With a little more than three minutes to play in the third quarter, the Patriots were down, 17-3, and had shown little life to that point as Miami kicker Jason Sanders lined up for a 49-yard field goal that would have put New England behind by three scores.
But from over on the left side of the Patriots’ defensive alignment came a sprinting figure—special teams ace Brenden Schooler, going full steam along the line of scrimmage with no Dolphin paying much attention to him. Schooler flew in for a blocked field goal, going untouched with enough speed that he almost overran the kick.
It was an impressive play, and one that caught attention around the league. And according to one former Patriots assistant coach—Josh McDaniels, now the head coach of the Raiders—the play is ripe to be stolen.
“I think I heard about it more than I saw it—I didn’t really see it. Sounded like an interesting way to go about it,” McDaniels said in his meeting with the media this week, before he was asked whether he imagines it will catch on. “I don’t know, maybe if it works. If it works it has a tendency to be stolen. That’s what the nature of the profession of coaching is all about.”
Mike McDaniel: ‘Great Job by Them’
Certainly, Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel was impressed with the play, which wound up going for naught as the resulting New England drive—one that started on the Dolphins’ 49-yard line—ended in a Mac Jones interception. He said the Dolphins had to adjust their kicking style the next time around, which contributed to Sanders missing a 55-yard field goal with 2:19 to play in the game and the Patriots only down by one score.
“It was a really cool schematic adjustment by the Patriots,” McDaniel said after the game. “Hats off to them. And it’s always telling when someone’s able to make a big play like that in terms of for yourself. You know, Danny [Crossman] was on it and knew that we needed to adjust the snap count, which is – they tried to do the same thing on the last field goal that we missed.
“But that’s why that – he wasn’t an impact on that play because we made the appropriate adjustments. But that was a great design. They kind of used one of the motions that we use on offense all the time, basically, and field goal block. Hadn’t seen that before. So that was a great job by them.”
Joe Judge Back With Special Teams
An innovation like that is helped by the fact that the Patriots now have their usual special-teams coordinator, Joe Judge, back in his normal role. Judge was par of the Patriots’ odd move to a hybrid offensive coordinator’s role, with Matt Patricia, last year.
Special teams captain Matthew Slater appreciates having Judge back.
“Joe is as knowledgeable a special teams coach and as experienced a special teams coach as there is in the league,” Slater told reporters this week. “His understanding of the game, his understanding of how to call the game, how to scout an opponent, how to ready his players — it’s next level.”
Coach Bill Belichick tipped his hat to the special-teams unit for the play.
“It was timed up well,” Belichick said on Monday. “(Schooler) did a good job of timing the play, turning the corner there on (Christian) Wilkins and laying out for it. It was, as you said, a well-executed and well-timed out play. It was a big play for us, changed the field position, turned the momentum around.
“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to capitalize on it, but it was still a really good play on Schooler’s part and well designed by the special teams coaches.”