The refs (at first) thought he had the first down. Most of the fans on hand at Gillette Stadium on Sunday night did, too. Cole Strange figured he had it.
“Yeah,” he said when asked whether he thought he’d gained a first down on what was the final play of the night for the Patriots offense in a 24-17 loss to Miami. “But I didn’t.”
“I mean, I caught it, ran it, and I didn’t get it, so … That’s kinda all there is to it,” said Strange, a man of few words. Pressed for more explanation, he offered, “Just kind of caught it and ran forward. I didn’t make a first down, so that’s all there is to it.”
It was a bizarre and controversial way to end a football game, the second straight week the Patriots came up inches short on keeping a late-game comeback attempt going. On fourth-and-3 with a minute to play and behind by a touchdown, quarterback Mac Jones faced immediate pressure and looked to dump off the ball quickly. He got it to tight end Mike Gesicki, just short of the first-down line, and with no options remaining, Gesicki flipped the ball backward.
Strange caught it and plowed forward, and originally, it looked like he had the first down. Ah but there was the further review, which supposedly showed that Strange’s knee hit the ground before the ball cleared the first-down line. The angles are not clear, though, and it did not appear that there was enough evidence to overturn the original call of a first down.
Belichick: ‘Talk to he Officials’
The Patriots were not happy about all that. Coach Bill Belichick, also a man of few words, was asked about the explanation he got on the play. He was very much in postgame grouch mode, and said, “Yeah, you should talk to the officials. I’m sure they’ll do a pool report on that.”
Gesicki was visibly angry about the play after it was overturned, slamming his helmet to the ground, perhaps magnified by the fact that it meant the Patriots would lose to the Dolphins, the team for which he’d played his first five seasons before joining the Patriots this year. It also does not help that the Patriots are now 0-2.
“There is a lot of work that goes into these, and you only get 17 opportunities,” Gesicki said after the game from the locker room. “Two of them are gone now. But we’ve got 15 to go, and we’ve got a lot of football ahead of us. We have a lot of hard workers, a lot of great coaches. This is a great organization to be a part of and we have to get back to work tomorrow.”
Mike Gesicki Tossed Ball to ‘Biggest People on the Field’
As for the play itself, Gesicki was a bit more eloquent than Belichick and Strange.
“Yeah, it was obviously fourth-and-three, and I caught the ball,” Gesicki said from the locker room. “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 if 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 [Strange].
“I threw it to him, and I thought we had it, but unfortunately, we didn’t.”
Strange is 6-foot-5 and 310 pounds, nearly big enough to carry a third of the Dolphins defense to a first down. Only nearly, unfortunately.
Sean Deveney is a veteran sports reporter covering the NBA and NFL for Heavy.com. He has written for Heavy since 2019 and has more than two decades of experience covering the NBA, including 17 years as the lead NBA reporter for the Sporting News. Deveney is the author of 7 nonfiction books, including “Fun City,” “Before Wrigley became Wrigley,” and “Facing Michael Jordan.” More about Sean Deveney
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