Patriots

Patriots

Leave it to Bill Belichick to shed light on the importance of the kicking game after a game like the one his team played on Sunday. 

Of all the memorable moments in New England's 27-24 win, the one Belichick brought up unprompted in his post-game press conference wasn't a Rob Gronkowski catch, or a Tom Brady throw, or a touchdown that was ruled to be an incompletion.

It was a kickoff. Specifically, the kickoff that occurred immediately before the final Steelers drive of the game. 

Belichick's point? That there were countless plays that mattered, involving an unspecified number of players. Team game.

"A lot of guys played well," Belichick said. "Tom played well. Rob played well, but we got a lot of great play from really everybody on the team. You can just go right down the line. Every play was a big play. 

"The kickoff after we scored was a big play. If that had been a touchback, I don’t know, they might have scored on that pass. It would have been maybe on the 1-yard line. Every play is a big play."

The pass Belichick referred to was the 69-yard catch-and-run that was completed to JuJu Smith-Schuster with 52 seconds left in the game. It moved the Steelers from the 21-yard line to the Patriots' 10 in less than 20 seconds. 

One play prior, Smith-Schuster returned a Stephen Gostkowski kick out of his own end zone for 22 yards before being tackled by Patriots special-teamer Nicholas Grigsby. It was Grigsby's second "teams" tackle of the game, and his third game under Belichick since being signed off of the Ravens practice squad last month.

The difference between Grigsby's tackle and a touchback in the box score was four yards so maybe Smith-Schuster's rumble down the sideline to the 10 wouldn't have resulted in a touchdown.

 

But you never know. And that's why, to Belichick, every play was big. Even in a game like that one, where hours of sports talk on television and radio will be devoted to a handful of moments that occurred in the last two minutes.

It's an approach that has helped shaped the style of the coach who watched his team win its ninth straight division title and 15th of the last 17. It all matters. 

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