Source: Jets tipped officials on push

Updated: October 22, 2013, 5:38 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPN.com

The New York Jets were aware of the New England Patriots' previous use of the illegal pushing technique on field goals, and they made sure Sunday's game officials knew it, too.

In fact, the Jets' sideline alerted the officiating crew during the game to watch out for it, a person familiar with the situation told ESPN.com Monday.

Sure enough, the Patriots were busted in overtime, and it cost them the game.

[+] EnlargeChris Jones
Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe/Getty ImageA penalty on Chris Jones, middle, gave the Jets new life in an eventual overtime win against the Patriots.

Publicly, the Jets said little about the matter. Coach Rex Ryan probably didn't want to come off as a tattletale, but he left little doubt Monday that he knew about the Patriots' practice, and he didn't deny blowing the whistle on them.

While he wouldn't answer directly about whether he was aware the Patriots had used it once the previous week against the New Orleans Saints, Ryan said, "The coaches watch every single play of every single game, so we're aware of the opponents' tendencies and everything else."

In other words, he knew.

Ryan declined to say whether that information was shared with his players, saying he'd "leave that in-house," and he also avoided the question of whether he tipped off officials before Sunday's game.

"Again, you know what? My comments with the officials, I'll just leave that way," he said.

The Jets have a history of contacting the league with concerns before facing the Patriots. Before last season's game in Foxborough, they wanted the game officials to be aware of possible illegal substituting by the Patriots while using their hurry-up offense.

The Jets were well-schooled on the new "push" penalty, players said Monday. In addition to the mandatory tutorial in training camp from officials, who travel the country to educate teams on new rules, the players were "reminded" as recently as early last week, said Damon Harrison, a member of the field goal unit.

They were reminded because the Patriots seemed to get away with it last week against the Saints, whose defense is coached by Ryan's brother Rob. A wire service photo from the Patriots' game against the Saints in Week 6 seems to show that Chris Jones pushed teammate Will Svitek on Garrett Hartley's 39-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter. Jones and Svitek ran the same technique against the Jets, but the umpire saw it and immediately threw a flag -- 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. It nullified a 56-yard field goal miss by Nick Folk, who followed up by nailing one from 42 yards in overtime, lifting the Jets to a 30-27 win.

The "push" penalty, on the books this season for the first time, is designed to improve player safety. This was the first time it was enforced.

Former Jets special-teams coach Mike Westhoff, an ESPN Radio analyst, studied a tape of the play and said it was "very, very evident" that it was orchestrated. He said Jones "cheated back in his stance," allowing him to get in position to push Svitek from behind.

"I watched the tape. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes," Westhoff said in a phone interview. "I can't prove this -- I don't know what they teach -- but those guys are pretty sharp up there [in New England]. I can't imagine them running a technique and not being aware of it. In my opinion, it was coached, taught and implemented that very way. I think they did it on purpose and got caught."

Westhoff said he "blocked a lot of kicks with that same technique," but it was legal up until this season. He said it's an unsafe practice because of "the force it generates" -- a big body pushing another big body into a blocker.

DeMario Davis, another special-teams contributor, said he was "very aware of the rule."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick admittedly wasn't, acknowledging Monday that his postgame interpretation was wrong. Rule 9, Section 1, Article 3 from the rule book is pretty straightforward: "Team B players cannot push teammates on the line of scrimmage into the offensive formation."

On Tuesday, Belichick was asked whether he was bothered that the Jets tipped officials off about the Patriots' use of the pushing tactic.

"Well, I mean, since they were using the play themselves I don't even know about all that. But basically we're just moving on here," he said.

Belichick was presumably referring to Stephen Gostkowski's 44-yard field goal at the end of the fourth quarter in which Quinton Coples appears to be pushing teammate Muhammad Wilkerson.

Willie Colon, another interior blocker on the field goal unit, said "all coaches should have knowledge of the rules." But he conceded he didn't know what was going on until after the game.

How could a head coach make such an oversight? Ryan didn't want to go there.

"I'm not worried about that," he said, bristling after several questions about the controversy. "The focus is going to be wherever you guys want it to be, but I think we outplayed New England, and I think that's why we won the game."

Meanwhile, Baltimore Ravens defensive end Chris Canty acknowledged he pushed a teammate on a last-minute field goal attempt in Miami against the Dolphins two weeks ago, which might have ultimately led to the penalty being called in the Patriots-Jets game Sunday.

"Wow, I can take credit for that?" Canty asked The Baltimore Sun on Tuesday.

According to NFL Network, the Dolphins filed a complaint after Canty shoved teammate Arthur Jones in an effort to block kicker Caleb Sturgis' potential game-tying 57-yard attempt, which sailed wide left in the Ravens' 26-23 win. The NFL reportedly told the Dolphins that the correct call was missed and that the league would make it a point of emphasis going forward.

ESPNBoston.com Patriots reporter Mike Reiss and ESPN.com Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this report.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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