A great Monday Night Football game has been overshadowed by a controversial ending, as an apparent pass interference penalty against Carolina on the final play was initially called by one official — and then overruled, with no explanation from referee Clete Blakeman.
As Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s last-second pass to Rob Gronkowski was intercepted by Panthers safety Robert Lester in the end zone, back judge Terrence Miles threw his penalty flag, apparently to call Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly for pass interference. But after a brief conference between the officials in the end zone, referee Clete Blakeman announced that there wouldn’t be a penalty after all.
“There is no foul on the play. The game is over,” Blakeman said.
That explanation is totally unacceptable. Blakeman needed to explain why there was no foul on the play. Miles was in perfect position to see where Gronkowski was, where Kuechly was and where the ball was, and he believed Kuechly committed a penalty. Who overruled him, and why?
Blakeman didn’t answer that question. He also left the field quickly and didn’t appear to give Brady the explanation he wanted. Patriots coach Bill Belichick said in his tense post-game press conference that the officials ran off the field without telling him anything. Belichick noted that he’s previously been fined for grabbing an official at the end of the game to demand an explanation, and he didn’t want to do that again.
That previous incident Belichick alluded to came during one of the poorly officiated games by the replacement officials during the NFL’s lockout of the regular officials. Blakeman’s failure to explain the key ruling at the end of a great game was reminiscent of those replacement refs.