Patriots Postgame Live

Ex-Patriots rip Belichick for 'embarrassing' game management vs. Chiefs

"If I'm a player, I'm not happy with the way this game was coached."

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Did Bill Belichick put the New England Patriots in the best position to win Sunday?

That's a fair question considering some curiously conservative decisions Belichick made late in his team's 27-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Facing a fourth-and-2 on New England's 42-yard line and trailing the Chiefs by 17 points with 14:54 remaining in the fourth quarter, Belichick opted to punt instead of going for it. The Patriots' defense held up and got the ball back for the offense -- which punted again on a fourth-and-4 from its 33-yard line while still trailing by 17 with 9:20 to go.

New England ranks 29th in the NFL in fourth down conversion rate at just 40.9 percent, but why not least attempt to pick up a first down if you're trailing by three scores in the fourth quarter? Former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson wondered the same thing after Sunday's loss while calling out Belichick for his conservative play-calling.

"I thought it was embarrassing the way that game ended. I really did," Johnson said on NBC Sports Boston's Patriots Postgame Live. "I thought it was embarrassing the way the game was called, the conservative nature in which that game was called from Bill Belichick.

"... 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."

Belichick cited injuries along the offensive line, concerns about the team's pass protection and faith in the Patriots' defense as reasons for punting in the fourth quarter instead of going for it. But as ex-Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel explained, those reasons likely won't placate offensive players who want at least the opportunity to mount a comeback.

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.

"I'd be pissed off," Cassel said on Patriots Postgame Live when asked how he'd feel as a player in that situation. "As the quarterback of the team, I'd say, 'Look, we've got these guys out here. They've all made this team ... you've got to give us an opportunity. Give us enough trust to go out there (and try to make a play).

"The lack of confidence also hurts this team at times, because maybe Bailey Zappe makes a play or DeVante Parker or one of these guys steps up and you're able to put together a drive and get yourself back into the ballgame. So again, as a player, as a competitor, you want the ball in your hand. You want the opportunity to do everything you can to win the ballgame.

"And I just believe at times, when you punt in that situation, particularly in the fourth quarter, you're submitting to the fact that, 'Look, we're probably going to lose this game. Let's make it a little bit closer.'"

To Cassel's point, Patriots running back Ezekiel Elliott pointed out his team's lack of urgency in the fourth quarter.

"I think we could have went a little faster, especially being down three scores in that last quarter," Elliott told reporters. "But I don't know. That's not up to me."

New England's loss was probably best for the team in the long run, as the Patriots have the inside track on landing the No. 2 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft at 3-11. The players on the roster still want to win games, however, and Belichick is doing those players a disservice if he's not giving them at least a chance to fight back late in the game.

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