Improbably, the Patriots drove down to the Panthers' 18-yard line. Tom Brady had one last shot at the end zone. Rob Gronkowski doesn't get wrapped up too often (high-five, bro!), but one ref thought he did here and threw a flag. The refs picked up the flag and declared that the game was over.
It's been a pretty rough weekend for the officials -- the regular officials. Trent Williams was allegedly called a "fat ass" by one zebra. Now this.
Tom Brady wasn't happy about it. And neither was Ryan Mallet, who made a cameo in that impromptu meeting with the ref racing to get off the field.
After the game, things got really strange at Bill Belichick's press conference. Silence brought on by audio problems, timid reporters and a dazed coach at the podium. Watch:
Here's Mike Pereira on the call:
You could make a case that the pass might have been uncatachable, but the flag was thrown and you should stay with it. My thoughts— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) November 19, 2013
ESPN's official expert, er, expert official, er, rules guy, stuck to the uncatchable thing. I can't imagine we've heard the last opinions on the matter.
The flag was thrown for defensive pass interference. As explained by Pats Pulpit, it met the requirements for DPI, except for one big gray area ... the uncatchable ball notion. From Rule 8, Section 5:
(c) Contact that would normally be considered pass interference, but the pass is clearly uncatchable by the involved players.
Was it uncatchable? That's what we'll be debating for awhile. Gronk was behind where Robert Lester intercepted the ball. Had he been positioned there, even without Kuechly wrapped around him, it looks like Lester had the ball, thus making it uncatchable. But it's tough to say for sure. That's what the refs thought:
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.
The back judge who threw the flag would have only seen Gronk and Kuechly. The refs who overruled the DPI call made the determination that the ball was uncatchable.
Officials didn't screw up the call so much as they screwed up the explanation of it by not explaining it at all until after the game.