Bill Belichick made an unusual decision at the start of the Patriots game to surprise his team — and players say it 'fired' them up

  • Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots made the surprising decision to receive the ball to start the game vs. the Los Angeles Chargers instead of deferring and kicking it. They had only elected to receive once this season.
  • Patriots players said after the game that the decision caught them off-guard, but fired them up because it meant Belichick had confidence in them.
  • The plan worked, as the Patriots started fast, scoring on their opening drive en route to blowing out the Chargers.

The New England Patriots playoff game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday began with an unusual decision, and it appeared to work.

The Patriots won the opening coin toss and elected to receive instead of deferring so they could get the ball to start the second half. According to Ben Volin of The Boston Globe, the Patriots only elected to receive to start the game one other time this season — in Week 2 vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Instead, Bill Belichick seemed to want to send a message right away — the Patriots had to start fast and put the Chargers at an immediate disadvantage.

It seemed to work. The Patriots scored on their first drive, and after the Chargers responded with a score, the Patriots scored four more touchdowns in the first half while holding the Chargers scoreless. They led 35-7 at halftime.

"We're so trained in our routine. I was thinking, 'Oh, we won, defer to the second half,'" Patriots tight end Dwayne Allen told Volin. "Then I hear we're receiving, and it's like, 'Whoa. Let's go.'"

Allen added: "The way I take it is [Belichick is] putting his confidence in us. It put a little pep in my step."

Patriots running back Rex Burkhead told Volin: "Yeah, it definitely fired us up. It's always nice when you start fast."

See photos from the game: 

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AFC divisional round: Patriots defeat Chargers
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AFC divisional round: Patriots defeat Chargers
New England Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers (98) sacks Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
New England Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty, left, breaks up a pass intended for Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady celebrates a touchdown run by running back Sony Michel during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon, left, dives into the end zone for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
El running back de los Patriots de Nueva Inglaterra, Sony Michel (26), se escapa en una carrera y deja atrás al free safety de los Chargers de Los Ángeles, Derwin James (33), durante la primera mitad de un juego divisional de la NFL, el domingo 13 de enero de 2019, en Foxborough, Massachusetts. (AP Foto/Steven Senne)
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) runs after catching a pass against the Los Angeles Chargers during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
New England Patriots running back Sony Michel (26) runs from Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Kyle Emanuel (51) during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 13: Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers shouts at officials after a play. The New England Patriots host the Los Angeles Chargers in an NFL AFC Divisional Playoff game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA on Jan. 13, 2019. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 13: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots reacts with Rob Gronkowski #87 during the third quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Gillette Stadium on January 13, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 13: New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore (24) makes a leaping interception of a pass by Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17, not pictured) during the fourth quarter.The New England Patriots host the Los Angeles Chargers in an NFL AFC Divisional Playoff game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA on Jan. 13, 2019. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 13: Philip Rivers #17 of the Los Angeles Chargers is tackled by Adrian Clayborn #94 of the New England Patriots during the fourth quater in the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium on January 13, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 13: Philip Rivers #17 of the Los Angeles Chargers reacts during the fourth quater in the AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the New England Patriat Gillette Stadium on January 13, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 13: Philip Rivers #17 of the Los Angeles Chargers reacts during the fourth quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on January 13, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) passes under pressure from New England Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower (54) during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
New England Patriots running back Rex Burkhead (34) gets a lift from Rob Gronkowski, center, as Tom Brady (12) joins the celebration after Burkhead's touchdown during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 13: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots reacts with James White #28 during the second quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Gillette Stadium on January 13, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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The Patriots won the game, 41-28, but the final score wasn't indicative of how much of a blowout the game was.

It seemed Belichick wanted to keep his team on edge, and the message he sent might have been on-target for how the team was feeling. After the game, Tom Brady, who threw for 343 yards on 77% for one touchdown, mocked critics, saying: "Everybody thinks we suck, we can't win any games."

Read more: Tom Brady mocks critics after Patriots' latest evisceration of a playoff opponent: 'Everybody thinks we suck, we can't win any games'

Belichick sent his team a message with a surprising decision, and in turn, the Patriots sent the Chargers and the rest of the NFL a message.

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