Even with a 33-point lead, Bill Belichick couldn’t resist a clever move Monday to get an extra edge.
During the fourth quarter of his team’s blowout win against the New York Jets, the Patriots coach took advantage of what he later described as a “loophole” in the rules to drain nearly an additional minute off the clock.
Up 33-0 with 11:13 left in the game, the Patriots had the ball on fourth down on the Jets’ 33-yard line and, after running down the 40-second play clock, took what appeared to be an intentional delay of game penalty to give punter Jake Bailey more room to punt. However, Jets coach Adam Gase declined the penalty.
The problem for the Jets was that the game clock did not stop. So the Patriots again ran down the play clock to near zero — and the game clock to under 10 minutes — before Brandon Bolden drew what again appeared to be an intentional false start penalty (presumably, Belichick knew that, according to NFL rules, two consecutive delay of games would have drawn an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Patriots, resulting in a 15-yard loss and a clock stoppage).
But again, Gase declined the penalty, allowing another 40 seconds to run off the clock before Bailey eventually punted the ball, eliciting an ever-so-subtle smile from Belichick on the opposing sideline.
When you think about the joke you're going to tell at the party later pic.twitter.com/hKeMwx27PE
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) October 22, 2019
In total, 90 seconds elapsed between the Patriots’ third- and fourth-down snaps. But both ESPN announcers and NFL fans alike were more captivated by Belichick’s rare display of amusement. Twitter even created a “moment” capturing his quickly viral reaction.
After the game, Belichick was asked about the series of events and admitted that he utilized a “loophole” in the NFL rules that the league might seek to address.
“It was just the way the rules are set up,” Belichick said during his post-game press conference, acknowledging that the Patriots were “able to run quite a bit of time off the clock without really having to do anything.”
“That’s probably a loophole that will be closed, and probably should be closed,” he added. “But right now it’s open.”