RENTON — Along with being one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick is also known as one of the game’s great historians. So much so that the NFL Network enlisted his help to assemble a list of the league’s top 100 players two years ago.
But like seemingly everyone else involved in football, Belichick saw something last week he never had before during the the Seahawks’ 26-17 loss to the Los Angeles Rams — Michael Dickson scooping up his own blocked punt and punting the ball again.
“That one caught me off guard,” Belichick said during his weekly “Coffee with the Coach” video interview on Patriots.com. “I haven’t seen that before.”
And Belichick has seen a lot — he used much of his answer to a question about Dickson’s punt to recall that in the 1930s and ‘40s it wasn’t uncommon for a team receiving a punt to field it and punt it back on the same play with the hope of catching the original punting team out of position and getting a longer kick and a decided edge in field position as a result.
“That was a double-punt play,” Belichick said. “But not by the same team.”
Indeed, the rarity of Dickson’s “double punt” has led to more discussion throughout the league all week.
“It ranks as the weirdest play I’ve ever seen, because I’ve been consumed by it since it happened,” Mike Pereira, a FOX analyst and former NFL referee, told NBC Sports columnist Peter King. “I’ve never seen a play and a rule and a situation like that one.”
Or as Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said this week: “I thought it was one of the worst plays that had ever happened, and it turned into one of the best plays I’ve ever seen.”
While Dickson handled a few additional interview requests this week — including one from his native Australia — he was taking the attention in stride, similar to how he scooped up the bounding ball in the first place after it was blocked by the Rams’ Jamir Jones.
Though Dickson said after the game he didn’t know if the play was legal, he was reminded this week by Seahawks special-teams coach Larry Izzo that he had once asked Izzo and Seahawks general manager John Schneider if he could punt the ball again if it were blocked.
“I’m sure they said, ‘Yeah, but it’s pretty unlikely you’d be able to do it,’ ” Dickson said Thursday. “So I kind of kept that in the back of my mind.”
After the scoop, which Carroll called “ridiculous,” Dickson first took off running hoping to maybe make a first down. But the punt came on fourth-and-14 at Seattle’s 21-yard line, and Dickson said he realized quickly there was no way he could get the necessary yards.
He steadied himself and not only got the kick off, but hit it so well it went almost 50 yards in the air and rolled another 19, for a 68-yard punt that pinned the Rams back at the 11-yard line, a critical field-position swing at a time when the Seahawks were behind 16-7.
Only one other punter has a longer kick this season.
Dickson reminded a questioner Thursday that he’d actually pulled off something sort of similar in the first game of the season at Indianapolis. Against the Colts, a defender broke through and appeared in line to get a block before Dickson escaped to the right and as he was being grabbed, got off a punt that went 25 yards.
“The punt I hit against the Rams was the punt I tried hitting against the Colts when I just didn’t hit the right side of the ball and it went out 30 yards or whatever,” Dickson said. “This one, I hit it how I wanted to hit it — a bit cleaner and got that curve on it to get that roll.”
It’s something Dickson practices often.
As he does with the scoop.
Dickson grew up playing Australian Rules Football, where scooping the ball while running is a regular part of the game.
It’s something Dickson said he’s found himself practicing more than ever in recent days as a reminder of home.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, Dickson has not been back to Australia since February 2020.
“For some reason, maybe just missing home, I’ve been practicing a lot of my Aussie Rules skills when I’m out there at practice,” he said. “So it kind of came in handy.”
Dickson said he’s gotten plenty of reaction since the play, including from Rams punter Johnny Hekker, who told him on the field after the game he had no idea such a play was legal.
“He said it was pretty cool, but he thought it was a penalty for sure,” Dickson said. “But I guess it wasn’t.”
Carroll also said he wasn’t sure the double punt was legal and talked to the league office this week to get a full explanation so he understood the rules involved.
“When I called the office they were all on it, and they knew the rules,” Carroll said. “The linemen were allowed to be down the field on the second kick. It just made no sense to me at all.”
Some also wondered if Dickson was over the line of scrimmage.
But Dickson said the Seahawks have since been told that such a play is similar to a QB throwing at the line of scrimmage in that it is based on where the back foot is.
“To me it looks like my heel is right on the 21-yard line, so (it’s legal),” Dickson said.
It added up to a punt that Carroll called “one of the greatest kicking plays in the history of the league.”
Dickson insists it was just all in a day’s work.
“I’ve thought about since I started playing American football (in 2015), that if that happened, that’s what I’d do,” he said.
Not that you’d know it’s a big deal reading the official play by play from the game.
It reads simply: “M. Dickson punts 68 yards to LA 11.”