Tom Brady vs the New England Patriots. We never thought we’d see the day. More importantly, we never thought we’d finally figure out whose side the zebras were on all this time.
For the last two decades, Patriots fans have received jabs from the greater NFL community in regard to their preferential treatment from the referees. The Tuck Rule began it all. Then came ticky-tack calls on roughing the passer penalties after Brady’s injury back in 2008. The list goes on and on.
Well, it’s safe to say Belichick might have the officials in his back pocket based on the calls we saw late in this one. And if we’re to talk about Patriots fans accustomed to having calls go their way, look no further than this pass interference eliciting outrage from the home crowd … even though it was completely accurate.
The refs nearly gifted the Patriots a win over Tom Brady on Sunday night.
That ended up getting Brady the go-ahead field goal, but what happened on the Patriots’ next and final drive with under two minutes to go nearly tipped the scales in a wild manner.
First came a “pass interference” call on Bucs safety Jordan Whitehead, who broke on a Mac Jones pass it an attempt to pick it off. As he went for the ball, he made contact with the “intended receiver” in tight end Hunter Henry, who was nowhere near the pass. He broke toward the middle of the field and the throw was well behind him. So, not only was Whitehead making a play on the ball (which wouldn’t be classified as pass interference even if Henry had a shot at it), Henry physically could not come up with a catch even if no contact was made.
That moved the Patriots close to midfield.
A few plays later, in Bucs territory, the Patriots committed a false start penalty, moving them back to midfield. On the next play, it was evident left tackle Isaiah Wynn moved before the snap, but the refs didn’t throw a flag and blow it dead. The play ran as planned and the Patriots gained seven yards back onto the Bucs’ side of the field.
Couldn’t have been more obvious … but we’ll take it, right?
The Patriots would only get to the Bucs’ 37-yard line, though, before a 4th and 3 forced Belichick to bring out the field goal unit with under a minute to go. That would be a 56-yarder for Nick Folk in wet conditions.
The snap was good. The hold was good. The kick was a booming one … but it drifted left and clanked off the upright. The Bucs maintained their 19-17 lead and were able to burn the rest of the clock.
If the false start penalty is called, the Pats are out of field goal range and have to go for it. If Whitehead isn’t flagged, the Pats might not have even gotten this close.
It was an admirable effort from Belichick’s side, and what a homecoming it would’ve been if the defense managed to keep Brady in check in the manner they did AND the refs altered the outcome with some bad/questionable calls. The football gods wouldn’t let that happen to Brady, though, even if he wasn’t wearing a Patriots jersey.