No one knew it at the time, but the Patriots' onside kick late in Thursday night's game was ultimately New England's last attempt at a comeback. Bill Belichick, despite being armed with three timeouts, allowed the Bills to end the game on three kneel downs after the Patriots failed to recover the onside kick with 1:57 left.
Initially, it appeared Belichick was not going to pull back the curtain on that decision following his team's 24-10 loss. But, following a brief pause, the notoriously tight-lipped coach decided to share the reasoning behind his decision.
"I thought that was the best thing to do for our team. We went the other way in the Baltimore game and lost Mac for three weeks," Belichick said. "I didn't think it was worth it."
Belichick was alluding to his approach during the end of New England's Week 3 loss to Baltimore. After falling behind 37-26, the Patriots tried to make it a two score game in the final three minutes. Instead of scoring, New England suffered an injury to quarterback Mac Jones that ultimately sidelined him for the next three games.
With that sequence in mind, Belichick ultimately decided that it was better for his team to waive the proverbial white flag on Thursday night rather than give his offense another opportunity. While his reasoning makes sense, and while a comeback against the Bills would have been unlikely, Belichick's decision to not use all of his available resources is still a puzzling decision for the second-winningest coach in NFL history.
Just as puzzling has been the Patriots' inability to make the necessary offensive adjustments 12 games into their season, particularly on third down. New England, 31st in the NFL in third down efficiency, was a meager 3 of 12 on third down on Thursday night.
"A combination of things," Belichick said about his team's third-down woes. "I would just say tonight, we just didn't do enough. Had some opportunities and weren't able to take advantage of them."