On the final play, with New England 17 yards away, Tom Brady fired a pass into the end zone only to be intercepted. However a flag came down, and replays showed Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly clearly tackling the intended receiver, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski with the ball in flight. However, the flag was picked up.
After the game, referee Clete Blakeman explains why the flag was put back in the pocket, courtesy of masslive.com:
"There were two officials that came in. One was the umpire and the other one was our side judge and there was a discussion at that point as to the, in essence, the catchability of the ball due to it's location. 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. 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."
Blakeman also says after watching the replay, he stands by the call:
"Yeah, in review, yeah. I think so. I'm pleased that ... well, two situations. You never like to end the game with some controversy like that on a call, but I'm pleased that our officiating crew got together and communicated and discussed it and, ultimately, I believe we got it right. So that to me is the part that is coming away from it. I'm pleased that our crew was able to discuss it and make the call right."
Ultimately, the loss could have major playoff ramifications. Certainly, New England is going to make the playoffs in the AFC and will take the AFC East crown. The loss could affect seeding though, as the Patriots are 7-3 and chasing the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos, who are both 9-1.