Chung takes responsibility
He says he made call on fake punt
FOXBOROUGH — Patriots safety Patrick Chung placed a couple of items from his locker into a black trash bag and then turned and waited for the questions.
The second-year defensive back didn’t have a speech prepared yesterday. If you didn’t like the call for a fake punt in Sunday’s 28-21 divisional playoff loss against the Jets, Chung said, “Blame me.’’
Trailing, 7-3, in the second quarter, the Patriots’ punt team took the field at its 38-yard line, 4 yards shy of a first down. Chung saw a hitch in the Jets’ formation that prompted him to call for the fake. Long snapper Matt Katula got the call and snapped the ball to Chung instead of punter Zoltan Mesko. But Chung fumbled the snap, recovered the ball, then was tackled, and the Jets took over on the Patriots 37 with 1:06 left in the first half.
Four plays later, quarterback Mark Sanchez launched a 15-yard touchdown pass to Braylon Edwards that led to a 14-3 Jets lead at halftime.
As the protector on punts, Chung had the right to call for the fake. Yesterday he made his first comments about the decision and said blame shouldn’t be placed on coach Bill Belichick or special teams coach Scott O’Brien for the botched play.
“I just saw a look that we have, that’s how it goes,’’ Chung said. “You make the call. It didn’t work out for us. So leave Bill alone. Leave Scotty O. alone. I’ll take responsibility. Blame me.’’
Chung was a steady contributor during the season, showing his versatility in a number of packages. He had 89 tackles, with three interceptions and nine pass deflections. He produced the kind of results that caused NBC analyst and former Patriot Rodney Harrison to refer to Chung as the “ace’’ of the secondary.
Chung showed an equal amount of ability on special teams. This season he was entrusted with being the protector on the punt unit, a position once handled by veteran special teamer Sam Aiken, who was released just before the season. He contributed several big plays, including two blocked kicks against Miami.
But yesterday, Chung was trying to answer questions about a special teams mistake, one of many Patriots miscues in the loss.
The players weren’t interested in blaming anyone for the defeat as they packed up their lockers. The mood was somber as they said their goodbyes after a 14-2 regular season. In the hours after the loss, Chung said he was OK and would make the most of the situation.
“Of course there are regrets, that’s part of the game,’’ he said. “It’s all on me . . . I take full responsibility.’’
During Belichick’s final news conference yesterday, he declined to talk about the fake punt. No matter how the questions were phrased, Belichick said there could be “a thousand hypotheticals,’’ but he wasn’t going to spend time breaking down the potential outcomes.
“Yeah, there are a lot of things that can happen on a lot of different plays,’’ he said. “So, really, I’m not going to get into a detailed analysis of one play. There are a thousand things that could happen.’’
If the play would have been executed correctly, Chung said he was confident he could have made the first down. While the result of the play disappointed Chung, he said he couldn’t stay frustrated.
“It’s part of the game; some things happen and you have to bounce back from it,’’ he said. “That play’s over now. That’s my responsibility. It didn’t work out for us.’’
Monique Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.