It would have been a frontrunner for early play of the season, but unfortunately for the New England Patriots it came up inches short.
Late in the fourth quarter of their Sunday night game against the Miami Dolphins and trailing 24-17, the Patriots found themselves in a 4th-and-3 situation. With only a minute on the clock it was do or die for the team.
The play quickly turned into a disaster. Quarterback Mac Jones was pressured up the gut right away, and had to unload quickly to have any chance to succeed. He found Mike Gesicki just short of the sticks, but with the tight end tightly covered there was no chance for him to reach forward for the conversion.
Instead, Gesicki went to Plan B: the lateral. Before getting tackled to the ground, he pitched the ball back to the only red jersey in his vicinity — the one belonging to left guard Cole Strange.
“It was obviously 4th-and-3, and I caught the ball,” said Gesicki after the game. “I felt like I came back to it, so I had a feeling I was short. I also was on their sideline and heard people cheering as if it was short, so right then and there, I was like, ‘I can’t go down with the ball.’ I knew I could toss it back to somebody, and I just saw one of the biggest people on the field in our offensive line, and it ended up being Cole.”
The second-year lineman made an impressive leaping grab, and quickly turned up the field. And while Dolphins defenders were on him in an instant all 6-foot-5, 310 pounds of him kept rolling until close to the line to gain.
Unfortunately for New England, a subsequent review showed that Strange did not gain enough space to keep the drive — and he Patriots’ comeback bid — alive; his knee touched the ground just inches from the first-down marker.
“I thought we had it, but unfortunately, we didn’t,” said Gesicki.
Strange himself offered a similarly blunt assessment of the play.
“I caught it, ran it, and I didn’t get it. So, it’s all there is to it,” he said in the locker room after the game. “Just kind of caught it and ran forward. I didn’t make a first down, so that’s all there is to it.”
The Patriots’ loss to the Dolphins dropped them to 0-2 for the first time in 22 years.