Patriots

After Gronk play, Belichick makes another pitch for goal-line cameras

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After Gronk play, Belichick makes another pitch for goal-line cameras

DENVER -- Rob Gronkowski was hot after his team's win Sunday night at Sports Authority Field. The reason? He thought he had a touchdown -- or a "tug," as he calls it -- wiped off the board because of a missed call.

Late in the second quarter, it looked as though Gronkowski made a diving grab near the goal line, but it was immediately called incomplete. After the Patriots called a timeout, and after Gronkowski did some serious lobbying to Bill Belichick to challenge the ruling, the coach opted to toss his red challenge flag.

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"I went up to Coach, and he’s like, ‘Are you sure?’ And I’m like, ‘I’m sure, man.’ I would never say that if I wasn’t 100 percent sure, because you don’t want to lose that kind of trust," Gronkowski said after the game. "And I thought I caught it, man. I know I caught it. My fingers were underneath it.”

Yet after review, the call on the field stood. There was not enough video evidence to overturn. 

"I mean, I didn’t see any replays or anything like that, but did you guys see any time where the ball hit the ground? Because it didn’t, that’s why,” Gronkowski said. ”I put my hand underneath the ball. I know for sure I caught it. I just don’t understand why it wasn’t a tug. It didn’t show any evidence of it hitting the ground. I know it didn’t. My fingers were underneath it. It tilted up the ball, and I knew it was right there. And I brought it in, and it landed on my forearm when I brought it in, and I knew exactly."

Belichick said during a conference call on Monday that he wouldn't hold it against Gronkowski. Most players like to think they catch every pass sent their way, he explained. And it even after review, Belichick said, it looked like an incredibly close call. 

Because the topic of replay and goal-line calls was brought up, Belichick used the opportunity to once again make it known that he believes there should be more cameras in order to provide more angles for plays like that Gronkowski's. 

The play ended up not mattering because one snap later Dwayne Allen was in the end zone for an 11-yard score, but what if that was an end-of-the-game play? What if the score was tighter? Wouldn't you want more angles to know you got the call right? 

That's Belichick's point. It's one he's made before.

"It went the way it did and I understand that," Belichick said. "Again, not that it made any difference on that play, but again, I’ll take this opportunity to say that I just am all for trying to get these plays right. I think that would have been a good example of where a goal-line camera or a pylon camera would have been given a good opportunity. 

"I think we saw in the Kansas City-Oakland game a couple weeks ago the great shot that that camera gave, so again, I think this would be just another example. In the end, it didn’t make any difference in the game last night, but had that been the final play of the game or one of the final plays of the game in a close game, whichever side it was on, just want it to be right. Whether he caught it or didn’t catch it, just make sure that we make the right call."

The play Belichick was referencing occurred last month during a Thursday night game between the Chiefs and Raiders. Oakland tight end Jared Cooks appeared to get into the end zone for a game-tying touchdown, but thanks to a review, he was marked down at the 1. 

The Raiders eventually scored and won the game, but it was a good example of how a camera in that area of the field can be helpful. 

"It’s a tough call," Belichick said of Gronkowski's near-grab. "The official made the call. It’s a tough call. The official that made the call was standing pretty close to me on the sideline. He was probably 30 yards away. It was a close play. I saw it the same way he did. 

"It was really close, so maybe the league can find a way to finance that project and get a good quality shot of some of those goal line plays, like they had in the Oakland-Kansas City game."

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With Andrews out, who's next man up for the Patriots at center?

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With Andrews out, who's next man up for the Patriots at center?

Continuity along the offensive line was one of the reasons the Patriots were able to have the season they had in 2016. They tossed aside the early-season experiementation that Bill Belichick favored at times in order to establish a starting five that could be relied upon, if healthy, start to finish. 

They attacked 2017 with the same approach, but because of injury the consistency simply has not been the same. Both starting tackles, Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon, have missed time injured this season, and Cannon will sit out again on Sunday as he continues to deal with an ankle injury. 

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The interior of the line has remained largely in place until this week when center David Andrews came down with an illness, missed two practices, and was ruled out. 

On a line where familiarity is key, where the center is the one making the calls, the one in constant communication with Tom Brady, what now?

The Patriots will likely turn to second-year man Ted Karras, who has the ability to play both guard spots and also backed up Andrews for the vast majority of training camp. The 6-foot-4, 305-pounder was released at the end of camp, quickly signed to the Patriots practice squad, and then he re-signed to the active roster in Week 1 when Malcolm Mitchell was placed on injured reserve.

Karras, drafted in the sixth round in 2016 out of Illinois, was named a practice player of the week earlier this year and he earned some praise from Belichick before the Patriots took off for Mexico City.

"Ted works hard," Belichick said. "He loves football. He gets there early, stays late."

Belichick noted that Karras (nine snaps, all against the Broncos) hasn't played much this season, but he did see plenty of work early last season when he filled in for an injured Shaq Mason. He was the Week 1 starter at right guard in a win ver the Cardinals and he played 41 snaps in Week 2 against the Dolphins. 

The Patriots offensive line could also potentially turn to Joe Thuney at center. He's practiced there before and got some experience at the position during his time at NC State. This seems like the less likely move since the Patriots would then have to deal with two new players at different spots -- center and left guard (whether the player replacing Thuney would be Karras or rookie Cole Croston) -- which could have a domino effect on the rest of the line. 

However the Patriots choose to handle it, they'll face an interesting test south of the border. The Raiders feature a pair of talented pass-rushers in Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack, who Belichick says play all over the offensive line, yet Oakland is tied for last in the league in sacks. 

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Bill Belichick takes time to admire yet another opposing punter

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Bill Belichick takes time to admire yet another opposing punter

If the Patriots are about to go up against one of the more talented punters in the league, one way or another, you're bound to hear about it from Bill Belichick.

Sometimes Belichick will go into great detail on opposing punters in one of his weekly press conferences. Sometimes he'll go out of his way to highlight a punter during one of his "breakdowns" on Patriots.com. 

He went the latter route this week, gushing over Raiders punter Marquette King.

"We usually don't have the punters on the highlights here, but King's a very athletic punter," Belichick said. "He runs a lot of fakes, a guy you have to really be conscious of as a both holder on field goals and punts on fakes."

King is the No. 2 punter in the league when it comes to net punting (45.5 yards), and he's tenth in the league in terms of the number of punts dropped inside the 20-yard line. 

"King is an athletic guy," Belichick reiterated, "and he can change field-position big time."

Add him to the list of big-legged punters -- "weapons," if you will -- Belichick has praised in the past.

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