FOXBORO, Mass. — N’Keal Harry should have scored his second NFL touchdown Sunday evening at Gillette Stadium. Referee Jerome Boger explained after the game why he didn’t.
Harry was ruled out of bounds at the 3-yard line after hauling in a short pass from Tom Brady early in the third quarter, despite replays clearly showing the rookie receiver’s foot never touched the boundary before he dove across the goal line. Because the New England Patriots had exhausted their supply of coach’s challenges, Bill Belichick was unable to dispute the ruling.
The Patriots ultimately settled for a field goal four plays later en route to a 23-16 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium.
“What led to it was the covering official on the wing was blocked out by defenders,” Boger told pool reporter Mike Reiss of ESPN.com after the final whistle. “The downfield official who was on the goal line and looking back toward the field of play had that he stepped out at the 3-yard line. So they got together and conferred on that. The final ruling was that he was out of bounds at the 3-yard line.”
Boger said he and his crew did not consider ruling the play a touchdown in order to give themselves a second look at it. In the NFL, all scoring plays and turnovers are subject to an automatic booth review.
“Not really,” Boger told Reiss. “Those two officials who were covering it, they look at it in real time. This case was unique in that the guy who would have ruled touchdown had him short. So maybe if that ruling official on the goal line had a touchdown, we could have gotten into that, but he thought that that guy stepped out of bounds. The goal line wasn’t in the play.”
The call was one of several Boger’s crew bungled in the game. Two others went against the Patriots in key spots: a Travis Kelce fumble that was not called on the field and was immediately blown dead, forcing New England to burn its final challenge; and an uncalled defensive pass interference against wide receiver Phillip Dorsett in the final minutes.
The Kelce call — which negated a potential touchdown for cornerback Stephon Gilmore — immediately preceded Harry’s would-be score.