August 24, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels during the second half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the New England Patriots 30-28. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots: McDaniels, Not Refs, Had Worst Call Against Panthers

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It’s over. It’s time to move on. We’re focused on preparing for the Denver Broncos now and the Carolina Panthers are behind us. The referees make the calls and we have to live with them. It’s not worth going into it more. Well, that’s no fun. The benefit of being an outsider is that you can dwell on what the team can’t. Well, here goes.

Now that we’ve seen countless NFL analysts explain one way or another how the referees completely blew the final play of Monday night’s game against the Carolina Panthers, let me quote just one of them: “If we’re going to allow a receiver to get bear hugged in the end zone as the ball falls in the area, then why have a rule book at all?” Thanks, Kevin Seifert. Well said. Let’s all agree that now that the New England Patriots have lost two games this season partially as a result of horrible calls that the argument that they are somehow receiving special treatment is far removed from reality. It’s quite the opposite, actually.

There is no doubt that the Patriots should have been afforded one more play in Monday night’s game. Whether that play occurred from the one yard line as a result of a pass interference call or whether it should have occurred at the 13 yard line as a result of a holding call is a separate issue. Whether you agree with the lack of a call or not, we should all agree that the referees mismanaged the situation horribly. They should have, at a minimum, explained the decision, and probably should have reviewed the play to determine when the contact took place, which is within their authority.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was understandably cautious to discuss the matter at his post game press conference and has continued to be since. He has good reason to be cautious, given that he was fined for making contact with a referee when seeking clarification in 2012. The league does not, necessarily, owe the Patriots and their fans an admission of guilt regarding the call (or lack thereof), but what it should do is admit that the process was flawed. If a flag is thrown and picked up the team deserves more of an explanation than was provided, which was simply that no penalty occurred on the play.

You might think that the greatest beneficiary of the missed call was the Carolina Panthers, but it may actually be Josh McDaniels who benefited most from the ridiculous circumstances by which that game ended. McDaniels surely did not want to see his team lose, or lose in the manner in which they did, but the controversy surrounding that call overshadowed why, exactly, the Patriots were in that position in the first place. On the Patriots penultimate drive of Monday night’s game, they faced a 3-1 within the ten yard line and instead of handing the ball off to Legarrette Blount who had been successfully pounding the ball for chunks of yardage on the drive, McDaniels decided it was best to have Brady drop back and try and complete a pass in the end zone. A colossally horrible decision.

At that point in the game, there was about seven minutes on the clock and converting a first down would have allowed the Patriots to run the clock down considerably. Even if they didn’t convert the drive into seven points, they would have left the Panthers with much less time than they ultimately did to drive the field for a game winning touchdown. Carolina had been moving the ball against the Patriots defense, but very slowly. Another minute and a half off the clock could have made the difference.

Of course, two other scenarios were possible as well. First, the Patriots could have been stuffed on a 3-1 run. Even if that were the case the clock would have continued to run and the Patriots still would have left the Panthers with less time. The other scenario is that the Patriots could have scored a touchdown on a running play. That, clearly, would have been better than an incomplete pass.

This is a classic example of a play call gone horribly wrong. When these kinds of decisions are made in the first and second quarters of games, we all scratch our heads, but when they’re made at such critical times like in the final minutes of a tie game, we’re absolutely flabbergasted. Why McDaniels made that call on 3-1 will never make sense. Let’s just hope that we can expect more thoughtful play calling the next time the Patriots are in a situation like that. We clearly can’t expect the referees to have the best interests of the team in mind, so we better hope that the coaches do.

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