New England Patriots

Belichick explains strange punt decisions in fourth quarter vs. Chiefs

The Patriots lacked a sense of urgency in the fourth quarter.

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Did New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick wave the white flag in the fourth quarter of Sunday's Week 15 game against the Kansas City Chiefs?

The Patriots had a fourth-and-2 on their own 42-yard line trailing the Chiefs 27-10 with 14:54 remaining in the fourth quarter. Belichick decided to punt the ball instead of going for it.

It was a strange decision considering the Patriots were down by three scores and needed to show a sense of urgency. Fans didn't like it, either, and they let the Patriots know about it by raining down boos from the Gillette Stadium seats.

The Patriots got the ball back soon after that punt and faced a fourth-and-4 at their own 33-yard line trailing by 17 with 9:20 left in regulation. Again, the Patriots punted.

The Patriots did find the end zone during garbage time to make the score a little more respectable, but it was too little too late in a 27-17 loss.

Belichick was asked during his postgame press conference about the punt with 9:20 remaining.

"Then we got the interception, right? At that point we had lost three starters," Belichick explained. "Worried about the pass protection. Worried about being able to execute in that situation. Felt like we were playing good defense. Get the ball back on a turnover, three-and-out, get the ball in better field position."

The Patriots did get an interception after punting with 9:20 left, but it was a fortunate turnover after Chiefs wide receiver Kadarius Toney couldn't catch a perfect pass from Patrick Mahomes and tipped the ball right into the hands of Patriots linebacker Jahlani Tavai.

It also doesn't make a ton of sense to punt the ball trailing by three scores with less than a quarter remaining and justify it by saying your team got an interception on the next possession. The possibility of getting a fluke interception should not influence the decision to punt when you need to score multiple times in a short span.

The Patriots played like a team that didn't want to get blown out at home.

Ex-Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson called the team's conservative nature "embarrassing" during NBC Sports Boston's Patriots Postgame Live.

"I thought it was embarrassing the way that game ended, I really did," Johnson said. "I thought it was embarrassing the way the game was called, the conservative nature in which that game was called from Bill Belichick.

"You were down 17 points late in that game and the Patriots had a fourth-and-7, they punted. They had a fourth-and-3, they punted. All down 17. They had a fourth-and-4, they punted. That's embarrassing, and in that last drive when they were down by 10 points inside their 1-yard line, they're huddling up. They're not even doing a hurry-up offense. There was no sense of urgency. It looked like a head coach that wasn't trying to win the game, he was trying to engineer a near-loss. To me, if I'm a player, I'm not happy with the way this game was coached from the sideline."

Ted Johnson and Matt Cassel react to Bill Belichick's decision-making and lack of urgency on the offensive side of the ball during the team's 27-17 loss to the Chiefs.

In the end, the loss ultimately was the best outcome for the Patriots, who currently own the No. 2 pick in the draft and now have a higher chance to get the No. 1 pick thanks to the Carolina Panthers beating the Atlanta Falcons.

But the lack of urgency is frustrating for the fans. It's OK to lose, especially against a far superior opponent like the Chiefs, but at least make it look like you're playing (and coaching) to win.

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