Patriots

Patriots and Steelers shared more information about key punt from Week 2 matchup

"We expect 11 professionals to be on the field and there are consequences when they aren't."

Gunner Olszewski fumble
Gunner Olszewski fumbles a punt as Brenden Schooler positions himself to recover the ball. AP Photo/Don Wright

One of the key plays in the Patriots’ 17-14 win over the Steelers on Sunday came from a special teams miscue.

Forced to punt during the third quarter while holding a 10-6 lead, New England took advantage of a fumble from Pittsburgh returner (and ex-Patriot) Gunner Olszewski. Undrafted rookie free agent Brenden Schooler pounced on the mistake, recovering the ball back for the Patriots.

Handed a golden opportunity, New England made the most of the chance, scoring three plays later to make it a 17-6 lead.

After the game, both teams offered some illuminating details about the play.

Before the ball was even snapped, the Steelers had committed the mistake. As Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin noted later, his team only had 10 players on the field.

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As a result, Schooler was uncovered and ran freely downfield after the snap. On Tuesday, Patriots special teams coach Cam Achord offered an interesting hypothetical: Bailey might have thrown it to Schooler for a fake punt.

“There’s definitely an opportunity to throw to him, and Jake has a good arm and can throw, so there are situations where that will definitely happen,” he said, hinting at a potential future scenario.

But instead of using his arm, Bailey stayed with his leg and simply added altitude to his punt to help leverage the Patriots’ numerical advantage.

“He sees Schooler is uncovered right there, so rather than pinning the ball where Gunner is not going to have a chance to field it, now he’s going to hit a higher ball there, a sky ball, which forces the ball to move more in the air,” Achord explained.

“He hit a different pitch, used a different club, which left more hang time on the ball, and put more backspin on the ball, which helped contribute to the muff right there,” Achord added of the punt (and Olszewski’s fumble). “[Schooler] made a great play to be in front because any time you muff a punt, it’s going to go down in front of you, so that’s where you want to be.”

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Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater concurred with Achord.

“That was really a heads-up, alert play by Jake making an adjustment before the snap and executing at a high level and taking advantage of a mistake by Pittsburgh,” he said of Bailey.

Tomlin, assessing his team’s mistake, said he simply expects his players to know where they’re supposed to be.

“We have a bunch of professional guys,” he said on Tuesday. “We expect 11 professionals to be on the field and there are consequences when they aren’t.”

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