Blown calls have determined a number of crucial games in NFL history, and blown calls will continue to drape controversy over the face of victory. The Oakland Raiders have been slighted a few times, notably in the “Tuck Rule” game, and they still argue that there was holding during the “Immaculate Reception”. The Green Bay Packers will likely never live down the “Fail Mary.” Even recently the San Francisco 49ers were burned by a close Ahmad Brooks personal foul. No one likes the game being decided by the referees, even the team who comes out on top, because there will always be an inkling of doubt as to whether they truly earned the victory.
The Carolina Panthers and the New England Patriots found themselves in one such situation on Monday Night with the Panthers being the beneficiary of a controversial non-call. With only three seconds left, Tom Brady fired a pass to Rob Gronkowski in the end zone only for it to be intercepted by Robert Lester. Luke Kuechly was covering Gronk on the play and appeared to wrap him up in the back of the end zone to take him out of the play, necessitating the flag. The officials convened and eventually picked up the flag, claiming that the pass was underthrown and thus uncatchable.
A lot of people were angry about the flag being picked up and they are somewhat justified in being so, but the refs ultimately made the right call. Or at least they didn’t make the wrong call. Was Kuechly’s contact worthy of a flag? Yes; it would have at least been holding had it been prior to the pass. Could Gronk have made a play on the ball? No; the pass was underthrown and would have had to commit pass interference himself to get through Lester and Kuechly. The play was very close, and because pass interference calls are not reviewable they had to make a judgment call on what they saw. There’s no right or wrong call, but it will be hard for Patriots fans to see it that way.