than not, the kick flies through the uprights.
PATRIOTS 30, RAVENS 23
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This well-oiled operation helped Tucker make all 28 of his field goals headed into Monday night's game with the Patriots. But the well-oiled operation also provided the Patriots with a cue that they used to break Tucker's streak on Monday night.
With 5:51 remaining in the first quarter, and the Patriots leading 2-0, the Ravens lined up a 34-yard field goal. As they set up, Patriots linebacker Shea McClellin, playing off the line of scrimmage, peered into the Ravens operation.
McClellin would not say after the game if he was looking at Koch's metronomic head movements -- "I don't want to give that away for other teams," McClellin said -- but he saw something.
McClellin sprinted toward the line of scrimmage when Koch's head turned back toward his long-snapper. A standout high school basketball player in Idaho, McClellin timed his leap perfectly, sailing over Cox's back and landing directly in front of Tucker. McClellin jumped again to ensure that he would smother the kick, and smother it he did.
The Patriots ended up with possession on their own 26-yar line and followed up the turnover on downs with a touchdown drive.
"It's a lot of things," McClellin said when asked for the key to that kind of point-saving play. "It's the guys up front, making sure they hold those guys down so they don't jump into me when I'm jumping. Getting the right height. And I think the most important thing is the timing, for sure. If you're there two seconds before they snap it, it's a penalty. Could've gotten a penalty, but fortunately it worked out."
McClellin had never jumped an opposing long-snapper like that before, but as the "Mike" linebacker in field-goal block situations, the Patriots coaching staff came to him to have him work on his leaps. They practiced it for some time before finding the right opportunity to use it.
It's a play the Patriots have used in the past with linebacker Jamie Collins. Commonly referred to as an athletic "freak" by teammates during his time in New England, Collins' leaping ability was put on display when he seemed to hover over the Colts' field-goal protection in order to block an Adam Vinatieri kick last season. Collins tried to get another in Week 1 of this year but made contact with a Cardinals lineman to pick up a penalty.
McClellin said he remembered the one that worked last year. A member of the Bears at the time, McClellin saw Collins take to the air and was in awe.
"I just remember him sky-rocketing over the center and blocking the kick," McClellin said. "I think I was watching it at home, and I was like, 'Wow, that guy's a beast.' He's a freak. That's Jamie though."
On Monday, with the help of a machine-like Ravens operation and a perfectly-timed leap, McClellin provided the Patriots with a pretty convincing Collins impersonation.