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Patriots get interference flag on last-second play, seconds later flag picked up

blakeman brady

Game ends on defensive pass inter…ception

Post updates: comments from former supervisor Jim Daopoulos and pool report with referee Clete Blakeman

With three seconds to go, down by 4, and with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady at the helm, you know that there is pending drama (video).

Brady was intercepted in the end zone by the Panthers, but back judge Terrence Miles threw a flag for pass interference. He called in side judge Greg Meyer; umpire Garth DeFelice joined in. By the time referee Clete Blakeman came to the end zone, Miles was shaking his head “no” and tucking his flag in his belt. The announcement:

There’s no foul on the play. Game is over.

That’s it.

This was clearly a catchable ball, which is what Miles was talked out of, rather than going with his instinct. Receiver Rob Gronkowski still had an ability to make a play on the ball, but was restricted by Panthers defensive back Luke Kuechly. On the ESPN broadcast, failing a description from Blakeman, former official Gerry Austin provided analysis from the booth which seems to import new interpretation into the old grey book:

I see the contact occurs deep, back near the end line, but the ball is intercepted — underneath. Therefore that takes [defensive pass interference] off. There is no chance for this receiver to catch the ball. Therefore, there’s no foul.

Jim Daopoulos tells Football Zebras that he believes it was a foul.

Pass interference occurs when a defender is not playing the ball and restricts the receiver’s opportunity to make the catch.   This absolutely occurs on the play in Carolina as Kuechly is not playing the ball and restricts Gronkowski from having an opportunity to make the catch.   The official correctly calls the foul for pass interference, then picks up his flag.

The ball was catchable as the definition of “uncatchable” is clearly over an end line or side line and not one that is short of the receiver because he is being restricted. This is a foul and the penalty should have been enforced and ball placed on the one yard line.






Update 1:15 a.m. ET: Blakeman was interviewed by pool reporters Mike Reiss (Boston) and Joe Person (Charlotte). (I contacted the league, and a spokesman had nothing to add at this hour.)

Mike Reiss: I guess the first question is what was seen on the last play to initially have the official throw the flag?

Clete Blakeman:   The back judge saw that there was contact and the defender was not playing the ball and that led him to throw for defensive pass inference, was the initial call.

Reiss: The follow-up naturally, what was discussed to then pick up the flag?

Blakeman:   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.   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.

Joe Person: Have you guys had a chance to review it yet and what were your thoughts on the review?

Blakeman: Two things, yeah, we have video in the room, the TV on in the locker room, so yeah, we all saw it, looked at it and that was, in essence, it pretty much mirrored the discussion that occurred.   Terrence Miles, our back judge, saw the contact, he saw what he saw, and threw on it.   And then the discussion came in with respect to the ball and its location and the defender who ultimately basically undercut the play and intercepted it at the, in essence, the middle to the front part of the end zone.

Person:   Are you confident it was the right call?

Blakeman:   Yeah, in review, yeah.   I think so.   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.

Reiss: Is there anything else you want to mention?

Blakeman: Nothing else.

Image: New England Patriots photo

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Ben Austro
Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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27 thoughts on “Patriots get interference flag on last-second play, seconds later flag picked up

  1. I no longer believe that the Refs – hence, the league – are honorable. NFL Marketing thinks Newton is an easy story line.

  2. This is probably worse then the infamous Lance Easely call last year in the Monday night Seattle game. Time to fire this crew and bring back the replacements. Talking the B out of the correct call…..two on one the poor B had to give in but he should have stood his ground. If this was early last season the media would be having a field day with this, as this did cost the Pats a shot to win from the one. Once again, as we have seen every single Sunday, the NFL officiating is getting poorer by the week! Mistake after mistake after mistake. Thank you, Unions! Protect the incompetence!

  3. in my professional opinion you umpires need to be fired and beaten severly with many poundings …you guys are dimwits and uneducated assholes ….retire before you ruin a good sport because of youi the pats lost this game Carolina did not beat them your dumbass so-called professional ruling did get out of the NFL….hurry….ruuuuuuuuuun

  4. reminds me of the infamous call against the pats in the 1976 wild card playoffs vs raiders with Ben Dreith ..these guys are just like his caliber uneducated as well pity …. bring back the replacements

  5. I am watching Garth “I have a temper” DeFelice earlier in the game when he kills a drive by the pats with a personal foul call on hands to the face mask. Mankins questioned the call. Garth goes off on the team. Instead of keeping his professionalism. He barks back Raises his hand like he’s the ref. Everyone on the pats turns to the sidelines in utter disbelief and shrugs. He then goes to the ref and wanted two penalty’s on the Pats. The ref wouldn’t give it to him. Then at the end of the game when the middle linebacker is engaged with Gronkowski The linebacker has his arms around the reciever and is pushing him into the back of the end zone. The correct call was made. Garth the umpire is supposed to be watching offensive line play.. He sprints to the end zone without being asked and gets to the young kid making the call and tells him to pick it up. The ref isn’t involved . he is told the game is over without explanation. Then Jerry Austin makes it worse.
    This is not the first time their has been a shithouse involviong this crew. Ask Green bay. Ask Frisco when Garth iniates breaking up two 350 pound linemen and continues to pushing the lineman another ten yards and he gets brushed off. he throws the tackle out of the game. The ref is weak. he needs to get rid of this clown Defelice before it gets woprse.

  6. “Patriots get interference flag on last-second play, seconds later flag picked up “.
    I’m no longer going to watch an American football game because of the poor officiating in the league. Period !

  7. I’m a Patriots fan, and I think picking up the flag was the correct call. There was no way in hell Gronk was going to catch that pass. It also isn’t holding for those of you wondering, Kuechly never grabbed Gronk’s jersey.

    The announcers’ rationale for why it was not PI was wrong, but the correct call did get made in the end.

  8. It was the right move to pick up the flag. The ball was uncatchable. And you can’t have holding when the ball is in the air.

  9. It’s always funny when the refs pick up a flag and the announcers hail the decision because they “got it right” after a conference. In this case, the announcers were upset and asked, “once you throw a flag, how can you pick it up?” If the defender had never touched the receiver, there is still no way it would have a completed pass. Perhaps if Brady had lived up to his hype and not under-thrown the ball his team would have won.

  10. During the World Series when an ump made an error with his call the other refs got together to discuss it. The umpire crew chief said the most important thing was to get the call correct.

    The NFL refs proved that the art of professionalism belongs to the MLB refs. Too bad for the sport, the NFL and the fans

  11. Think about this….would ANYONE have called DPI if this was the middle of field and the exact same play happened? The question really is this…does the presence of a defender who picks the pass BEFORE the ball gets to a spot where the intended receiver COULD catch it make the pass “un-catchable?” If the same EXACT SAME play is at the 50 (meaning that the ball is picked at the 46 or 47 as there was AT LEAST a 3 yard difference btwn. the contact spot and the INT. spot in the EZ), do the officials ignore the contact and NOT throw a flag at all? If it is or is not a foul in the field of play, than the same must apply in the EZ. My opinion: I see no hold or illegal contact BEFORE the pass that (and this is the KEY ELEMENT) takes Gronk. from his route (which by NFL philosophy it needs to do in order to have a foul). He is NOT taken off his route and in fact goes exactly where he wants to go (the back-post of EZ).
    So, is there an “in-flight” foul by the DB? The FACT that the ball is underthrown by 3-4 yards to a DB who came underneath, makes it uncatchable by a guy 9-12 feet away, traveling in the opposite direction he needed to go in order to come back to a pass that had a significant downward trajectory. As Tom Landry said once,” don’t be in a position where the officials’ calls can determine the outcome.”

  12. See TT 15 from 2009 for some help on what is uncatchable. A pass must be “obviously and clearly” uncatchable to prevent a foul for Pass Interference. Always consider the trajectory of the ball (a line drive versus a high arc) in making this determination. If the sideline is involved, use the principle of getting the ball “outside the white” to consider the pass to be uncatchable. Here, we have a 6’7 player is making an effort to get back to an underthrown (but not “uncatchable”) ball. The defender frustrates the receiver’s effort by bear hugging him thereby triggering the correct flag for DPI. As for ICT? This was a possibility until ball went up. The above comment is inaccurate and not in accord with NFL philosophy, which states, at least in parts pertinent to this play, “If a defensive player contacts and “rides” the offensive player and that continued contact does not allow the offensive player to go back to the inside to complete his pass route, a foul for ICT should be called. This is different from a “snuggle” when the offensive player lowers his shoulder into a defender and then uses that contact to break away from the defender in the opposite direction. ” See TT #10 from 2009. Here, we had more than a “ride” we had a “bear hug” but since ball was away it is now DPI. The U had no business interfering with the call made by an official who is right in back of the play, but see the comments above about this ump and if accurate, well If the shoe fits…..

  13. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    If I read this right the ball has to be catchable by the involved players.
    And since it was interception, the ball was caught by one of the involved players.
    Shouldn’t it be DPI as per article 2 (e)?

    Article 2:

    Prohibited Acts:

    (e) Cutting off the path of an opponent by making contact with him, without playing the ball.

    Article 3:

    Permissible Acts:

    (c) Contact that would normally be considered pass interference, but the pass is clearly uncatchable by the involved players.

  14. To “observer3,” there was no bear hug. He was certainly in his “grill,” but how did he impede Gronk’s intended route? Are you saying that you would call that DPI on the 50 in the 1st Qtr. also? Watch Gronk’s feet. He makes NO EFFORT to come back to the ball. Yes, the DB is not looking back for the ball, but if he did he would see it 4-5 yds. BEHIND him, so even HE would not be able to catch it.
    I would argue, though, that if the ball is NOT intercepted/knocked down, and the ball continued in flight thus hitting the ground, and where it hit was closer to Gronk’s., then YES we have DPI. I believe that a player making an interception on a low trajectory throw about 3-5 yds. in front (in this case, technically behind) of the receiver, constitutes uncatchable for the intended receiver. Do the TT’s tapes that you cite include a play like this one?
    Last observation, could you imagine if this was a replacement crew?! OMG, the media ( and those idiots Steve Young, et al) would be ALL OVER THEM as they were in the MNF game in Seattle last season. The regular officials GOT HUGE pay raises, and this has been a terrible year for them in so many ways. Thanksgiving last year with Houston…how do 4 guys miss that he was down in the open field?! Oh, well, a littlemperspective here….people are dying in the Phillippines…bigger worries than a football game, right?

  15. I think Observer2 has nailed it. There clearly was not enough to call defensive holding prior to the pass, therefore the call would have to be defensive pass interference. Defensive PI requires that the ball be catchable. Similar to the instance where a tipped ball negates any def PI call, what if a second defender is in the direct line path of the football, several yards ahead of the intended receiver? The upfield defender touches the ball several yardsw infront of the intended receiver (actually intercepts it) and he did not touch or impeede a receiver to get into that position. Gronkowski’s momentum was carrying him away from the ball and had absolutely zero chance to get to the ball before the upfield defender even if he were untouched.

    Calls like these can get you fired…..or send you to the Super Bowl. Given the above, clearly the decision to overrule the flag was the proper choice. I don’t blame the Back Judge for throwing the flag. He is watching the receiver and the defender tangled up near the rear of the end zone, but not focusing on other surrounding players. The other officials could view the play from a broader perspective and see that Gronk had no possibility of getting to the ball before the upfield defender. Therefore, this crew worked as a team and got the right call. The Side Judge and Umpire deserve major kudos for having the balls to wave off the flag when the easy (but wrong) way would have been to let the flag stand. The only miscue was Blakeman not giving a more detailed explanation of the call when he announced that there was no foul, and the game is over. We needed a long winded Ed Hochuli type explanation at that point rather than a post game interview.

    I am glad the professionals were on hand for this really tough call that they were going to be criticized for, no matter the outcome.

  16. Gotta’ love the support for the call by the front office. Clearly, giving the crew a pass because it was a tight play. Notice the VP of Officiating does not call it a “bang-bang” play in which (here we go with the philosophy again) case no flag would be appropriate. Rather, he gives the crew an out by saying it was discussed, and the judgment is supported, even though the video shows it was not the correct judgment. I understand the “crew concept” but this B should have had the nuts to stand by his call and not be called off it by 1) the SJ who switched his focus as soon as the ball was up and if he did, his look is secondary to the B’s look and should not have been given the credit it was given; and 2) certainly not the U even though the U did a nice pivot on the play but couldn’t have processed the play better than the official who was on his key and had the action right in front of him. The B needed to stand his ground here when he clearly saw what everyone can now see on replay. Unfortunately, he failed, on the big stage. That’s why he gets paid the big bucks. Man up and stand by the call you made.

    Sorry guys, if the call is wrong, it is wrong. There is no accountability for incorrect calls; that is why we have seen more mistakes this season than any other season.

    Observer 2, take a look at the play again. That’s not a bear hug? In addition, 87 is attempting to come back to the ball and is prevented by the force of the defender. Watch as 87 attempts to plant his right foot to get back to the ball when he sees it is under thrown. The defender hugs him and drives 87 towards the end line. 87 is making an attempt to come back to the ball and can’t plant his right foot because of the action by the defender. The video does not lie. This was a clear restriction prior to the ball arriving (whether or not you agree 87 was trying to plant as a professional player does when coming back for an under thrown pass) and B made the correct call……as for Austin? Lord forbid he speak out against the officials lest his C-USA boys not get any looks. Periera with no horse in the game? He was correct – the flag should not have been picked up.

  17. I’ve not read the DPI rule(s) (specifically with regard to uncatchability), but, I would be shocked if it includes any consideration of position and movements of other defenders on the field of play in making the UC determination. Why would/should that have anything to do with catchability (or lack thereof). Based on ball trajectory & velocity, such other defenders may indeed have an opportunity to intercept/deflect/impede/redirect the ball before it reaches the player against whom the DPI occurred, but, such opportunities may or may not be realized and successfully executed. So, why would/should such opportunities have anything to do with the UC determination?

    I would expect that the UC determination would be based strictly on trajectory and velocity of ball with regard to field boundaries and player positions/velocities (given understood limits of human performance with regard to acceleration, jumping ability, etc) such that it is extremely clear that – had no DPI occurred – there would have been no possibility of the player making a reception.

    Thus, I don’t see how UC could/should be applied to the play under consideration.

  18. No one has yet to respond if they would have called that DPI at the 50 in full speed.
    I did look at his foot plant, but look at his body language. After the pass…he even knew he had no chance. One more new thought….EVEN IF he could come back to it because of no DB in his way, he would have had to commit OPI to get to the ball. How come? He would have to play through the back of the DB who definitely had position to catch it. No way he gets there.

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