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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