Momentum can be powerful, but here's the tricky thing about it: it's incredibly fleeting.
That was the case for the Patriots Sunday afternoon, when an aggressive decision by Bill Belichick didn't pay off -- and later on Sunday night, one of his former players -- Rodney Harrison -- ripped him for it.
Here's how it went down: in the third quarter, after forcing their first three-and-out of the game, the Patriots snapped an six-quarter touchdown drought by tying the game at 14 on a 22-yard scamper by Damien Harris and a conversion from Cam Newton to Jakobi Meyers. And so Belichick opted for an onside kick, hoping to keep the pressure on.
Instead, Buffalo took over on the New England 45 and immediately took advantage of the short field, seizing the lead right back after a 9-play, 45-yard drive. And on NBC's "Football Night in America," Harrison took Belichick to task for the call.
“It told me that Bill Belichick does not trust his defense because at that point in time in the game, you just scored, you went for the two-point conversion — you kick off and you give your defense a break,” Harrison said. “You don’t put them in a situation where they’re at the 50- or 40-yard line and now their backs are against the wall. I was really disappointed in Coach Belichick for even doing something like that after fighting and clawing so hard to get back into the game.”
“That signaled to me a little bit of desperation," Tony Dungy echoed. "New England has always had Buffalo's number. They've never had to do anything crazy to try to win a game. That's something you would expect from Buffalo in years past -- 'We've gotta onside kick to beat the Patriots' -- and now when you see New England trying to do that, it tells me 'I don't have a lot of confidence in my unit.' "
After the game, Belichick didn't exactly expound on his motivations for making the call, simply stating “We were trying to make a positive play.”
And while the high-risk, high-reward decision had the potential to be a very positive play, giving Josh Allen and the Bills possession on the plus side of midfield swung the momentum back in Buffalo's favor, and the Patriots were never able to take the lead.