FanDuel - WFBC

November 19, 2013

Panthers Edge Patriots, Win Sixth in a Row: The Carolina Panthers beat the New England Patriots 24-20 on Monday night in a game that ended on a controversial non-call. The zebras threw a flag on Carolina for pass interference against Rob Gronkowski in the end zone, but Tom Brady's pass to Gronk was intercepted and they said this made it uncatchable. Cam Newton kept several drives alive with long third down scrambles, threw three touchdowns and was the game's leading rusher.

posted by rcade to football at 09:26 AM - 48 comments

Cam Newton's cheating at Madden again.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 10:34 PM on November 18

With the approaching anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, there has been such a media inundation of all things JFK that when I was watching the end of the Pats-Panthers game last night, I saw the replays of the final play of the game, saw how the officiating crew handled it, and the only thought that entered my mind was that the Warren Commission had decided that there was no penalty committed on the play.

posted by beaverboard at 07:42 AM on November 19

That might be the most exciting 13-yard run I've ever seen.

posted by grum@work at 08:13 AM on November 19

That isn't even Madden-level cheating. That is some old-school Bo Jackson Tecmo Bowl shit there.

posted by Etrigan at 09:50 AM on November 19

That run reminds me of Vick in his Atlanta days.

posted by jmd82 at 09:54 AM on November 19

Newton had a great game. Guy is equally a solid game manager and big play waiting to happen - scary.

posted by cixelsyd at 09:55 AM on November 19

It was like Cyberball 2072 at the end of the game when the Patriots players stopped in their tracks and exploded one by one.

posted by Hugh Janus at 10:15 AM on November 19

Great game, but I don't understand the non-call. The ball was intercepted uncontested because Gronk was being interfered with. Without that, Gronk has a chance to fight for the ball and prevent the pick. How can the interception render the interference insignificant?

posted by rcade at 10:31 AM on November 19

I think it was that he was still running towards the back of the end zone and hadn't turned his hips toward the ball, which was thrown short. Sure, there was a defender draped over him, but he wasn't interfered with making a play on the pass that was thrown. He was making a play for a pass to the back of the end zone.

At least, I think that's how the officials saw it. I agree that the interference on Gronk was significant enough to merit a flag, but I can see how it would have been an unfair call the other way, because Gronk really never ran to catch a pass thrown low to the front of the end zone.

Maybe there was some make-up calling going on. Kind of an exposed spot for it, though.

posted by Hugh Janus at 11:07 AM on November 19

I was 1.4 points down with the Carolina D, and they got 2 for the pick. TOTALLY LEGITIMATE CALL.

posted by Etrigan at 11:25 AM on November 19

Any given Sunday...

posted by steelergirl at 12:24 PM on November 19

The back judge saw everything unfold right in front of him, threw his flag unequivocally right along with the flow of events, and was overruled in short order, apparently without any replay review.

If he was overruled by the referee, he was overruled by the official standing the farthest away from the spot where the play actually took place.

Tirico and Gruden sure seemed dumbfounded by the call reversal, but either wimped out or were told to ignore it so the producer could go to the sideline reporting.

No doubt it was magic moments like this that Bank of America had in mind when they secured the naming rights to the stadium.

posted by beaverboard at 12:42 PM on November 19

My problem with the play is that there is no consistency between the way it was officiated and the way Arrington was penalized on the Panther's drive before. It seems Gronk was fouled before the ball arrived, making the question of whether it was catchable moot because he didn't have an opportunity to be in position in the first place. The NFL has crazy rules, though, and you can't really expect it to make sense.

That said, even as a Pats fan, it's hard to get too worked up over this stuff. Just like with the helmet catch, this is what people remember but it's not necessarily where the game was actually lost.

posted by feloniousmonk at 12:50 PM on November 19

The ball was intercepted uncontested because Gronk was being interfered with.

If that's your impression of what happened. My impression is that Gronk was never going to get to that ball even if he was untouched.

posted by tron7 at 12:54 PM on November 19

My impression is that Gronk was never going to get to that ball even if he was untouched.

Disclaimer: I hate the Patriots. But I think Gronkowski is totally capable of curling back to the ball and catching it. Kuechly is just totally fucking lost and just blatantly wraps Gronkowski up. Individual achievement aside, the real problem is the double coverage. Unless Gronk rips Lester's arms off, there's just no way he's not intercepting that ball.

Still, the bigger problem is the fact that the flag was thrown. It was picked up with no explanation. There was no review. I don't get it.

posted by phaedon at 01:20 PM on November 19

I agree with tron ... I think Gronks momentum was carrying him too far to make the turn back to the ball. He didn't even try to as a matter of fact, which might have given the penalty more credence. The defender had him cornered and was definitely in contact with him, but there was no pressure going back towards the ball from Gronk.

As for the back judge being overruled, there's also a chance he threw the flag, realized what had happened as far as the play went, and told the ref as such. #wildspeculation

posted by Ricardo at 01:47 PM on November 19

I have to agree with Bill Barnwell's take: it probably wasn't interference*, it was definitely defensive holding but either way it didn't decide the game. The Patriots could not contain Newton when it counted. I did find it amusing that Tirico and Gruden were worried Aqib Talib might get himself ejected in the first quarter: has anyone ever been ejected for fighting with Steve Smith? He seems like such a humorless prick I assume the side judge quietly says, "Give him one for me" as he picks up the flag.

* I don't know if I've ever seen the "Uncatchable ball" clause applied to an underthrown ball before.

posted by yerfatma at 02:24 PM on November 19

My impression is that Gronk was never going to get to that ball even if he was untouched.

The interference begins right at the spot where the ball is picked off. Without the pushing, he has a chance to stop, contest the pick and try to outwrestle the defender for the ball.

posted by rcade at 02:29 PM on November 19

Ice up, son!

posted by NoMich at 02:36 PM on November 19

I have to agree with Bill Barnwell's take: it probably wasn't interference*, it was definitely defensive holding but either way it didn't decide the game.

Well sure - most games could be won or lost much earlier if a few plays go a different way, but that doesn't negate the fact that botched calls have an effect on the game's outcome.

The Pats would've had another stellar chance from 5 yards closer on a defensive holding call (or from the 1 on an interference call) where any points they put up are the final ones. It's a big deal in the first quarter, but because there's no opportunity for a team to come back after, it's an even bigger deal with 0 time left on the clock.

posted by dfleming at 03:32 PM on November 19

The contact up until his right foot plants is VERY incidental (and quite mutual) and not enough to get the flag. At the point his right foot plants, he is probably almost 2 yards behind the defender who intercepted. There is no way he could have made up that ground before the ball got there.

posted by Ricardo at 04:06 PM on November 19

side note - Did anyone else catch Ray Lewis talking about why Ted Ginn was allowed to score? He kept saying the defender erred when he let Ginn to the outside and nobody could catch up to his speed. He said the defender needed to usher him to the inside where he would get help. Ginn caught the ball and hooked to the inside. Shoddy work Lewis.

posted by Ricardo at 04:08 PM on November 19

My impression is that Gronk was never going to get to that ball even if he was untouched

There is no way he could have made up that ground before the ball got there

Agree.

and try to outwrestle the defender for the ball

I don't buy this. His momentum is taking him towards the back of the end zone while the defender has broken on the ball. If you watch his reaction it appears he gives up before the interception is made.

Had the ball been thrown 8 more yards and been closer to Gronk I'd have a different opinion.

Ultimately the team that played a more complete game won.

posted by cixelsyd at 04:55 PM on November 19

His momentum is taking him towards the back of the end zone while the defender has broken on the ball.

Watch it again, particularly the slow-mo around 1:18. Gronk extends and plants his feet to sit down on his route right as he's first interfered with, so there's no momentum. He was attempting to make a play on the ball.

Ref Clete Blakeman said this to justify the call his crew made: "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."

But an NFL.Com report questions his logic, "Replays appear to prove Blakeman wrong. Kuechly made contact before the interception."

Both Fox Sports analyst and former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira and NBC officiating analyst Jim Daopoulos believe officials made the wrong call.

posted by rcade at 05:12 PM on November 19

The game shouldn't have ended on that play, whether the call would have been interference, defensive holding, illegal contact, whatever. The game can't end on a defensive penalty. Why would the official believe Kuechly was allowed within any rules regarding contact with receivers that what was done to Gronkowski on that play was acceptable?

The Patriots should have had one more shot at the end zone, whether it be from the one yard line or further up field.

posted by dyams at 05:21 PM on November 19

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."

posted by dfleming at 05:59 PM on November 19

Just to reiterate my point, it's called a curl route. Gronkowski is clearly running full steam towards the back of the end zone with the option to curl back. He definitely has the ability to come back to the ball.

Still, Lester's there. This isn't just about "what Gronkowski could have done if Kuechly wasn't there." There's double coverage. Even if Kuechly didn't hold him it's hard to believe that that ball wouldn't have been picked off. Lester's cutting towards the ball a good two feet in front of where Gronkowski would need to be for the completion.

Gronkowski has the momentum to catch the ball; he doesn't have the momentum to come out ahead of Lester. The ball was underthrown.

posted by phaedon at 07:05 PM on November 19

posted by rcade at 07:53 PM on November 19

At the point he's planting his right foot, Lester's already breaking on the ball. On the other hand, Kuechly isn't even looking for the ball - if Kuechly turns his head back then I move firmly into the "no call is the right call" camp.

As it is, I'll remain in the "what did the refs call? Eh, that's fine*" camp.

*My sympathy drained somewhat by that exceptionally cheap leg whip that'll hopefully draw a fine this week.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 08:04 PM on November 19

posted by rcade

And what's interesting about that clip is, we're basically talking about Gronkowski taking one extra step. If he pulls up one step before, you have to call the penalty.

Although the more I watch it, the more I see Gronkowski's body breaking for the ball earlier and his shoulders being grabbed by Kuechly. I mean, Gronk is tracking the ball all the way. Still doesn't negate double coverage. Man, Kuechly basically got away with murder.

posted by phaedon at 08:09 PM on November 19

Watch it again

I was indeed going through the slow-motion when I commented. The incidental contact I was talking about was number 59 putting his hand on Gronks shoulder pad. That in itself wasn't when the penalty occurred. That was when his hands went down and around him. The ball is about a split second away at that point. There is no way Gronk was making some kind of curl move there. In your video above, the first time he goes to plant is when his right foot hits (relatively) below the goal post. Even with the defender there hugging him, he never appears to be trying to go back against him.

I never argued this wasn't a penalty. I think it was probably defensive holding. What it wasn't was pass interference.

posted by Ricardo at 09:28 PM on November 19

Another issue to consider is that I couldn't take the Ref seriously because he's the South East Asia guy.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 09:43 PM on November 19

There is no way Gronk was making some kind of curl move there.

Mm. I respectfully disagree to at least some extent. I think one thing you have to keep in mind is Brady & Gronkowski have been playing together for what, three years? I think he makes a superhuman play if Lester isn't there. I think, absent Lester, you give Gronkowski that benefit of the doubt, period. He's earned it. He's the top tight end in the league. He's light years more physically gifted than the guy who is holding on to dear life trying to cover him. This is Rob Gronkowski catching a ball in the end zone.

The more important detail is Gronkowski is locked in on Brady even before he enters the end zone. Locked. In. Head completely turned around. Kuechly is in no man's land.

But. I think Gronkowski sees the ball is underthrown, feels Lester there, and his body instinctively gives up on the route. I mean, he sees Brady's throw isn't going to make it. And frankly, you overthrow the ball to Gronkowski. That's always been the play. He has hops, is 3" taller than Kuechly, and completely has the jump on him.

This is on Brady. Brady is throwing uncharacteristically zippy balls at the end of the game. And this season, he hasn't been dialed in all the way like he has been in the past. And the media naturally puts it on the young receivers. By and large, the commentators on these games, with the exception of Chris Collinsworth, are extremely deferential to veterans and couldn't tell you shit about what's actually happening on the field in terms of talent and in the locker room. Practically every game that the Patriots have won this season has involved a fourth-quarter march. Brady's so solid, that it is difficult to accept him being at 80 or 90%. And I think that's what happened here. There's obviously no outward indication or camera angle that will tell you that Brady didn't put enough sauce on that throw.

I think the refs have to make a decision whether to reward the Patriots with another attempt to score, if the penalty affected the outcome of the play. I get it, and I think it's understandable. What bothers me is that the flag was thrown, and in every other aspect of the game, that has meaning. Challenges by the coach or reviews by the officials at this point involve conclusive instant replay evidence. This used to not be the case years ago but very much is the case today. Why the sudden change in methodology is beyond me. Probably Vegas.

posted by phaedon at 10:18 PM on November 19

Abandoning the contingencies of the conditional mood and warping the concrete past into a simple present colors everything with a lazy haze of unreality, blurring our conclusions along with the line between fact and fantasy.

I agree, though. It's on Brady. If the throw had been catchable, the flag would have stuck.

posted by Hugh Janus at 10:46 PM on November 19

yerfatma: I have to agree with Bill Barnwell's take: it probably wasn't interference*, it was definitely defensive holding but either way it didn't decide the game. The Patriots could not contain Newton when it counted.
I've always hated this sentiment. Pro sports is not played with a handicap, and the Vegas spread only matters to bettors. You win or lose by the points scored, and there's no volleyball-like rule that says it's not a win until you're up by two full scores. Saying "Well, you should have made it so a last second TD was necessary" isn't fair to any team, as there's no rule requiring an unequivocal victory by an unquestionable number of points. Because if they'd let the/a penalty stand, and the Patriots score on the next play, would it be fair to say to the Panthers "Yeah, you got a call against you and they got another down to play and won, but hey you should have beaten them by 14 anyway".

Yeah, I know I'm biased but it still seems like a bullshit uncall. The ball *was* potentially catchable without interference, I've seen nothing to make me think otherwise. To my eyes, Gronk was slowing and would have moved back. Would the defender still make an interception? Very possibly, the ball was relatively low. And no one would begrudge a game ending with Brady having thrown too low and gotten picked off, clear and simple. It would be a game decided by players on the field, which the players themselves would be thrilled with: Brady would be the first guy in the press conference taking the blame on an underthrown pass.

But that wasn't even the justification used, they said it was "uncatchable"- not "He would have been intercepted anyway" but "uncatchable". And again- that's why we have a pass interference, since the best way to know it was "uncatchable" is when the receiver is unmolested as he goes for the ball and still doesn't make the catch. As phaedon points out, Gronk is a pretty stellar, established tight end, the guy might have caught it- but from what I saw, his momentum was continued backwards by Kuechly. The reward for that or defensive holding in either case would have still given the Patriots another legitimate play. There's no excuse for at least one of those not being called, and the Patriots were totally jobbed.

And they did this after the closet ref threw a flag immediately, yet without benefit of any replay decided immediately to unthrow the flag, for no good reason I can find other than "Another ref didn't want a penalty called" or... something. So any "After careful review of the tape in slow-motion" post hoc analysis is invalid: the refs did none of that, and to my mind blew that call and cost the Patriots (possibly) the win.

posted by hincandenza at 10:58 PM on November 19

Was it a marginal call? Yeah. Will you see more marginal end zone calls that stand, especially if it benefits the home team? Yeah.

posted by etagloh at 11:30 PM on November 19

I had been kind of indifferent on this call, but now I'm quite certain that the penalty should have been called. It's not uncatchable like most PI waveoffs because it's too high to reach. It's uncatchable because a defender is in better position...which is not uncatchable. I don't believe that that is reasonable justification, when the defender is clearly interfering with the receiver.

As to the question of whether or not Kuechly was preventing Gronkowski from getting to the ball and how that weighs in, I think the only relevant details are that the receiver was in the path of the pass and was interfered with. How many punt returns have been called back by a block in the back behind the returner or how many long running plays have come back due to a hold on the other side of the line? You can commit a penalty that does not really give you an advantage over the situation that you are in.

posted by bender at 12:26 AM on November 20

Was it a marginal call? Yeah. Will you see more marginal end zone calls that stand, especially if it benefits the home team? Yeah

It would have been a bigger story today if the officials awarded a pass interference penalty on that play as Gronk had no chance of catching an under thrown ball. Media everywhere would have been pulling out tuck and snowplow videos.

There is a lot of aggressive defense being played in the NFL and home teams are certainly getting more and more beneficial calls, but I don't believe this fits into that category at all. I've seen much more obvious contact be given a pass each and every week.

Sure be interesting to see the breakdown of penalties each team takes home vs away ...

posted by cixelsyd at 12:33 AM on November 20

How many punt returns have been called back by a block in the back behind the returner or how many long running plays have come back due to a hold on the other side of the line? You can commit a penalty that does not really give you an advantage over the situation that you are in.

You are talking about away from the action penalties? I think you raise a good point. But I mean, obviously a block to the back downfield will affect a punt return. The entire field is in on the action.

However. Just to extend what you're saying and show how confusing the mixed signals can get, imagine if, all else being equal, instead of a full-body massage, there was a helmet-to-helmet defenseless receiver hit on Gronkowski at the top of his route. It's hard to imagine the refs (and by extension the NFL) justifying a strict no-call in that situation solely on the basis of the ball being uncatchable.

In other words, a penalty is a penalty in some situations. It's really a shame Kant isn't around to write about football. And if you really think about it, it's borderline retarded that all touchdowns are reviewed, but plays like this are not.

posted by phaedon at 01:27 AM on November 20

In other words, a penalty is a penalty in some situations.

Actually, what I'm trying to say is a different penalty (for example, more severe?) would have stood as a penalty in this very same situation. It's just that this particular type of penalty seems to feed into some sort of situational calculus, and I'm not exactly sure where that's laid out in the rulebook or even why that is.

posted by phaedon at 01:41 AM on November 20

I do think it's interesting all of the NFL's endorsements say "the ref did not make an incorrect call". That's not even mushy language, it's a tacit admission.

Saying "Well, you should have made it so a last second TD was necessary" isn't fair to any team, as there's no rule requiring an unequivocal victory by an unquestionable number of points.

They had plenty of chances to win it and did not. If this had been a 3-0 loss I could see being really fired up, but this is like a bad strike 3 call to end a 1-run loss where your team left 15 guys on base.

posted by yerfatma at 09:38 AM on November 20

Defensive holding and illegal contact weren't options on this play. Those fouls can only be called before the ball is in the air, according to an NFL officiating exec.

The NFL rulebook doesn't define uncatchable, so it's entirely a judgment call by the refs.

I think that a ref should be close-to-100% certain a ball is uncatchable in order to deem it as such, and there's no way anyone should be that certain Gronk wasn't going to catch that pass.

A former NFL ref and director of officials, Jim Daopoulos, had this comment about judging a pass uncatchable:

"We as officials have always been taught, for a ball to be uncatchable, it has to be clearly out of the field of play or it has to be a kind of -- I probably shouldn't say this -- a Tim Tebow-type pass that lands 15 yards in front of you."

I laughed so hard. And then I prayed for forgiveness.

posted by rcade at 10:22 AM on November 20

They had plenty of chances to win it and did not.

This is always true. Does that mean crucial game-deciding calls are never important? Hell no. Even after 34 years, I'm glad I've never crossed paths with Fred Swearingen. It was incidental contact, you rat bastard.

posted by rcade at 10:25 AM on November 20

The back judge threw his flag after the ball was intercepted and Lester was on the ground with it. He watched the full sequence unfold before throwing the flag.

The back judge strode into the end zone waving his arm and pointing at players. He clearly had a sense of command and purpose, not the look of a man who has just made a mistake and knows it.

The field judge and the side judge came toward the back judge to confer, but it is not clear what resulted from that.

The referee made a beeline for the back judge from his position behind the QB, got right in front of the BJ and spoke with him directly. He did not speak to any of the other officials on the way there or immediately afterward.

The back judge tucked his flag back in as the referee was talking to him. There was no appearance of an attempt to discuss the call or the play. It appears as though the referee was dictating the decision. The referee shortly thereafter declares that there was no foul and that the game is over. Without conferring with the other officials and without any replay review.

That is right up there in the travesty annals with Phil Luckett's Steelers-Lions overtime coin toss call on Thanksgiving Day.

However, I will say that that was a well-coached defense, Kuechly's infraction notwithstanding. Lester and Kuechly both had Gronk, Lester saw the ball and handed Gronk off to Kuechly and went for the pick. He secured the ball like a keeper when he went down. Great discipline. Nothing left to chance. There are rookie DB's and then there are Saban-coached rookie DB's.

posted by beaverboard at 11:59 AM on November 20

posted by NoMich at 11:41 AM on November 21

Former NFL official Jim Daopoulos retweeted this comment of mine to a user named OneMoreTebowFan: "I love Tebow more than Jesus does, but I don't think @RefereeJimD needed to apologize. That comment was funny."

posted by rcade at 07:47 PM on November 21

The back judge

The back judge also claimed the foul was pass interference, which would be the wrong call seeing as the ball was 10 yards away from the receiver. By making that call he clearly did not see the ball and the relationship of defender to receiver because of his positioning. It was a bad call and the officials and the NFL got it right.

The NFL needed to get one right to make up for the way they handled the Brooks hit on Brees. Fine the guy 15K for a good play and then give Mankins a total pass on a cheap and deliberate intent to injure ... I don't get it. Yes, Brees is more important to league revenues than Brooks is, or the guy Mankins tried to take the knees out of, but laying the player safety card loses all credibility this week.

One thing is for sure - neither one of those crews are doing playoff games this year.

posted by cixelsyd at 11:57 PM on November 21

give Mankins a total pass on a cheap and deliberate intent to injure

Are you talking about the leg whip by Marcus Cannon?

posted by yerfatma at 09:12 AM on November 22

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