Coaching Corner: Belichick unlucky again in Week 13?

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick faces reporters during a news conference before a scheduled NFL football practice, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, in Foxborough, Mass. The Patriots are to play the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday, Dec. 6, in Foxborough. (Steven Senne/AP)

Superstition in professional sports is, by definition, irrational, but watching NFL coaching legend and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick make his way onto this list for the second consecutive week and the third time this season, something has to be fishy. Let’s get into Belichick and the two other coaching no-nos of the week.

3. Belichick calls a weird trick play on special teams, passes up fourth and one play in third quarter at his own 40

Up 14-0 and after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter, Belichick opted to have his kicker Stephen Gostkowski fake the kickoff and have special teamer Nate Ebner drop kick the ball. The Eagles ended up recovering at their 41 and viewers were left baffled as to why the Patriots just tried to run a trick play while up two possessions.

It’s difficult to view this play through a non-outcome based lens. For all we know, the New England special teams unit could have seen something that they really liked on the field to make the decision for a drop kick. After all, New England headed into this game as the No. 1 special teams unit in the NFL, per Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average.

Why take the risk? While getting another possession is certainly a high reward, with the downside of the Eagles being about 20 yards further down the field than they would have normally been, I can’t imagine that the chances for an obscure dropkick call were that much better than a regular onside kick.

You could also apply the same logic to another play from the game, a more successful 36 yard throw to Patriots WR Danny Amendola from quarterback Tom Brady. Though this play succeeded, I still wonder what New England saw on the field to give them the confidence for a trick play.

When Belichick opted to punt from on fourth and one from his own 40 later in the game, I sadly realized that this week’s edition would have another mention of the otherwise incredible coach, who has had a few noticeable hiccups this season.

2. Dallas head coach Jason Garrett doesn’t play the clock right - leaves too much time left on the clock for Washington to mount a comeback

Although Dallas ended up winning against Washington and keeping what little of playoff hopes they have alive, Garrett really should have told his players to play for the clock a little bit better. With only a bit over a minute left in the game and having just recovered a muffed punt from Washington, the Cowboys practically had victory in the bag. 

Take Cowboys running back Darren McFadden scoring a touchdown. This left a little over a minute for Washington to mount a comeback and possibly push the game to OT. Had McFadden simply kneeled at the opponent’s one yard line after already having the first down Washington would have been forced to burn both their timeouts and watch the clock tick down before Dallas could attempt a field goal. Per ESPN’s Brian Burke, Dallas would have had a 99 percent win probability and Washington would only be left with 12 seconds to make a play.

While the lack of situational awareness could simply be blamed on the running back, I still think it’s up to the coach to be able to communicate an ideal response to his players. Thankfully for Garrett, he was bailed out by Bailey, whose name is oddly fitting for what he did for Dallas after they quickly allowed a game-tying touchdown to Washington.

1. Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell does a whole lot wrong in a stunning 27-23 loss to Green Bay – blown fourth down call and bizarre late-game defense

Let’s start with one of the biggest questions: why are two defensive backs playing the flat on a hail mary attempt? Caldwell told reporters after the game that he was expected a lateral play, but even if the Lions were playing too far back, the Packers would still need to move up close to 60 yards up the field for a chance at a touchdown with literally no time left on the clock. Moreover, how is wide receiver and definitely-real-life-terminator Calvin Johnson not waiting in the endzone to bat down a play?

I can’t even say that Caldwell only had one mistake. Although he successfully went for it on fourth and two later in the game, Caldwell also declined to go for it on fourth and one from his own 46 late in the third quarter up six points. His abysmal clock management also showed itself with a blown timeout call for whatever reason with seven minutes left to go in the game after a third and 11 play resulted in an incomplete pass.

As the Lions basically just saw their playoff chances die from a miracle against them Thursday night, there’s almost certainly no doubt that their head coach is to blame. While other teams start gearing up for the playoffs, we’ll soon find out who is around to stay and who’ll be out the door. It’s more likely than not that Caldwell will be part of the latter category.

HALFTIME DRAW / APATHY FOR PLAYER SAFETY WATCH:

• New York Jets coach Todd Bowles
• San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Tomsula
• Miami Dolphins coach Dan Campbell


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