NFL referees' late involvement completely derails Patriots' comeback chances

Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots
Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots / Kathryn Riley/GettyImages

To say this wasn't a pretty game would be a complete understatement.

In what needed to be a better performance from just one week ago and what felt like a winnable game, the Patriots couldn't get the job done despite the effort to come back from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter. It all started the same: self-inflicted wounds caused them to play from behind, and they could not get the job done, just like their matchup with the Eagles on opening weekend.

There were glimmers of hope as the final quarter went on, with an impeccable blocked field goal attempt by Brenden Schooler, followed by a badly thrown interception to the Dolphins star cornerback Xavien Howard.

A few minutes later, Hunter Henry scored a six-yard touchdown to bring the game within a score, and on Miami's next drive, rookie Christian Gonzalez nabbed his first career interception to set the offense up at their own 14-yard line.

But, the same old story of the Patriots the last few years, two incomplete passes and a sack on Mac Jones for a loss of ten yards forced them to go three and out, wasting the ultimate opportunity to tie the game.

The Dolphins' next drive didn't improve the situation; in fact, it made the game even worse.

In one play for six seconds, running back Raheem Mostert ran 43 yards for a touchdown, bringing the score up 24-10 with just under nine minutes remaining in the game. It felt like that may have been the dagger to end the game, as it was certainly shocking to see it happen so quickly.

However, Mac Jones and the offense were able to march down the field on the following drive for 75 yards in just over three minutes, ending the series with a two-yard touchdown run by Rhamondre Stevenson. It played very much into the narrative of the bend but don't break Patriots, bringing them back within one score.

Things started to look up, especially after the Dolphins missed a 55-yard field goal, which allowed the Patriots to take over on their own 45-yard line. But that's where things started to go downhill.

The officiating crew made some questionable calls throughout the night, like the unnecessary roughness call on Marte Mapu that extended a Dolphins' drive that would've ended, and their spotting of the football came into question multiple times.

That, unfortunately, became a factor on the final play for the Patriots' night, as Mike Gesicki tossed the football to Cole Strange in hopes the guard would get a first down. By all accounts, including the replays, it looked like the lineman got the job done, which would've given the Patriots a first down with a minute remaining. It was called a first down on the field, but for some reason, they overturned the call after it went to the replay booth.

How there was enough evidence to overturn what was called by the referees on the field is mind-boggling.

It was a horrible sequence of events and an absolutely deflating way to end the game. And yet, at the same time, it was almost fitting with how the rest of the night went.

Of course, if the game comes down to a wild play on fourth down, you probably didn't do enough to win the game. That applies to the Patriots in the situation. Still, the referees' involvement late in the game makes the whole thing sting a bit more, even for those who despise blaming officiating for contributing to or causing a loss.