Miami Dolphins

What went wrong for Dolphins on Patriots' fake punt — and who took the blame

New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick, during the first half of the game against the Miami Dolphins in Foxborough, Massachusetts, on Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017. Evil or not? Depends on your rooting interest, but there’s no denying that Belichick is a genius.
New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick, during the first half of the game against the Miami Dolphins in Foxborough, Massachusetts, on Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017. Evil or not? Depends on your rooting interest, but there’s no denying that Belichick is a genius. AP

It was simultaneously a stroke of coaching genius and the ultimate sign of disrespect.

Bill Belichick’s decision to dial up a fake punt on fourth-and-8 — on the game’s opening drive, on his own 27 — was remarkable.

And it worked. Nate Ebner took the direct snap, went around the right edge and rushed for 14 yards. What should have been a three-and-out for the Dolphins’ defense ultimately turned into a touchdown and a lead which the Patriots would not relinquish.

Michael Thomas, the Dolphins’ special teams captain, is a stand-up guy who did a characteristically stand-up thing after the game.

“Pretty much, that's on me,” Thomas said. “Regardless of the time situation, whatever, I was the edge of the defense, the edge of the special teams right there, so I've got to set the edge. I can't let nothing get outside me. You can put that one on me. That can't happen. Defense, they got three-and-out. We can't put our defense back on the field right there.”

Did the Patriots show anything pre-snap that, in retrospect, should have alerted the Dolphins that something was up? Yes.

“Pretty much just a left-footed punter,” Thomas said. “[Ebner] usually doesn't line up to our left, their right, and he did. So that should have been the tip right there.”

Belichick, in typically understated fashion, said after the game: “It was a big play for us.”

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley

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