Oftentimes the third phase of football -- special teams -- is overlooked. That's not the case in New England, however, as Bill Belichick has consistently invested in that area of the game throughout his tenure with the Patriots. His emphasis on that portion of the game did come up clutch for a moment in the Patriots' 24-17 loss to the Dolphins on Sunday night.
After Tua Tagovailoa's pass on third-and-11 fell incomplete in the closing minutes of the third quarter, Miami lined up for a 49-yard field goal that would have put them up by three scores and effectively iced the game at that juncture. However, it was at that point when New England deployed a rare block attempt where core special teamer Brenden Schooler raced parallel to the line of scrimmage toward the center, and then darted down to the backfield right as the ball was snapped to essentially run untouched to kicker Jason Sanders and block the kick.
"As soon as the ball was snapped and I felt myself in the momentum, carrying, I just knew I was going to get there and just wanted to make sure I got a hand on the ball or something where I could stop the ball and hopefully one of us picked it up and get the offense spark going," Schooler said of the play after the game.
This sideline angle really shows Schooler's technique and how perfectly he timed his jump off the line of scrimmage.
While not totally uncommon -- the Patriots had a similar formation on a blocked punt against the Colts last season -- it is a rarity to see a team attempt that type of field goal block, let alone execute it. Schooler himself admitted that he had never seen that concept before, but put his trust in the coaching staff when they were installing it.
"I don't think I would have come up with that play," said Schooler, "so it's a testament to our coaching staff because when they drew it up and told us what we were doing I thought to myself, 'I trust them but I haven't ever seen anything like this before.' I mean it was awesome to see the new innovative plays that they come up with and then to go out there and execute it and make a play for your team."
While impressive, the Patriots were unable to take full advantage of this blocked field goal. After getting the ball back at midfield, New England was knocking on the door of the red zone but Mac Jones' deep throw intended for DeVante Parker was intercepted by Xavien Howard and eliminated the scoring opportunity. The Patriots were able to score on two of their next three drives, but ultimately came up short against the Dolphins and have fallen to 0-2 on the year.
As it relates to the blocked field goal, however, imitation is the greatest form of flattery in the NFL, so it will be interesting to see how quickly other teams across the league try to install a similar type of blocking attempt in the weeks to come.