The New England Patriots have done plenty of things that you could point at as to why they’re winning this year. However, there are also things that you don’t usually think twice about that put them over the top. Everyone should remember the Denver Monday night game from 2003, where Bill Belichick called for the intentional safety on a punt to improve field position. That call helped them win the game 30-26. The Pats had another call Sunday in Chicago that was not quite so magnanimous, but still pretty significant. It was a call that you just don’t see across the NFL, and it’s one that helps set the Patriots apart from the rest of the league.
The Pats were up 24-0 and Shayne Graham was getting ready for a 25-yard field goal. A field goal of that length is usually no problem, but in the snowy, blustery conditions that the teams were playing in on Soldier Field, it’s not a slam dunk anymore. You could see that the footing was going to be an issue as the players didn’t have much time to clear away snow. What does Bill Belichick do? He calls a time out. Not only does he call a time out, but it looked like he or someone from the sideline encouraged Graham to still kick it as a practice kick. Graham hesitated before finally going through with the practice kick. He and the rest of the linemen at that point use the time to clear the snow away. At the end of the timeout, with one practice kick good and better footing, Graham made the kick.
Again, with the score being what it was, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. But how many coaches would “waste” a timeout to let their kicker take a practice shot in poor conditions and clear away snow for better footing? You know the answer to that question. If we’re looking at the same situation in January in a snowy Gillette Stadium with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, it will be heralded as a brilliant “Belichick call.” And it is. It’s just another example of those small details that help to separate the Patriots from the rest of the NFL.