Posted November 19, 2013

Panthers eke out crucial win over Patriots on controversial no-call

Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots
Cam Newton was tough to stop no Monday night -- no matter what he did. (Bob Leverone/AP)

Cam Newton was tough to stop on Monday night — no matter what he did. (Bob Leverone/AP)

This was the game Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers had waited three long years to play. From the time the franchise selected Newton with the first overall pick in the 2011 draft, the thought was that the gifted quarterback would lead his then-moribund team into key, season-deciding situations, and have Newton pull out the victories.

Never was it more so than in Carolina’s 24-20 Monday night win over the New England Patriots. Newton completed 19 of 28 passes for 209 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions against New England’s defense. He also led his team with 62 rushing yards on seven carries, but more than that, he held drives together and created plays out of nowhere when it was necessary as the Panthers moved to 7-3 on the season.

Newton completed just seven passes in the first half as both offenses struggled to get on track. But on the first drive of the second half, the Pats rolled down the field on an eight-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a nine-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski. That tied the game at 10, and the Cam Newton we have seen in previous years may have wilted under the harsh spotlights, or some other narrative nonsense.

Not this Newton. Starting on his own 19-yard line with 10:25 left in the third quarter, Newton engineered a 13-play scoring drive that blasted 8:21 off the game clock, and it was perhaps the next drive of the young quarterback’s career. Not only did he complete each of the seven passes he threw on the drive, he also amazed with a winding 14-yard scramble that saw him elude six Patriots defenders and cover 75.8 yards on the ground, per ESPN Stats & Info.

Still, and as one might expect, that wasn’t enough to beat Brady outright. Neither quarterback threw an incomplete pass in the third quarter, and the game turned from a stern defensive battle to a game of “Can you top this?” between the two offenses. New England did just that when Stevan Ridley popped a one-yard touchdown run with 12:37 left in the game, and when Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 26-yard field goal with 6:36 remaining, New England held its first lead of the night at 20-17.

Then, it was all on Newton, who finished the subsequent drive with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Ted Ginn with 1:09 remaining.

“We had a matchup that we liked — usually, when we get defenders pressed up on Ted, and we know they like to play off,” Newton told ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the game. “I just wanted to give Ted the opportunity to make a play, and he did the rest.”

Well, almost. Brady still had about a minute left on the clock, and all three of his timeouts. Anyone who’s watched football since 2001 knows what a dangerous combination that can be. Sure enough, Brady got his team down to the Carolina 8-yard line with three seconds left. He threw a pass intended for Gronkowski that was intercepted by safety Robert Lester, However, it was clear that Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly was holding Gronkowski in the end zone. Referee Clete Blakeman’s crew threw a flag, but picked it up without explanation, and the game was over.

Belichick was at his most terse when asked about the last play. He said that there was no explanation given to him. “The officials ran off the field, and I didn’t see anything. Last time I tried to ask an official a question about a call, it was the wrong thing to do, so I have no idea.”

Belichick was referring to an incident that happened on Sept, 23, 2012, when Belichick made contact with a replacement official at the end of a loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Belichick wanted to know why he had not been allowed to challenge a missed field goal. He was later fined $50,000 for impermissible physical contact with an official.

Former NFL official Gerry Austin, now an ESPN analyst, told Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden that the call in the loss to the Panthers was correct.

“You can see that Gronkowski’s going to run to the end line, and you have a foul in the making. However, if the ball is knocked down or intercepted short of getting to the receiver, there’s no foul.”

Mike Pereira, the NFL’s former VP of Officiating, said on Twitter that “Since the flag was thrown they should have stayed with the call. There was clear contact before the ball was intercepted. You could make a case that the pass might have been uncatachable, but the flag was thrown and you should stay with it.”

“He was kind of weaving in and out of there, and I didn’t really want to throw it over his head and out of bounds,” Brady said of the play. “I was a little indecisive, and it wasn’t a great throw. No excuses. It should have been a better throw.”

Blakeman, speaking with pool reporters after the game, explained it thusly — back judge Terrence Miles threw the initial flag for pass interference, and then…

“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.”

None of this should minimize what a major win Monday’s game was for a Carolina franchise that has been trying to put things back together since its last winning season in 2008.

“I don’t think I’ve got any more nails — I was biting them all night,” Newton said. “But we knew we were going to have this type of game, the defense stood up at the end. Offensively, we answered the bell each and every time we had the opportunity to, and it was a great atmosphere to be around.”

The Panthers have games against the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their next two weeks. Then, two games in a three-week stretch against the NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints, who stand just a game ahead of Carolina at 8-2. It’s an exciting time for a team, and a quarterback, who had to start from the bottom and work through a lot of different things.

“I’m not going to take all the credit,” Newton concluded. “We’re just 7-3 right now, and our mentality was to do anything possible to have our team 7-3. We’re celebrating tonight, and we’re looking forward to playing the Dolphins.”

The Dolphins are probably not looking forward as much to that particular event. Perhaps more than any other NFL team right now, this Panthers team is the one that no opponent wants to face. And that, more than one possibly blown call, should be the bigger story.

60 comments
jeff_jo
jeff_jo

NFL Rule 8-5-3 defines permissible acts (i.e., no pass interference). Included, as part c, is “Contact that would normally be considered pass interference, but the pass is clearly uncatchable by the involved players.” The flag was thrown when “contact that would normally be considered pass interference” was occurred, but the pass became “clearly uncatchable” AFTER the ref started to throw the flag.

It does not matter if Gronkowski could have caught it had it not been intercepted; that’s all that the doubters are seeing, and I suppose it was possible with extreme skill. But there was simply no way he could have reversed course and gotten in front Lester, who had cut him off before the “contact that would normally be considered pass interference,” and, moving in the opposite direction, caught the ball at least five yards away. Impossible.

The ref was right to throw the flag, based on the evidence at that moment. He was right to pick it up, based on what happened afterwards.

jbc123
jbc123

Two games (NO&CAR) were decided by bad calls that went against the visiting team. This is not why I watch the NFL, rules should be the same for both teams. We've all seen  interference called for no apparent reason, this was clearly something that should have been called. Home field advantage indeed.

tommyt54
tommyt54

Yeah, the "in essence" repetition in the explanation is hilarious. In essence, he seems to be trying, in essence, to convince himself and in essence, justify the non call. The interference clearly took place before the ball was intercepted. In many years of watching NFL football, I have seen many receivers make many terrific, unbelievable catches on what would could be judged to be an uncatchable ball. I don't want the refs defining what is uncatchable, especially on under thrown balls. Let the players decide that. Yet the current rule does grant them that judgment. I can understand that judgment on balls obviously thrown 12 feet over the receiver's head, but its not impossible to come back to an under thrown ball. We'll never know if it was an "uncatchable" ball in this case as Gronkowski was interfered with and never allowed to make an attempt. Sure, the underneath defender might have intercepted it, or knocked it down, but what if he muffed it and tipped it right to the receiver. Do we want refs predicting what "might" happen next ? I'm with Mike Pereira on this one. The flag was thrown. It should have been dealt with as it was called on the field: defensive pass interference in the end zone. First down on the one yard line. And I'm not a Pat's fan. Go Broncos. 

PWINGS
PWINGS

The refs ruled the last play a non-call because the ball was "uncatchable". Okay. Most fans disagree with that judgement, but okay. However, if the pass to Gronkowski was "uncatchable", then the pass interference call on Carolina's game-winning drive should have also been a non-call because that pass was VERY uncatchable with far less contact on the part of the DB. It's one thing to blow an individual call. It's quite another to be be so completely inconsistent and contradictory in your calls. If the refs are going to suck, they should at least do so impartially.

riley8
riley8

The ref closest to the play threw a flag.  Someone had to have talked him out of what he saw bc it was obvious to him when the play happened that a penalty was deserving.

broncodevil
broncodevil

I am not a Patriots fan. The call should have at least been illegal contact.  I would have called interference since the ball was in the air. Without the contact, you could argue that Gronk could have gone back for the ball. It's like when you are behind a slow poke in a car and you speed around him and still get the red light. Who knows if you weren't behind the guy in the first place, you would have made that light. I never understand the uncatchable ball concept when illegal contact should be called regardless.

KevinCrepeau
KevinCrepeau

No more illegal contact after five yrds anymore? I guess houndstoothunderwear is a 5 year old.


houndstoothunderwear
houndstoothunderwear

what is it about boston that they b---tch about everything unless it benefits them

be strong whiners 

aesfm
aesfm

So if the refs call pass interference on the complete opposite side of the field from a play, would that be considered uncatchable?  Pass Interference is called all the time even when the play is not in the same direction.  The call doesn't make any sense to me.  

paulcj000
paulcj000

i don't like the Patsies at all, but that was as clear as hell a pass interference call.  how can a receiver get back to the ball if he's being face guarded and pushed to the back of the end zone.  great game, but a lousy call/no call.

OwG
OwG

You could have called interference on Kuechly if you really wanted, but it would have been weaker than the call the refs ended up making. They let them play and im fine with that. And it doesn't change the reality that Gronk would have likely never gotten to that ball. Even if Gronk was able to reverse his momentum and get to the ball, Lester was still there with equal rights. He would have broken it up or intercepted it, anyway. Pats fans calling this a conspiracy really need to STFU, man...really. My god they are the most insufferable fan base in all of sports...

There were calls in that game that were more worth complaining about than that one. 

inthepresent
inthepresent

wow. just wow. i'm no pats fan, but they got jobbed. big. 

and then for the tv "ref" to concur. it only makes it more insulting to NFL fans everywhere. aside from carolina of course. 

the refs continue their assault on the game. 

TomOatway
TomOatway

None of that matters if Ridley can hold on to the ball..when are they going to cut their losses and cut him?

Jack52
Jack52

Clearly there was holding by BOTH defenders, the interference call could be left up to judgement, ei could a world class receiver get to that ball. But the two holding and the non-interception after the hold were clearly evident. It seems the only way to beat the Patriots in a close game is bad officiating . No doubt the PR department of the NFL will back the officials just as that backed them when they changed the rules after the Jets game. The word integrity means nothing to them.

sunalsorises
sunalsorises

I was going to comment on how everyone seems to be back on the Cam Newton bandwagon because he has won a few games but it just looks like a bunch of sniveling Pats fans complaining about how the refs took away a win.  

RuKdingMe
RuKdingMe

If a defender locks up a receiver and drives him 5 yards off the target, I guess all balls would be uncatchable.  

DavidRobertson
DavidRobertson

In essence, refs made a terrible call. In essence. 

Love the ref's quote. Wow.

Robert168
Robert168

The refs are taking over football.  They should NOT be allowed to determine the outcomes of so many games.  Not just last night.

So let me get this straight.  A REFEREE, who is NOT a player, gets to judge Rob Grownkowski's athletic ability in trying to get back to that ball while being held?  


Ahh.. but the Pats should never have let stupidity (aka referees without a clue in America) have an opportunity to rear its ugly head.  Too many penalties and Talib was clean beaten by Smith.  Good game Panthers.

lewisj
lewisj

When the Patriots get gifts from the referees: It was a gutty performance and we deserved to win. The referee's call had nothing to do with the win. They called it the way they saw it.

When the Patriots feel cheated: No team in the NFL can beat us, only the refs. It's the refs fault.

BullRush
BullRush

The last call was bad, but Greg Olsen's embellishment of a non-existent hold on McCourty on 3 and 7 at the 36 yardline was more of a game changer.  If the no call had been made, it would have been a long shot for a field goal, if the embellishment had been called for him flopping worse than a soccer player, it would have put the Panthers back at their own 49 yard line.

George
George

Anyone who thinks Cam is insecure or has self-image problems

speak now!


(crickets)

:D


OK
OK

Goodell's Chief Spin Doctor: Patriots 20, Panthers 16

"With Shane Vereen’s return adding to the weaponry, I like Tom Brady to outplay Cam Newton, who has posted a couple stinkers in a row (56.5 completion percentage, one touchdown, three interceptions)."

The Game's Actual Result: Panthers 24, Patriots 20

Final Play: The White Quarterback throws the game's only interception in the Panthers' end zone. 

The White Quarterback, after starting 23 for 26, finished 6 for 14 with the game's only pick.

Passing Stats

Cam Newton: 19 for 28, 209, 3 TD, 0 INT

The White Quarterback: 29 for 40, 296, 1 TD, 1 CHOKE INT

Which Patriots will Goodell's Chief Spin Doctor blame for the loss?

The offensive line, for not protecting The White Quarterback?

The receivers, for not catching each of The White Quarterback's passes?

The running backs, for not gaining the necessary ground yardage to take the pressure off The White Quarterback?

The defense, for allowing the non-white quarterback to throw his third touchdown pass of the night with less than a minute left in the game?

The Patriots coaching staff, for failing to develop a proper plan for The White Quarterback?

Just who will Goodell's Chief Spin Doctor blame to defend The White Quarterback?

DaM
DaM

@tommyt54 Steelers fan myself and I truly dislike the Patriots, especially after that absolute drubbing they gave us.  I do however agree with most of this save I believe the call should have been defensive holding on Kuehcly since his arms were virtually draped on Gronk more than simply knocking them out of the way.  That negates "uncatchable"..  

mckimsey
mckimsey

@PWINGS  I don't agree.  Perhaps one was a little harsh, and one a little giving, but rounded off, both ended called right on the field in my opinion. 

jvnanu
jvnanu

@riley8 He was closest to the interference, but he would have had a difficult time judging the depth of the ball. The officials from the sideline had a clear view of the ball relative to Gronk when he was interfered with. Nobody is saying that the defender didn't contact Gronk... the argument is that, given the location of the ball when the contact occurred, it didn't actually interfere with his ability to catch the ball. If the ball were 5 yards deeper or higher it certainly would have been pass interference. The location of the referee who threw the flag actually made it impossible for him to judge the "catchability" of a ball coming directly at him.

dwb_alpha
dwb_alpha

@OwG The reason they are the most unsufferable fan base in all of sports is because 75% of them are bandwagon fans that don't know the rules, or care to know the rules.  They probably didn't even watch the game.  They just see the play on Sportscenter that a talking head calls "controversial" and are outraged because they believe no other team could POSSIBLY beat THEIR Patriots without the refs/other team CHEATING.  They are sad, small people.  Don't worry; they will hop on some other teams' bandwagon as soon as Brady retires and they miss the playoffs a few times.

MMoney0021
MMoney0021

@OwG As a Pats fan I can live with the no call.  We did not deserve to win that game.  

That being said, and I know plenty of Pats fans that are irate, but it is a 2 way street.  The same Pats haters that think the no call was the correct call are the same Pats haters that thought the 15 yard penalty in OT vs the Jets for pushing was terrific.  Cant have it both way.  "By rule" the pushing your own player is a penalty as was last nights holding/pass interference on Gronk.  But do you really want to decide a game like that?  

shawnknight
shawnknight

@RuKdingMe Amen.  I'm a Pats hater, but in this case, I gotta admit, they got jobbed.  Gronk was only in a position to make the ball "uncatchable" because Kuechly was making contact for about 5 yards.  Look at where Gronk is at the moment Kuechly and Lester first meet him, then look at where the ball actually lands; that's interference.

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

@Robert168 Disagreed on all points. The players decide the outcome by their actions, and the referees make the calls. It's their JOB. Referees don't need to be professional athletes to make proper calls the same way someone doesn't need to be a politician to make an educated vote (however unlike YOU, they are actually professionals). The Pats were beaten fair and square - if they deserved to win, they would have. 

Jack52
Jack52

@lewisj Been a Pats fan forever. I do not like bad officiating as in the Pats vs Raiders, I'll allow the rest of you to figure out when that was. Hint to the children who think integrity is rooting for your team no matter what, the NFL did not allow that that group of refs to officiate a Pats game.

Sportsfan18
Sportsfan18

@George  He IS most definitely insecure.  Winning does not changes ones makeup.  He is who he is.  

Put it this way, do you think he is done with ALL challenges in his NFL career?  Of course not.  There will be tough sledding ahead for Cam, even if it's next yr or the yr after and he'll respond accordingly due to his insecurity.

PaulDaly
PaulDaly

@OK You are a pathetic racist . Cam played a great game , Tom's record speaks for itself . Quit your freakin whining & enjoy the game .

Wombat
Wombat

@OK Ak OK old man, you crack me up! Your willingness to hold on to wrong-headed racist ideas as the excuse for every perceived wrong in the world is amazing. It's not PK, it's not the "white QB", it's you dude! Go get some help.

explorer
explorer

@OK  The White Quarterback? 

C'mon Man! 


RuKdingMe
RuKdingMe

@OK I saw two talented quarterbacks playing well.  No other descriptive adjectives required.  .

PritchBomb
PritchBomb

@OK Seriously, dude... what are you even talking about ? 

Mkmck
Mkmck

@OK Only an a-hole would bring race into this. Congrats, you did it.

pval
pval

@OK 

Wake up, this isn't the sixties anymore....

If you think anyone in the league or around it has "a problem" with black players or more specifically a black QB,  you are deeply deluded.


Now YOU seem to have "a problem" with white players or more specifically a white QB... 

Well good luck luck with that, your are in for years and years  of frustrations and anger...

Better just relax and enjoy life....

PaulDaly
PaulDaly

@dwb_alpha @OwG Like you know what you're talking about , bet your team sucks & u jealous . Oh yeah hide your face & name !

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

@shawnknight @RuKdingMe You people are idiots. Go and watch the replay provided in the story, and use the 'pause' button. The ball was clearly nowhere near Gronk, nor would it ever had made it to the point he supposedly would have 'magically been' had he teleported himself at the moment of contact - which, incidentally, was the exact moment of the interception. It was a bad throw, and the right call. GAME OVER. Congrats Carolina.

Robert168
Robert168

@Joebuckster @Robert168 

Can you read? I didn't say that refs needed to be pro athletes. The ref made a nefarious call based on an unqualified judgement about Grownkowski's athletic ability.  It may have affected the real outcome of the game.

If you can't at least admit it was a blown call, you are revealing your bias.  

I don't believe it DETERMINED the outcome of the game, but it was a factor.  The real determination was that the Pats played undisciplined in the first half, letting Talib throw temper tantrums, etc.  They put themselves in a position to let IDIOTS make a bad call.  Totally their fault.

And by the way, how do you know what my profession is, are you a psychic?



George
George

@Sportsfan18 @George You must have missed the numerous "Superman" poses after he makes a play.

I was being sarcastic in my previous post - Cam is an arrogant narcissistic attention-hoe.  I highly doubt there is an insecure bone in his head.

Jack52
Jack52

@Joebuckster @shawnknight @RuKdingMe Watched the game, Gronk is held by the guy who caught the ball as well as the linebacker who was waltzing with him. Where he might have ended up is a rather moot point he was inhibited in his path to the ball period. Whether it was catchable after he was held from his route, is not even a relevant question unless the ball came down outside the field of play, high, well outside or well behind. It was an entirely catchable ball only a few yards of where Gronk was headed. Had he been interfered with but not held, catchability comes into play.