Nov 18, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick reacts in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Last night saw the New England Patriots lose on Monday Night Football to a very game, and very talented Carolina Panthers team. The Patriots got severely outplayed in the final few possessions of the game, but were in a position to win the game, in the dying seconds, having driven the ball 62 yards downfield, with one final shot at the endzone from the 13 yard line, or one yard line. What proceeded to happen, became arguably the biggest on-field, football related controversy this season for the NFL. While in the end zone, Rob Gronkowski was bear hugged and pushed away from the football, making him unable to make a play on the football, which was intercepted by Lester Hudson. A flag was thrown by back judge Terrence Miles, but was then picked up by referee Clete Blakeman, without any explanation to either quarterback Tom Brady or Head Coach Bill Belichick.
So was it the right call to pick it up? No, it wasn’t. The fact is that Luke Kuechly hugged, and pushed Gronkowski away from the play, making it an easy interception for Hudson. Was it pass interference? Perhaps, that all depends on whether or not the ball was catchable by Gronkowski. He was a fair ways away from the football, and it also appeared to be under thrown. However, Gronkowski wasn’t even able to make his break across the field, and make a play. Keep in mind, Gronkowski is 6’6 and a freak athlete with a huge wingspan. Simply saying that their was no possible chance for him to catch the football, in this NFL where receivers make plays that no one thought humanly possible at first glance, but they end up in fact being catches.
That one is up for debate, whether he was close enough to the football or not to make a play on the ball, or he wouldn’t have had a chance at all even if he wasn’t interfered with. So how about one of the other calls? Illegal contact downfield? Well this one is a little more obvious. Illegal contact could only have been called if Brady still had the ball, within the pocket, and Gronkowski was then interfered with. So that one is out of the question, no illegal contact flag could have been called on Kuechly or Hudson.
Alright then, defensive pass interference is a toss-up with no real conclusion, and illegal contact couldn’t have been made at all, so how about the final one? Defensive holding is the final possible call that could’ve been made, and it should have been called. Defensive holding is defined as:
“A penalty on the defense that is flagged when a defensive player uses his hands to pull and hold the opposing offensive player while outside the 5 yard mark of the line of scrimmage.”
It does not matter if the ball is deemed, “catchable” or not. Kuechly held, and interfered with Gronkowski route, clearly more than five yards down the field, which should have resulted in a flag, putting the ball at the 13 yard for the Patriots, with one final shot at the win.
The point is, the New England Patriots got outplayed, and did not deserve to win this game. They couldn’t stop a 3rd down play on that final drive, they let Cam Newton run around freely, could not protect Tom Brady when it counted, and that one costly fumble by Stevan Ridley in Panthers territory, which cost the Patriots at least three points. But the Patriots did earn a chance to win this game, with that one final play, and it was taken from them undeservedly. Kuechly, as great a player as he is, made an illegal play, and did not get punished for it. The Carolina Panthers are for real, they played a great game, and Cam Newton lead a great drive, so a congratulations to them is in order. The point is that the referees did mess this call up, and it cost the Patriots one last chance. It did not cost them the game, as so many plays came before it that the Patriots could have taken advantage of. The Patriots don’t have much time to dwell on this, as they return to Foxboro to play the best team in the AFC, the Denver Broncos. What do you think of the non-call Patriots, and NFL fans alike? Was Blakeman in the right to pick it up, or was this a blunder on the referees part?