Patriots

Patriots

Consider the following scenario: The New England Patriots lead the Jets by 14 points late in the fourth quarter when New York scores a touchdown to cut the lead to seven.

But rather than sending out their "hands team" to field the Jets' onside kick attempt, the Patriots must send their defense back onto the field to stop New York in a fourth-and-15 scenario from the 25-yard line.

That's the bold rule proposal the NFL's competition committee will vote on at the league's virtual meetings.

If Jason McCourty had a vote, it'd be a hard "no."

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"From the competitive side, especially as a defensive back, you don't mind that pressure going out there on fourth-and-15 and saying, 'All right, we've got to show up to win the game,' " the Patriots cornerback said Wednesday during a video conference with reporters.

"But conversely, if I'm a team and we've earned the right to be up, we’ve made the plays necessary to be winning in the fourth quarter ... I have a chance to seal the game by just going to catch an onside kick versus being out there for a fourth-and-15.

"From that standpoint, I don't really understand it. We're now basically rewarding you for being behind."

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It's not easy to convert a fourth-and-15; only two teams successfully converted that scenario in 2019 on seven total attempts. But that success rate was still higher than for onside kicks: Only eight of 63 (12.7 percent) onside kicks were recovered last season, per NFL Research.

 

Based solely on the numbers, this rule change would make it easier for teams to come back. So, it stands to reason that McCourty -- a defensive player on a team that's usually on the winning side -- isn't a fan.

The 32-year-old veteran is well aware of why the league would be motivated to pass such a rule, though -- and knows head coach Bill Belichick will be prepared for whatever the NFL decides.

"We're in the entertainment business, and an onside kick versus a 4th-and-15 is a lot more intriguing," McCourty said. "So, we have no control over it.

"If they vote yes, then we'll be out there preparing situationally how to stop fourth-and-15s with the game on the line."