The New England Patriots didn't have the services of one of their talented playmakers after the first quarter of Sunday night's game against the Miami Dolphins. But it wasn't because he was injured.
Patriots rookie wide receiver Demario Douglas committed a key turnover late in the first quarter when Dolphins outside linebacker Bradley Chubb caught Douglas from behind after a first-down reception and forced a fumble, which Miami recovered on its own 27-yard line to snuff out a potential New England scoring drive.
Douglas' fumble proved costly, as the Dolphins marched down the field and scored a touchdown to take a 10-0 lead. It appears Douglas paid the price for his mistake, too: While the rookie wideout remained in the game as the team's punt returner, he wasn't wasn't seen on offense after his fumble, finishing the game with just six total offensive snaps.
Head coach Bill Belichick denied "benching" Douglas after the game, retorting that the Patriots "played all of our skill players" and that they "can't play everybody." But Douglas' offensive disappearance sure felt performance-related -- and our Tom E. Curran had an issue with Belichick's apparent decision in the wake of New England's 24-17 loss.
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"What's wild to me is a selective way in which he approaches these penalties," Curran said of Belichick on NBC Sports Boston's Patriots Postgame Live. "I remember Stevan Ridley was a fumbling machine, and then all of a sudden he would get benched -- and then there was a period of time where he would fumble and Bill didn't bench him.
"He is just not as consistent a head coach as he might have been 10, 12, 15 years ago in terms of doling out punishment."
As Curran pointed out, several other Patriots made mistakes both in Sunday night's game and the team's Week 1 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles but didn't see their playing time disappear.
"You want to dole out punishment? You had Deatrich Wise offside in the first drive last week, which negated a 15-yard loss," Curran said. "It's one of your captains. You had Kyle Dugger with a hold in the end zone that negated a sack on one of the drives that wound up being points. So, it's everyone. It's your captains. It's your best players. Mac Jones was picked today. He's a captain. It's a horrendous pick."
You could argue there's some merit to benching an impressionable rookie to ensure he doesn't make the same mistake again, as opposed to a seasoned veteran who might be more equipped to move on from his mistake. But Curran's issue is that these Patriots don't have the luxury of benching a player like Douglas, who for better or worse is one of the team's most dynamic offensive playmakers.
"This selective punishment stuff is for the birds as far as I'm concerned, because your team's not good enough to overcome it," Curran said.
To Curran's point, New England's offense lacked explosiveness throughout Sunday night's game -- the offense averaged just 4.1 yards per play, with its longest play going for only 18 yards.
To hear more reaction from Curran, Phil Perry, Ted Johnson, Matt Cassel, Michael Holley and Amina Smith check out the Patriots Postgame Live video below.