Pats made mistakes, but mistake by referees cannot be ignored

Before I get into any of my thoughts regarding the final play of last night's game between the Patriots and Panthers, I want to make one thing clear: I understand that the Patriots didn't lose the game strictly because of the non-call on the last play.

I understand that there were a number of plays and moments throughout the game where New England failed to execute, on both offense and defense, and that ultimately, they were outplayed by Carolina. Ridley's fumble, inexcusable personal foul penalties, a complete inability to contain Cam Newton in the pocket or through the air, the questionable play call on 3rd and 1 in the fourth quarter; I understand that all of these together are what allowed Carolina to win the game.

All of that being said, I believe that had the referees called pass interference on the last play of the game, as they should have, the Patriots would have won the game. Over the course of the day, I found my argument being met repeatedly with the retort that the Patriots lost the game long before the final play. My friends, co-workers, BOTH my parents, Mike Felger... all of these people who are part of my daily routine pointed to one, or several, of the moments listed above as the real reason the Patriots lost.

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And I don't disagree with that. But just because the Patriots made some mistakes, doesn't mean the final play didn't happen. It doesn't negate the fact that had the referee made the correct call, following up on the flag he threw after watching a blatant example of pass interference unfold right before his eyes, the Patriots would have had the opportunity to convert an untimed play from the one yard-line to win the game. And whether it was a Tom Brady sneak, something he has been masterful at throughout his career, or a run up the gut with Ridley or Blount, I am confident the Patriots would have scored on "the play that never was."

As if the end of last night's game wasn't enough, I grew increasingly frustrated over the course of the day as I was forced to repeatedly deal with the flawed logic that because the Patriots made mistakes throughout the game, no amount of blame could be assessed to the horrific non-call that solidified a win for Carolina on their home field.

Does anyone think if this game took place at Foxborough that flag would have been picked up? There is not a chance in the world. The refs faltered in a huge moment under the brightest of lights: the final play of an epic Monday night game at the peak of football's popularity, with the entire nation watching and thousands of screaming Southerners surrounding them.

Honestly, I would have strongly preferred that the refs not throw the flag in the first place. It was a desperation, last play heave and in those kinds of situations it is somewhat common for refs to let things fly that they typically wouldn't. But the fact that the flag was thrown, only to have a call that was correct rescinded, was wrong. And to top all of this off, the worst decision of all by the officiating crew was not even offering the slightest of explanations for why they chose to waive off the PI call. Patriots fans, players, and coaches were all utterly deprived of knowing why they had just had an opportunity to win a big game taken away from them.

The explanations we have received between the end of the game and now from the officiating crew and NFL have been unsatisfying, at best. Here is what Clete Blakeman, who announced that there was no flag on the play, had to say after the game (Quote from

"So it was determined at that point in time that when the primary contact occurred on the tight end that the ball, in essence, was coming in underthrown and in essence it was [immediately] at that point intercepted at the front end of the end zone," he said. "So there was a determination that, in essence, uncatchability -- that the ball was intercepted at or about the same time the primary contact against the receiver occurred."

Well Clete, in essence, I believe that is bullshit, in essence. The NFL rule book does not define "uncatchable", leaving the judgement in the hands of the refs. Was it likely that Gronk would have caught that ball had Kuechly not had him in a full bear hug? No. Is it possible that he could have? Yes.

There is no way that ball can be deemed as definitively uncatchable. Gronk is one of the most freakish athletes in the NFL. If Kuechly doesn't wrap him up, can you say with 100% certainty that Gronk couldn't have stopped on a dime, charged towards the ball, bodied Robert Lester, outstretched his 6'5" frame and made a grab for the ages?

My point is, that pass cannot be ruled, with no doubt, uncatchable. Even if there is the slightest of chances for a player to catch a ball, it is not uncatchable. The second point Clete brings up is that the ball was intercepted "at or about" the same time Keuchly wrapped up Gronk.

Watch the replay. The ball is clearly in the air, entering the end zone, as Gronk is interfered with. The back-judge recognized that, and correctly threw a flag. But he was overruled by his crewmates who plain and simple didn't want the game to end on that note.

Last night was an instant classic. But it is truly a shame it was tarnished by such a questionable call in what could be a major turning point in both team's seasons.

Rant over.