Ok, so there has been a lot of discussion about the ending of the Panthers-Patriots game. On the final play of the game, the back judge threw a penalty that after a short discussion with two other officials would pick up the flag, and tell Referee, Clete Blakeman, there was no penalty on the play, ending the game. Now the following post will use documentary evidence from the game to challenge a lot of points made on social media and media outlets like ESPN.
So let’s start with looking at the initial play through the endzone camera.
As you can see this is the first actual contact of Kuechly and Gronkowski, at this point he has only touched his right shoulder. Gronkowski is going toward the back of the endzone and has not yet made an effort to comeback to the ball. Meanwhile, Robert Lester is letting him pass through and immediately is between Gronkowski and the path of the ball.
Here is the picture where that has ignited the opposition to the no call. All over the place, this has been described as “holding” or “mugging” or “bearhugging” or “faceguarding” and so on and so on. Now look at the Kuechly’s hand placement, he is not holding the jersey, but does have his arms practically around the player. Turn your attention to Gronkowski’s body placement, with Kuechly not holding on and applying body force to the receiver. His right leg plant is still going backwards with his motion, and he doesn’t attempt to comeback to the ball.
You can see the path the ball was taking now from this angle. Robert Lester is in front of the contact. Now this is important, if Robert Lester is not there, you have the case to make the Defensive Pass Interference Call on Kuechly. That being said, he is there. It has been said that the contact wouldn’t allow him to compete for the ball. Before the contact Lester was already in front of Gronkowski, the only play he could make would be to go through Lester on an underthrown pass and cause an Offensive Pass Interference. Point being the contact behind Lester had no impact on the play.
Here the official is seen saying “No, no” to Clete, as he tucks the penalty back in his pants. Clete had just reached the official, who had already had a quick discussion with 2 other officials and reached a decision. Now I know this will shock you, but, this is in fact not the first time an officiating crew came together and picked up a flag in an NFL game. Now there’s a lot of discussion about the officials getting together and and picking up the penalty in fear of the reaction of the Carolina crowd. Keep in mind, officials are escorted out of stadiums and driven away by drivers, they do not park in lots with the fans, that is of no concern to them. Another problem with this is the penalty they called a few plays earlier.
Here a few plays earlier, the referee’s did not swallow their whistle on a crucial third down play. Instead they called the pass interference, correctly, in spite of the appeals of the Panthers faithful. If these officials were so afraid of what the fans thought, why would they throw a penalty on this equally important play? Because the officials are not influenced by the crowd. These aren’t the replacement officials from the Packers-Seahawks fiascoe, these are the real guys in primetime, and they are not afraid to make these calls.
This was called on McCourty for holding Greg Olsen. This was a penalty, and is also the only possible penalty to be called on the last play of the game due to Robert Lester’s positioning. Now why is this holding? This was a fade throw from Cam meant to go to lob down near the sideline allowing Olsen to get under the ball after beating the defender. The pass is up in the air for a long time allowing for a long period of contact. As Olsen attempts to go to turn to the outside, McCourty grabs around him, disabling him to make his move. This is beyond the 5 yard area allowed for contact, and McCourty never lets go during the play. This IS holding. Again note that Olsen is clearly attempting to make a move to go toward the area of the ball, it’s very obvious, and note McCourty actually grasping Olsen’s jersey not allowing him to move. Two distinct differences from the play with Gronkowski, where Kuechly doesn’t grip the player, and the player doesn’t clearly attempt to make a move for the ball.
So there’s been comments made that the officials were on the side of the Panthers for that one call, but what do we have here? This is the second play from scrimmage in the second half. Charles Johnson, the player diagonally southeast of the ESPN MNF logo, has beaten the offensive linemen. In response the down linemen sweeps his left leg, legwhipping Charles Johnson. Charles would go down in excruciaitng pain, and his cries of terror could be heard all the way in the upper deck. There was no penalty, and Charles would sit out the rest of the half, only coming back for the final series. Charles is having an MRI, and may not be able to play next week against Miami. This is a clear penalty that was blatantly missed by both officials in the backfield who had unobstructed views of the play. Here is something the Patriots got away with, and would have been a big 15 yard penalty setting back their first drive of the half that would lead to a touchdown.
This has adressed every point I’ve seen or heard on the play, and in the end, the officials were right in picking up the flag. Not because they were scared of the Carolina fans, not because they were out to get the Patriots, but because it was the right call, because there was no call to make. I know that’s a lot to read, but it adresses just about every persepctive, and in the end, the refs got it right.
Feel free to tweet, comment, post, etc. to me with your perspective or questions.