Patriots need Chad Ryland, if Bill Belichick would use him

New England Patriots kicker Chad Ryland was 2-for-2 on extra points against the Philadelphia Eagles.
New England Patriots kicker Chad Ryland was 2-for-2 on extra points against the Philadelphia Eagles. / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

There’s enough blame to go around for the New England Patriots’ 25-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. But don’t blame Chad Ryland.

The run game was practically non-existent. They turned the ball over twice, including a pick-six in the first quarter. The Patriots receivers dropped a few crucial passes. Rookie Kayshon Boutte failed to drag his second foot inbounds on a pair of sideline routes.

But most perplexing was Bill Belichick going for it on fourth-and-3 from the Philadelphia 17-yard-line.

The football maxim is never leave points on the field. In the above instance, getting points out of that possession would have been better than nothing. So it’s a real head-scratcher that Belichick, with an opportunity for a chip shot field goal attempt, left Ryland on the sideline.

Bill Belichick needs to trust New England Patriots rookie K Chad Ryland now, so he can trust him when it matters

With the 112th overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots selected K Chad Ryland from Maryland. Belichick even traded up with the New York Jets to land the former Terrapin. It was a classic Belichick move.

It was a move I supported. As good as the kicking game had been for the past few years, it lacked range. Ryland would fix that. Ryland would lead the special teams revolution.

In the season opener Ryland kept the Eagles deep in their own territory on kickoffs (three touchbacks) and split the uprights on two extra points. But with a chance to call Ryland’s number, Belichick left him on the sideline.

It made no sense.

In the fourth quarter, New England’s drive stalled at Philadelphia’s 17-yard-line. The Patriots were down by eight with 9:39 remaining in the game. A field goal attempt would be 34 yards, practically automatic for most kickers. And it had stopped raining.

Forget it, Ryland. Belichick went for it on 4th-and-3. The result was an incomplete pass to Ezekiel Elliott—turnover on downs.

Let’s say Belichick called Ryland’s number, and the rookie delivered. The Patriots would be down by five. The Eagles kicked a field goal on the subsequent drive to push the lead back to eight. Then, the Patriots answered with a touchdown.

Down by two, Belichick could have gone for two to tie the game with 3:43 left. Even if the two-point conversion failed, a field goal on the final drive would win the game.

If Belichick isn’t going to use Ryland, why did Belichick draft him in the first place? Belichick is acting like he doesn’t want to take Ryland out of the plastic. Ryland didn’t even attempt a field goal in any preseason games.

The Patriots need Ryland because Nick Folk, while accurate, doesn’t have the leg for long attempts. Folk’s 56-yard attempt against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the rain that just missed confirmed that back in 2021.

Now we have a rookie kicker that Belichick won’t use while Folk, who was traded for a 2025 seventh-round pick, was 5-for-5 for the Tennessee Titans. It’s doubtful Belichick would have left Folk sidelined like Belichick did Ryland.

Whatever the reason, Belichick must overcome his apparent apprehension to use Ryland. It’s understandable if Belichick doesn’t have confidence in the rookie, but the only way to learn to trust him is by actually putting Ryland in games.

It’s useless to delay Ryland’s field goal baptism. If Belichick doesn’t trust Ryland now, Belichick won’t trust him in the dead of winter with a swirling wind. That’s when a kicker earns his value to a team.

At some point, Belichick has to let Ryland succeed or fail. If Ryland fails, then Belichick can sign a veteran before kicking costs the team more games. Now is the time to find out what Ryland is made of.

We could respect Belichick’s aggressiveness for going for it on fourth down, but it crossed into recklessness. Belichick helped put the Patriots in the tough situation they faced down the stretch. Winning involves everyone on the roster, kickers included.

Or we’ll see more fourth-down attempts because Belichick didn’t take the points when he should have.