Patriots

Is Bill Belichick sending a message to NFL refs with this RPO comment?

Is Bill Belichick sending a message to NFL refs with this RPO comment?

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick knows better than to publicly criticize NFL officials.

But he seemingly found an opportunity to put a bug in their ears Friday.

The New England Patriots coach was asked about the challenges of defending the "run-pass option" (aka the RPO), a play in which a quarterback in a shotgun formation decides after the ball is snapped whether to hand off to his running back, throw a pass or in some cases keep it himself based on the post-snap movement of the defense.

Belichick responded by placing that challenge at the feet of NFL referees.

"The only problem (with) the RPO play in general is just the offensive pass interference: blocking downfield conflicting with the pass," Belichick said. "If it's a run, it's no problem. If the ball actually gets thrown, like what happened last week in the Houston game, it was called once."

Reading between the lines, it sounds like Belichick believes the Texans got away with some illegal blocking downfield last Sunday in their 28-22 win over New England.

Belichick makes a fair point: Offensive pass interference might be harder for officials to call if the decision to run or pass is delayed until the last second, like it is for an RPO.

You could say Belichick acknowledged that difficulty Friday -- or made an indirect plea to officials to keep an eye on pass-catchers blocking downfield.

"I would say any time you run that play, there's some degree of, 'Is there blocking downfield or not?' "Belichick said. "Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn't. It's a tough call for the officials. But that's sort of the complication of that play defensively."

Now is a good time for Belichick to make that suggestion. Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs ran RPOs on 20 percent of their snaps in 2018, per Football Outsiders, more than all but two NFL teams.

They haven't relied on RPOs as much this season but still are a heavy play-action team, which means more opportunities for wide receivers to make contact with defensive backs downfield.

The Patriots and Chiefs will have an experienced referee crew at Gillette Stadium led by 16-year veteran Jerome Boger. If Boger flags a Chiefs pass-catcher for offensive pass interference in Sunday's game, Patriots fans know who to thank.

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Sources: Tom Brady and family preparing to leave New England

Sources: Tom Brady and family preparing to leave New England

Tom Brady doesn't officially become a free agent until the new league year begins on March 18, but the rumors are already flying about the New England Patriot quarterback's future.

A report surfaced earlier in the week that Brady and his family purchased a home in Greenwich, Connecticut. As NBC Sports Boston's own Tom E. Curran pointed out, that is false.

But that doesn't mean Brady isn't planning on making a move.

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Thursday night on "Arbella Early Edition," Gary Tanguay revealed that a source told him Brady and wife Gisele Bundchen are looking to leave New England.

"I was told today by a source the family is planning to leave the area," Tanguay said. "The priority this time is to let the kids finish school this year, then they're gone."

Tanguay's report doesn't mean Brady is definitely leaving New England, but talks of him and his family looking to live somewhere else continue to gain steam.

If Brady indeed is moving on from New England and looking to start a new chapter, some of that could do with his desire to finally make the money he's worth in free agency.

According to Tanguay, Brady is "embarrassed" by the number of quarterbacks in the league that make more than him and has been fed up about it dating back to the summer, before he signed his contract extension.

Thirteen quarterbacks, including Brady's former backups Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, make more on average annually than the six-time Super Bowl champion according to overthecap.com.

The truth is, we won't know for certain what's going through Brady's mind until the ink is on paper for the 42-year-old's new contract. Until then, it's going to be a stressful offseason for Patriots fans.

Curran: Is this newfound time a silver lining for Patriots?

Patriots Talk Podcast: What exactly are the Patriots up to right now?

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Patriots Talk Podcast: What exactly are the Patriots up to right now?

Needless to say, it's unusual for the New England Patriots to have so much down time in January. Typically, they're playing in the AFC Divisional Round. And the AFC Championship Game. And often, the Super Bowl.

But this year, they were eliminated in the Wild Card Round for the first time since 2009. And now, they have a lot of time on their hands.

And while their early playoff exit was surely discouraging, the Patriots could stand to benefit from this extra time.

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On the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast, Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry discussed how the Patriots could utilize the extra time and the positive impact it could have on the organization.

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Curran pointed out that because the team has so often been playing into February, their already thin staff has been stretched thin come draft season, which explains why the team has had some draft misses in recent seasons.

Really, it comes down to 312 days of prepreparation were sacrifice. And so for a bare bones organization in terms of both front office and coaching staff -- these guys have had shorter offseasons by a month on average than any other team in the NFL.

So on one hand, it's remarkable and it's a high-class problem. On the other hand, isn't it somewhat inevitable that you might have some draft swings and misses?

Perry agreed with Curran and brought up that the fact that the extra time off will give Belichick a real chance to thoroughly evaluate his roster.

I think for a team that is looking at a reboot, one of the sort of ironic things about that is that now you have time to really think that through in more detail and not to say that Bill Belichick isn't planning or looking at his roster, how it's constructed, how the contracts set up and trying to plan ahead. I'm sure he is doing that to a certain extent.

But you can only spend so much time on those things when you're getting ready for the divisional round, the AFC Championship Game every year, the Super Bowl every other year.

This surely makes sense and is definitely a positive for the Patriots. Perhaps with that extra time, Belichick can find a way to retain Tom Brady while significantly upgrading his supporting cast.

For more on the Patriots offseason plans, potential changes in their front office, and predictions for the AFC and NFC Championship Games, check out the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast, which drops every Tuesday and Thursday as a part of the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.