FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patrick Chung didn’t blame anyone but himself for the botched fake-punt play that wound up costing the New England Patriots dearly Sunday in their 28-21 loss to the New York Jets in the divisional round of the playoffs.
“I take full responsibility,” said Chung more than once when surrounded by the media Monday in the Patriots’ locker room as the players threw their stuff in garbage bags and left Gillette Stadium, stunningly headed into the offseason after a 14-2 regular season record that earned New England the top AFC seed in the postseason.
Chung was the personal protector for punter Zoltan Mesko with the Pats trailing by 7-3 and on their own 38-yard line with 1:14 remaining in the first half. Chung noticed New England had the numbers in their favor, so he called for long snapper Matt Katula to snap him the ball instead of Mesko.
The Patriots had eight men on the line to the Jets’ six, which Chung saw as an opportunity to fake the punt and run for the first down.
Katula’s snap to Chung was good, but Chung began running before he caught the ball and dropped it. Chung picked it up, but by then, the Jets were all over him, tackling him behind the line of scrimmage and resulting in a turnover on downs.
A few plays later New York quarterback Mark Sanchez hit Braylon Edwards with a touchdown pass just before the end of the half, giving the Jets a 14-3 lead, and the Patriots weren’t able to overcome that deficit.
“It’s part of the game,” Chung said Monday after he had declined to speak to the media after Sunday’s loss.
“Of course there are regrets. It’s not [head coach] Bill [Belichick] or [special teams coach] Scott O’Brien,” said Chung. “None of them. I take full responsibility. I saw the look we had. I made the call. It didn’t work out for us.”
Chung was asked if he thought he would have made the first down had he caught the ball cleanly.
“No ‘ifs.’ I didn’t catch it. It’s part of the game. Things happen. You have to bounce back. It’s my responsibility. Leave Bill alone. Leave Scotty alone. That’s my call, man. My mistake,” said Chung.
He was asked if he thought it was a good time of the game to even have made that call.
“I take full responsibility,” repeated Chung.