Patriots

Bill Belichick explains why Patriots didn't call timeout on final drive of the first half

Patriots

Before halftime in their game against the Miami Dolphins, the New England Patriots had the ball on their own 25-yard line. They had 57 seconds on the clock, three timeouts left and potentially could have tried to mount a scoring drive to close the half.

Instead, the Patriots ran the ball twice and elected to head into the locker room.

And after the 27-24 loss that the team suffered, that decision came under scrutiny.

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When asked why the Patriots didn't call a timeout after either of their run plays, Bill Belichick provided a pretty simple answer.

"We would have done that if we got a first down," Belichick said.

And as for why the Patriots elected not to call a timeout before Miami punted the ball in order to give themselves more time to hold onto the ball, Belichick acknowledged that he didn't want to give the Dolphins a chance to get the ball back. 

"[We wanted to] see what kind of field position we got, and if we could advance the ball, then we'd take them," Belichick said. "But we didn't want to give the ball back with their timeouts at the end of the half either."

So essentially, the Patriots were playing it safe. After all, the game was tied at the time, they were getting the ball back after halftime, and their offense wasn't doing much at that point in the game. Tom Brady even admitted that when discussing the decision after the contest. 

"We weren't executing great, so I can understand the decision but... It was a lot of things today," Brady said.

 

But could Belichick's decision also have been a message to the Patriots offense and Tom Brady? That's how former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson viewed the move and explained his reasoning on NBC Sports Boston's Patriots Postgame Live.

"I think that was a calculated thing," Johnson said. "My feeling — my gut — on this is that Bill was sending a message to Tom. That's what it was. I mean, there's no other explanation other than 'I don't believe in you, Tom. Tom, you know what? You don't deserve another chance to put points up. This is on you, Tom.' 

"The first two plays when they did get the ball back were run plays and then they ran it out. You know what the first two plays were to open the second half for the Patriots? Two run plays, can't convert on third down, punt. It was if they were like, 'You know what, we're done putting the ball in your hands, Tom.' "

But why exactly would Belichick elect to do this knowing that missing out on a chance to score could hurt the team?

"Here's the thing with Bill," Johnson said. "Sometimes he cuts off his nose to spite his face — Malcolm Butler — where you're like, 'What are you doing, Bill? What's the overall lesson? What are you trying to say to this offense?' It's Tom Brady, for crying out loud... To not trust your offense in that situation might have cost you the game, Bill."

There certainly is an argument to be made that the decision cost the Patriots some points. While it can also be argued that the team still should have been able to beat the Dolphins after the half, the decision will deservingly be questioned because it contributed to the Patriots losing not only the game, but also a first-round bye.