DAVIE — There was a punt that wasn’t a punt, and a fumble recovery that wasn’t a fumble recovery.
The Dolphins often go into games telling players that special teams can make the difference, and Sunday’s 35-17 loss to New England was Exhibit A.
Although the Dolphins can’t have much to say about the Patriots’ fake punt — other than admitting they failed to make a play and the Patriots executed it perfectly — they still object to how the second play — a potential momentum-changer — was ruled.
On the first series of the second half, with New England up 21-10, Miami punted and Danny Amendola mishandled the return. Michael Thomas emerged from the pile with the ball, appealing for possession on the Patriots’ 23-yard line. Instead, officials ruled that New England’s Jonathan Jones had possession at the bottom of the pile and was down by contact before Thomas stripped it.
“It’s kind of crazy that he can call him down, especially when there’s a pile there,” Thomas said. “And to be frank, I didn’t have to fight to get the ball that hard. Just another opportunity missed right there.”
Rizzi was hot, yelling at officials for several minutes during an ensuing timeout.
“My personal opinion was the ball was still alive and they ruled it too early,” Rizzi said. “Whether I agree or disagree at that point is irrelevant.”
So why didn’t the Dolphins challenge?
Rizzi said it would be “a wasted challenge” to throw the red flag because he knew there was no clear evidence to the contrary. He believes it’s so hard to win challenges involving a scrum that he considers it “a non-challengeable play.”
“It’s just kind of hard for someone to say, ‘Oh, I clearly see this guy down and he has firm control of the ball’ when there’s a pile right there,” Thomas said.
That doesn’t mean Thomas wasn’t frustrated.
“That’s the second time this year I’ve gotten a fumble recovery on special teams taken away from me, so I’ve got to keep chopping,” said Thomas, referring to a play against the Ravens as well.
On the fourth snap of the game, New England converted a fourth-and-8 from its own 27-yard line via a fake punt. After the game, Thomas said Nate Abner’s 14-yard run was “on me.”
Rizzi’s take: “It’s a matter of them executing and us not executing. … You give them credit.”