FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick isn't about to second-guess Ellis Hobbs after he returned a kickoff an NFL-record 108 yards for a touchdown.
``It doesn't really matter what I'm thinking. The players are out there playing and they make the decisions when they're out there on the field,'' Belichick said Monday, a day after the Patriots beat the New York Jets 38-14 in the season opener.
``I think Ellis made the decision that he thought was the best one at that time. It worked out OK, so that's good. I think he was trying to make a play. What I always encourage the players to do is try to make a good play, and it turned out good.''
Hobbs had to go 8 yards deep in the end zone to field the kick from Mike Nugent. Most teams have guidelines that tell returners to take a touchback in that situation, but Belichick said a lot depends on how high the kick was and whether the coverage is converging on the receiver.
``Those are the decisions that players have to make in that situation and they're all different,'' Belichick said. ``I think if you've been around the kicking game in this league long enough, you know it's hard to have a hard and fast rule and be right every time. You could have a rule, but I don't think you're going to be right every time.''
As an example, Belichick praised Kevin Faulk's decision to fair-catch the first Jets punt on the Patriots 9-yard line, even though most players try to let anything inside the 10 bounce into the end zone for a touchback.
``I thought it was a good decision. Some people might disagree with that,'' Belichick said. ``You can put your heels on the 10 and you can have a hard and fast rule. I'm just telling you that if the ball comes down on the 9-yard line with five seconds hang time and there's four guys standing on the goal line waiting to down it, I think it would be dumb to get away from the ball, let it hit on the 9 and roll down to the 1. I don't think that would be a good play.'
But asked if he thought Hobbs' decision was also a good one, Belichick wouldn't answer.
``I said I thought that Ellis makes that decision, just like Kevin makes it. If it's a gray area, a situation that could kind of go either way, then you count on the player to make the decision that he feels like is the best one. I wasn't standing back there catching it.''
The kick return turned a 14-7 halftime lead into a two-touchdown advantage for the defending AFC East champions.
The previous record for longest kickoff return was 106 yards, held by three players: Green Bay's Al Carmichael in 1966, Kansas City's Nolan Smith in 1967, and Roy Green of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1979. The play also tied the record for the longest in NFL history, matching the 108-yard missed field goal returns by Chicago's Devin Hester last season against the Giants, and the Bears' Nathan Vasher the previous season against San Francisco.
Hobbs, a defensive back who helps out on special teams, said it's just the kind of play he expected to make when he goes back for the kickoff.
``I tell those guys all the time, even in practice: I'm bringing it out,'' Hobbs said Sunday. ``You don't make plays on the sideline. I never wanted to have a 'what if' factor.
``I understood the danger of taking it out that deep. One false step and I could have been a zero. But I ended up being the hero.''
The Jets punted on their next possession, then after getting the ball back the Patriots scored on a 51-yard pass from Tom Brady to his new favorite receiver, Randy Moss. The former problem child, who missed all of the preseason, caught nine passes for 183 yards in his Patriots debut.
``I think Randy's skills have been pretty well identified,'' Belichick said. ``He's a smart player. He runs well. He catches the ball well. He makes good route adjustments. He has a number of things going for him.''

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