Bill Belichick before the AFC Divisional playoff game against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)
When cameras caught Bill Belichick berating Eric Rowe for committing a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty for pulling Houston’s Ryan Griffin off a pile in the first quarter Saturday, it was pretty obvious that the Patriots coach was not pleased with his defensive back.
That penalty extended the Texans drive and allowed Houston to chew up over eight minutes of the first half clock and helped to keep Tom Brady on the sideline and out of rhythm. The Texans were only able to muster three points but the point was clear: You can’t pull players off a pile in a scrum.
It was a mistake with big consequences Saturday, and Belichick had not completely let the matter go when asked Sunday if there was any gray area because Rowe’s intentions might have been good.
“What’s the right thing? What are you talking about? What’s the right thing?” Belichick said, completely flabbergasted. “You can’t do that. There’s no… you can’t do that. You can’t pull players off a pile. That’s not the right thing. That rule is clear-cut. There’s no question about it. You can’t do that.
“You can’t do things that are defined by the rules as illegal. You can’t do them, period. There’s no right thing to do [by getting involved]. The rule is the rule. You have to play the game by the rules. Obviously, we’ve got to do a better job of coaching it, do a better job of coaching all the rules.”
After the game, Belichick noted several times that he was disappointed in the coaching effort.
“We can’t hold,” Belichick added. “We can’t get personal fouls. We can’t do things that are against the rules, or we get penalized for them. There’s no ‘doing the right thing.’ The right thing is playing within in the rules. Now, football’s football. Sometimes, you’re trying to do the right thing, and you get called for something. Sometimes, stuff happens.
“Vincent got his hands up a little high and pushed the face mask back of the lineman and (was penalized for illegal hands to the face). It was a good call. I don’t think it was intentional but he did it and didn’t get it down quick enough and they called him for it. That’s football. But as a team, we’ve got to make good decisions and play penalty-free. That’s our goal every week. So, the right thing is to play within in the rules – period. It’s black and white.”