Monday night’s Patriots-Panthers matchup ended with plenty of confusion and anger, but the officials are standing firm on their no-call.
On what ended up being the final play of the game, Tom Brady‘s pass to Rob Gronkowski was picked off in the end zone. A flag was thrown on the play, however, as it appeared that Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly was holding onto the tight end. But after the officials held a quick conference, they determined that there was no penalty on the play and the Patriots fell to Carolina, 24-20.
Dean Blandino, the NFL vice president of officiating, appeared on NFL Network on Tuesday evening to further explain the controversial call.
“The issue isn’t the contact [between Keuchly and Gronkowski], the issue is the restriction and does it occur prior to the ball being touched,” Blandino explained Tuesday during his segment on NFL Network. “At full speed the officials made a tight judgment call and they determined that the restriction occurred just as the ball was being touched [by Panthers safety Robert Lester]. Again, at full speed you can see why they made that call.”
Because pass interference is not reviewable, the officials were only granted one look at the play, leading Blandino to support the official’s judgment call given the situation.
After the game, referee Clete Blakeman met with reporters to discuss the decision to pick up the flag and defended his crew’s call, but when Blandino was asked if he thought they were wrong on the play, the vice president of officiating was much less confident in his answer.
“I wouldn’t say that they were wrong,” Blandino said. “Again, they have to make this call. They used proper mechanics. They got together after the play. They determined that in their judgment the contact occurred simultaneous with the ball being intercepted and that’s why the officials did what they did.”