When Patriots rookie cornerback Cyrus Jones pulled the inexplicable moth-to-a-flame routine with a punt that had yet to be touched by the Ravens, many assumed Jones would be yanked from punt returns, permanently. Apparently, that won’t be happening.
Coach Bill Belichick came off as charitable when discussing the matter during a Tuesday press conference.
“[W]e have confidence in all of our players,” Belichick told reporters. “We’ve seen [Matthew] Slater fumble before. We’ve seen [Tom] Brady throw an interception before, too. We’ll always do what we feel is best for the football team based on the situation and the particular game and what we’re dealing with.”
What’s best for the football team during a punt is pretty clear to Belichick.
“Of course once the ball hits the ground, we don’t want to be near the ball and have that hit us,” Belichick said. “That goes for everybody. . . . We turned the ball over three times, and that’s three too many. So we’ve got to do a better job of coaching and a better job of playing to eliminate those turnovers.”
As it relates to punts, the message remains simple.
“I mean any punt returner, once we don’t field the ball then we have to get out of the way and keep it from hitting us,” Belichick said. “Yeah, that’s a fundamental thing.”
It’s indeed fundamental, but sometimes strange things happen when the ball is skittering around and the punt returner for whatever reason doesn’t run the other way. It happened last night, and it opened the door for a comeback that nearly kept the Patriots from winning their 11th game.