- Mike Reiss, ESPN New England Patriots reporter
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New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick took defensive lineman Chris Jones off the hook Monday, admitting he was "wrong" when he said Sunday he didn't believe his team committed a penalty on a pivotal missed field goal attempt by the New York Jets in overtime.
Belichick said after Sunday's 30-27 loss to the Jets that he didn't think it was a penalty against Jones for pushing a teammate on Nick Folk's 56-yard field goal attempt because Jones wasn't on the second level of the defense.
Given another chance after the penalty, Folk converted from 42 yards with 5:07 left to give the Jets the win. Folk attempted and made two field goals in regulation against the Patriots as well. New England did not use the same technique on the previous field goal attempts, however.
Jones took responsibility after the game, but in revisiting the play on his weekly day-after-game conference call Monday, Belichick changed his stance.
"On the field goal play at the end, Chris is obviously trying to do the right thing by stepping up and taking responsibility," Belichick said. "But that's not his responsibility. That's ours. I just have to do a better job of coaching that. That's not his fault."
The wire service photo from the Patriots' game against the Saints in Week 6 seems to show that New England had used the same play -- with the same two players (Jones looping behind Will Svitek) -- on the New Orleans Saints' 39-yard field goal on Oct. 13 with 2:24 remaining in the game. No penalty was called then.
The Saints tried to make the score 27-23. But if the officials had called a penalty, the Saints could have extended the drive and possibly run out the clock so the Patriots wouldn't have had a chance to win the game late, which they did when Tom Brady connected with Kenbrell Thompkins on a 17-yard touchdown strike, giving New England a 30-27 victory.
Rob Ryan, the brother of Jets coach Rex Ryan, is the Saints' defensive coordinator.
The Jets' sideline, aware that the Patriots had previously used the pushing technique, alerted the officiating crew during Sunday's game to watch out for it, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Rex Ryan was asked Monday whether he was aware of the Patriots' use of the technique against the Saints the week before.
"Let's put it this way," he said. "The coaches watch every single play of every single game, so we're aware of opponents' tendencies and everything else."
Ryan was unusually coy when asked whether his players were made aware of the Patriots' pushing technique.
"What we discuss to our team, I'll just leave in-house," he said.
Ryan responded the same way when asked whether his coaching staff tipped the officials before the game.
"Again, you know what? My comments with the officials, I'll just leave that way," he said.
On Monday, Belichick was asked a follow-up question on the play in the game against the Jets, specific to his remarks Sunday about Jones not being on the second level.
"Obviously we are wrong," he said, before adding: "It's our job to understand the rules. Whatever the bottom line is, we didn't do it properly."
Asked whether it was a spur-of-the-moment type of decision by Jones, Belichick turned things back to the coaching staff.
"We've got to coach it better. What he did was basically what he was being told to do," he said.
None of the Jets players made available to the media Monday would answer directly when asked whether special-teams coordinator Ben Kotwica schooled them on the Patriots' technique. Damon Harrison, who blocked Svitek, said the coaches reminded them of the no-push rule at the beginning of the week.
"The guy directly to my right was giving a teammate a push," Harrison said. "At the time, Rex said to me it was a penalty. Going back to training camp, there was an emphasis made that you can't push anyone on field goals. I overheard the refs talking, and I was just praying it was going in our favor."
Former Jets special-teams coach Mike Westhoff said he used the pushing technique "thousands of times" in his career, but it was legal until this season. He said he was a proponent of the rule change because of safety concerns.
Belichick also was asked about the Patriots using the tactic during his weekly radio interview on WEEI on Monday.
"Previously, when the rule was a little bit different, it was very common to see guys get pushed from the second level. This year, I've seen it quite a bit on film. Yeah, we've done it, too. There are a lot of examples of it this year," he said.
ESPN.com Jets reporter Rich Cimini contributed to this report.
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick took Chris Jones off the hook Monday, admitting he was "wrong" when he said Sunday he didn't believe his team committed a penalty on a pivotal missed field goal attempt by the New York Jets in overtime.