Patriots fans demanding an explanation from the league for why a potential game-altering penalty call was waived on the final play got one late this afternoon from the VP of Officiating, Dean Blandino. His ultimate conclusion, which he brought forth in a very long-winded manner, was that the refs "made a judgement call" that the league supports.
The full video of Blandino's explanation can be viewed here. Long story short, he explains that together the refs concluded that the ball was intercepted at the same time that Rob Gronkowski was "restricted" by Luke Kuechly.
What he emphasized the most was that this was a judgement call by the referees, which "in full speed" could be interpreted as a simultaneous occurence. He references the fact that these refs do not have access to the slow-motion replays which show the ball is clearly still in the air while Gronk is being wrapped up (Quote from NFL.com):
"The issue isn't the contact," Blandino said. "The issue is the restriction. Does it occur when prior to the ball being touched? And at full speed, the officials made a tight judgment call and they determined that the restriction occurred just as the ball was being touched. And again, at full speed, you could see why they made that call."
Theoharis asked Blandino if, in his opinion, the officials were wrong.
"I wouldn't say that they were wrong," he replied. "Again, they have to make this call. They used proper mechanics. They got together after the play. They determined that, in their judgment, that the contact occurred simultaneous with the ball being intercepted, and that's what the officials did."
It is not hard to deduce through Blandino's word choice and logic that he knows the call was not correct. Perhaps the best clue is that despite being prompted twice, he does not definitively state that the refs made the right call. He instead dances around the direct question by explaining judgement calls and refereeing mechanics. Fancy terms to avoid having to say that they screwed up.
What happened in the game is one thing. But the fact that the referees refused to provide an explanation at the time of the play and now the league refusing to admit the call was wrong is just salt in the wound for Patriots fans, players and coaches. But as Bill Belichick stated earlier today, I suppose all we can do is turn the page to Denver.