- Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots made the surprising decision to receive the ball to start the game vs. the Los Angeles Chargers instead of deferring and kicking it. They had only elected to receive once this season.
- Patriots players said after the game that the decision caught them off-guard, but fired them up because it meant Belichick had confidence in them.
- The plan worked, as the Patriots started fast, scoring on their opening drive en route to blowing out the Chargers.
The New England Patriots playoff game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday began with an unusual decision, and it appeared to work.
The Patriots won the opening coin toss and elected to receive instead of deferring so they could get the ball to start the second half. According to Ben Volin of The Boston Globe, the Patriots only elected to receive to start the game one other time this season — in Week 2 vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Instead, Bill Belichick seemed to want to send a message right away — the Patriots had to start fast and put the Chargers at an immediate disadvantage.
It seemed to work. The Patriots scored on their first drive, and after the Chargers responded with a score, the Patriots scored four more touchdowns in the first half while holding the Chargers scoreless. They led 35-7 at halftime.
“We’re so trained in our routine. I was thinking, ‘Oh, we won, defer to the second half,'” Patriots tight end Dwayne Allen told Volin. “Then I hear we’re receiving, and it’s like, ‘Whoa. Let’s go.'”
Allen added: “The way I take it is [Belichick is] putting his confidence in us. It put a little pep in my step.”
Patriots running back Rex Burkhead told Volin: “Yeah, it definitely fired us up. It’s always nice when you start fast.”
The Patriots won the game, 41-28, but the final score wasn’t indicative of how much of a blowout the game was.
It seemed Belichick wanted to keep his team on edge, and the message he sent might have been on-target for how the team was feeling. After the game, Tom Brady, who threw for 343 yards on 77% for one touchdown, mocked critics, saying: “Everybody thinks we suck, we can’t win any games.”
Belichick sent his team a message with a surprising decision, and in turn, the Patriots sent the Chargers and the rest of the NFL a message.