The officials that picked up the flag at the end of Monday’s Panthers-Patriots classic explained themselves.
But they’re not going to make many in New England happy.
The official explanation, via a pool report distributed to the media, was that the pass intended for Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was uncatchable, which made the assault and battery committed by Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly a moot point in the wake of Panthers safety Robert Lester’s interception.
“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 its location,” referee Clete Blakeman said. “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 immediate 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.”
Asked if he was confident after seeing replays that the call was correct, Blakeman, unsurprisingly, did not contradict himself.
“Yeah, in review, yeah. I think so,” he said. “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.”
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady took the polite approach, saying he should have thrown a better ball. But that’s not going to pacify too many of his fans, who are going to be wailing about this one for some time.