After a rolling boil of coverage from coast to coast most of Tuesday, vice president of officiating Dean Blandino was not able to simmer down the controversy over the final play of the Monday night game. He appeared on NFL Network to explain his position on the call, but reverted to praising the officials for essentially doing their jobs (video). After being asked if it was the right call about five different ways during the interview, it was clear that Blandino didn’t support the call, but would not give that headline quote. He also changed the reason why the flag was actually picked up:
It’s a judgement call — there was contact, but there’s contact on a lot of passing plays downfield. The issue isn’t the contact, the issue is the restriction. Does it occur prior to the ball being touched and at full speed the officials made a tight judgment call, and they determined that the restriction occurred just as the ball was being touched. [Once the ball is touched, pass interference cannot be called.] And again, at full speed, you can see why they made that call.
I wouldn’t say they are wrong. They have to make this call. They used proper mechanics, they got together after the play, they determined that, in their judgement, that the contact occurred simultaneous with the ball being intercepted. And that’s what the officials did.
The ruling of a pass-touch preceding the restriction does not match with Blakeman’s response to a pool reporter last night:
There was a discussion at that point as to the, in essence, the catchability of the ball due to its location
Blandino was asked if the crew will be dinged for the call
For this play, no. When we look at tight judgement calls like this, and we feel that officials followed proper mechanics, we do not downgrade officials for this type of situation. … This play will not affect their postseason assignments as far as where they will be assigned.
One question about proper mechanics that remains unanswered: when back judge Terrence Miles summoned side judge Greg Meyer to collaborate on the call, umpire Garth DeFelice trucked in from his normal position and was part of the discussion to pick up the flag. Referee Clete Blakeman is the one that the rules say shall have “general oversight and control of the game.” In this case, Blakeman was only needed to provide a head nod, quickly announce the game is over, and listen to Tom Brady pelt him with F-bombs as he leaves the field.