Two years ago, the NFL made it illegal for defensive players to run and leap over the offensive line in an attempt to block a field goal or extra point, robbing Jamie Collins of one of the most exciting moves in his arsenal.
Or so we thought.
During Sunday’s 16-10 win over the Buffalo Bills, the uber-athletic New England Patriots linebacker hurdled over the outstretched arm of tackle Dion Dawkins on a 49-yard field-goal attempt by Stephen Hauschka.
Collins couldn’t get a hand on the ball, but Hauschka, possibly flustered by the ‘backer’s presence in the backfield, hooked the kick wide left, allowing the Patriots to maintain a 10-point lead entering halftime.
Bills coach Sean McDermott was furious, arguing Collins should have been penalized for violating the aforementioned rule. But the officials correctly kept their flags holstered.
That’s because the rule only banned the running start, not the leap itself. If a player can jump over the O-line from a standstill, he’s welcome to do so.
Most players aren’t explosive enough to make that leap without landing on a lineman, which would violate a separate rule and result in a penalty. Collins, as he’s proven on a weekly basis this season, is not most players.
“Well, he’s a great athlete,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Monday on WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni & Fauria.” “I think we all know that. There’s not too much he can’t do athletically. He was pretty close to blocking the (previous) field goal coming off the edge on the outside. He’s a very explosive player. He’s got a great lower body, very explosive, through contact and through space and over — he can jump, too, as well as being long and fast and having a lot of power.
“He played another outstanding game for us, both on defense and in the kicking game. He was really close on that (field goal block). If that ball hadn’t missed to the right, if it had been straight, he might have had it.”
Collins has been absurdly productive since returning to the Patriots this past spring. Through four games, the 29-year-old leads the team in tackles (23), sacks (3 1/2), quarterback hits (five) and tackles for loss (six) while ranking second in interceptions (three, including a pick-six) behind safety Devin McCourty. His pick in the final minutes of Sunday’s game sealed the win for New England.