Posted November 19, 2013

NFL VP of Officiating: Controversial calls affecting 49ers, Patriots were correct

Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers, Uncategorized
Back judge Terrence Miles' original call on Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly was reversed. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Back judge Terrence Miles’ original call on Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly was reversed. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

There is controversy regarding officiating every NFL season, but Week 11 of this season brought us two key calls affecting games that could alter the playoff picture in both conferences. On Sunday, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks was flagged for a personal foul when he sacked New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees with 3:18 left in the game. The 49ers were up, 20-17, the penalty negated a sack and fumble, and the Saints continued a drive that ended with a game-tying field goal from Saints kicker Garrett Hartley. On their next drive, New Orleans grabbed another field goal, and pulled the game out, 23-20.

Brooks was penalized by Tony Corrente’s crew because he hit Brees around the collarbone area with his arm, and that seemed to be outside the realm of the “head and neck” rule defenders must watch when quarterbacks are in the pocket.

“I felt like I hit him with my chest, like I basically bear-hugged him kind of hard,” Brooks said after the game. “I’m going full speed and he [Brees] is going full speed. And at the last second, he ducked his shoulder. So I don’t think I could’ve done anything differently.”

And on Monday, the New England Patriots were rather unhappy when Carolina Panthers safety Robert Lester’s last-second interception was upheld despite the fact that Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly certainly seemed to be mugging New England tight end Rob Gronkowski as the ball was thrown. Back judge Terrence Miles originally threw a flag to indicate a penalty on Kuechly, but after further review, the flag was picked up and the penalty did not stand.

Former NFL official Gerry Austin, acting as an analyst for ESPN during the Monday Night Football telecast, said that the no-call was correct, because if the ball is knocked down or intercepted on its way to the receiver, it’s not interference. However, former NFL VP of Officiating Mike Pereira 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 uncatchable, but the flag was thrown and you should stay with it.”

Current NFL VP of officiating Dean Blandino gave the official league view on both calls on the NFL Network during an NFL Network appearance on Tuesday. Regarding the no-call from Blakeman’s crew, it was Blandino’s determination that the call was correct … or, at the very least, it was a judgment call that could be excused.

“Let’s go through the play.  Here is Gronkowski in the formation,” Blandino said, while going through the video.  “The back judge in the middle of the field – he’s on the end line – that’s his key.  We have [receiver Aaron] Dobson down here; the side judge who is on the goal line – that’s his key.  Let’s watch the play develop. The back judge is going to see restriction right there and he’s going to throw his flag for that restriction.  The side judge who had Dobson, his mechanics are once the ball is in the air he’s going to go to the ball and he’s going to focus on the interception.  After the play – you’ll see the flag come out – the back judge is going to signal to the side judge and they’re going to get together and have a discussion.  What they’re going to talk about is when did the restriction occur in relation to the ball being touched?  Because once the ball is touched, you cannot have pass interference.  This is a judgment call; the officials don’t have the use of replay.  They don’t have slow motion replay and ultimately they ruled that the restriction occurred simultaneously with the ball being touched.  When you watch it at full speed, you could see why they would make that call on the field.”

Host Amber Theoharis asked Blandino if the flag should have been picked up, and that’s where things started to sound less convincing.

“Again, it’s a judgment call. There was contact, but there is 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? At full speed, the officials made a tight judgment call and they determined that the restriction occurred just as the ball was being touched. Again, at full speed you could see why they made that call.”

Asked if the officials were wrong, Blandino seemed to waver a bit.

“I wouldn’t say that they were wrong. Again, they have to make this call. They used proper mechanics. They got together after the play. They determined that in their judgment the contact occurred simultaneous with the ball being intercepted, and that’s why the officials did what they did.

Blandino sounded more sure about the penalty on Brooks, though it’s easy to argue that when Brees dropped down as he was about to be hit, he lowered his target area to a place that was impossible for Brooks to hit correctly.

“You can’t make forcible contact to the head or the neck area, even if the contact starts below the neck and rises up,” Blandino said. “If there’s force to that contact, it’s a foul. Watch the initial contact, maybe around the shoulder, but it rides up into the neck area and brings the quarterback down with force.

“That’s why the flag was thrown for unnecessary roughness.”

Again, not exactly convincing. If the contact occurred around Brees’ shoulder area, as Blandino seems to stipulate, it’s unfair to Brooks to penalize him when the quarterback he’s hitting is a moving target. The NFL has told its officials to err on the side of caution on plays like this, especially when it comes to quarterbacks, but that doesn’t mean this is a legitimate penalty. It means that the officials in question administered a penalty in a situation that may have been right by the letter of the law … but rather ridiculous by the spirit of it.

74 comments
ThomasBaxter
ThomasBaxter

It was caught by the guy standing one foot from Grand when the ball was in the air so how can they call it uncatchable? The refs fixed this game.I will not be renewing my league pass and direct subscription next year to watch fixed games.

JimSmith4
JimSmith4

All the whining fans on here that don't know the rules.  Holding can not be called with the ball in the air only pass interference.  If the ball is uncatchable and it clearly is folks, the db had the best position on the ball and Gronk's own momentum is to the back of the end zone, then no interference can be called.  End of game.  Panthers Win!  

JimSmith4
JimSmith4

Gronk could not have physically made the play on the ball even if Luechly doesn't touch him.  Luechly would still have been in that space and the safety had the far better position on the ball.  Gronk would have comitted offensive pass interference.  Also, Gronks momentum was clearly still going back towards the back of the end zone not towards the ball.  He didn't react to make a play either.  When asked immediatley after the game Gronk did not say that he was interfered with or held.  If the ball is uncatchable then there is no interference and once the ball is in the air there can be no holding call, so the ball being uncatchable and in the air at the time of contact leads to a non call which results in the end of the game plain and simple.  

spthomas1
spthomas1

Of course he is going to say the officials are right.  He never would have made it to VP of Officiating if he told the truth on blatantly wrong calls.

jbc123
jbc123

I call BS on both plays. No penalty on SF, and clear holding on Carolina.

tomabrum
tomabrum

Why is the head of officiating 20 years younger than the guys on the field? It should be the other way around one would think.

11wildbill
11wildbill

This is how it should have been called. 

Regardless of the ball being "catchable" there was defensive holding obviously occurring. The ball did not NEED to be intended for the receiver in question, as this call is made "away from the play" numerous times during the course of the season. 

The correct call. Defensive holding...5 yds. automatic first down. Game cannot end on a defensive penalty. One more play.

Jesse Bernal
Jesse Bernal

The NFL will never admit they are wrong even when they are.  I hope fans give Goodell another loud boo at next years draft.  He deserves it BIG TIME!

KevinAmaral
KevinAmaral

Hear me out before you run your mouth...this was without a doubt a call that should have stood as a pass interference penalty. The NFL officials tried to justify the non-call by saying the ball was "uncatchable". Uncatchable by whom? Open your eyes people. Watch the play...when the initial contact was made against Gronkowski, where was the player wearing number 38 who actually did catch the uncatchable ball? He was in between the backside of the end zone, Gronkowski, and the offending player. How can the ball legitimately be called uncatchable by Gronkowski when the player who caught the ball was farther away from the ball AND behind Gronkowski when the contact first took place? Answer that honestly and you KNOW it was a horrible no-call.

RandySandberg
RandySandberg

And the Seattle/Pittsburgh Superbowl was officiated correctly also.  They never admit when they're wrong. 

RichLGerhold
RichLGerhold

I think we can all agree on one thing: 


The Referee's impact the outcome of the game all too often.

6marK6
6marK6

I would be a millionaire if I got a dollar each time a QB under threw a WR and a pass interference call was made after the WR tried to come back to the ball. It is an automatic call, regardless of how under thrown the ball was. Which is why the call was made on Monday night. But, a homer ref picked it up and made the locals happy. Now the league covers itself. 

JimSmith4
JimSmith4

Gronk could not have physically made the play on the ball even if Luechly doesn't touch him.  Luechly would still have been in that space and the safety had the far better position on the ball.  Gronk would have comitted offensive pass interference.  Also, Gronks momentum was clearly still going back towards the back of the end zone not towards the ball.  He didn't react to make a play either.  When asked immediatley after the game Gronk did not say that he was interfered with or held.  If the ball is uncatchable then there is no interference and once the ball is in the air there can be no holding call, so the ball being uncatchable and in the air at the time of contact leads to a non call which results in the end of the game plain and simple.  

RedDan
RedDan

Yeah...

http://espn.go.com/blog/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4753554/sports-science-examines-game-ending-call

Quod Erat Demonstrandum.

Officials and their managers/VP's need to step up and say "The call was improper, refs are human, mistakes happen, and we apologize for tainting what was an excellent game."

As a Pats fan, I completely recognize the quality of play the Panthers brought to the game. The played very well, and deserved the very strong chance that they would win the game based on their play.

However, the Pats also played a great game, and deserved a fair chance to win at the last second based on the quality of their play.

The refs are human, mistakes will happen, and we all know that perfection, even with endless minutes of review, is impossible.

Sometimes the breaks don't go your way, sometimes you get jobbed. So it goes.

But the endless a$$-covering, self-serving smoke-blowing, and transparently stupid attempts to make excuses are insulting and ridiculous.

Median2
Median2

Anyone else enjoying the Pats finally getting theirs? They have had calls going their way for years now, finally some fair officiating. If the Pats got another shot of that play and they scored it would have been criminal, sure there was contact but EVEN IF KUECHLY WAS NOT THERE GRONK WOULD NOT  HAVE CAUGHT THE BALL, the point of officiating is to enforce rules without changing the outcome of games, which is exactly what they did.

NFL_is_a_Joke
NFL_is_a_Joke

Joebuckster - Two points,

1.  When Carolina scored, the officials allowed an additional 3 - 4 seconds to runoff before stopping the pay clock at 59 seconds - go watch the video.  This, at best, is poor officiating.

2.  Your comment  "it's the kind of play away from the action that refs let go when they don't want to decide the game for the players" reinforces the point that officiating is a joke and inconsistent.  If it is foul in the third quarter, it is a foul in the last minute, otherwise the refs are directly impacting the games outcome. 

In a vacuum, you can (poorly) argue the call of the final play.  As a larger picture, far too much inconsistency and inaccuracy for professional officiating.  This is not what I pay (season tickets since 94) to see.

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

I Love the explanation by Brooks: "he was going full speed and I was going full speed, and then he dropped his shoulder". Bunk. Brees was standing 'full speed' in the pocket, was he?? And stills of Brooks' closeline of Brees actually show him initially lower than the 5'11' Brees. Nice try. I have no issue with either call. Freeze the video of Keuchly and Gronk in the end zone and see where the ball is and where they are at the time of the release, then the INT. At worst, it's a 5 yard defensive penalty and one more untimed down. At best, it's the kind of play away from the action that refs let go when they don't want to decide the game for the players. Everybody just relax.

NFL_is_a_Joke
NFL_is_a_Joke

The NFL officiating is a joke and dramatically detracts from the product on the field.  For NFL officials to attempt to justify the call by simply addressing pass interference is also a joke and inconsistent with other calls during the game.

Technically, the official should have reviewed (3) possible calls once the flag hit the ground:

(1) Pass Interference - Arguably, a judgement call

(2) Defensive Holding - This call has no catchable/non-catchable judgment, period, and was called earlier in the game against a player who was not involved in the play.

Since Kuechly clearly had his left hand on Gornkowski's right shoulder and his right hand his right hand on Grnkowski's left SHOULDER BLADE (back), the only judgment - did this occur while the play was live.  Replay confirms this to be the case....Bad Call.

(3)  If not defensive holding, was this illegal contact - contact initiated by a defender more than 5 yds from the line of scrimmage.

Clearly, by the replay, all 3 cases are not subjective.  While the line of scrimmage may have been different, the Patriots should have been given the opportunity of an un-timed down.  

CodyDakota
CodyDakota

It used to be fun watching football.  Not anymore!

j7apple
j7apple

Ok...Season......... Ref calls For the Patriots 99   Against 1      lol           

MattHaynes
MattHaynes

Notice how he didn't stop the replay when the initial contact and hold by Kuechly was started before the ball arrived.  Even at full speed, you can see it happen.  This supposed VP is only covering the refs asses.

Also:  "In the 2013 NFL Digest of Rules, under Article 2 of pass-interference penalties, one of the acts that defines interference is: “a) Contact by a player who is not playing the ball that restricts the opponent’s opportunity to make the catch.” Luke Kuechly made contact with Gronkowski while not playing the ball, and it restricted Gronkowski’s opportunity to make the catch.""

Richard--Ramirez
Richard--Ramirez

Panthers owned the Patriots, great no call. Better team won.

drunkLobster
drunkLobster

Not sure why people are blaming the refs here.  When you under throw a pass by 5-7 yards, it typically gets intercepted.  That's football.

JimSmith4
JimSmith4

Great Win Panthers!  Great Game!  Don't mind all the whining about the loss from the Pats cult.  They can't take it.  They love sour grapes.  

Great call by the officials!  It was the right call!

ThomasBaxter
ThomasBaxter

We know the rules it was catchable. It was caught by the guy standing right beside Grand before the interference.

Median2
Median2

@11wildbill And then what, the Pats get another shot at a last second touchdown when they threw a pass that had absolutely no shot of reaching Gronk regardless of Kuechly "pushing" him, at the end of the day all that matters is that a player was "interferred" and i say interferred in the SOFTEST way possible, on a ball that could not be caught regardless of the supposed interference. Do you really think it would have been fair for Brady to get another shot at this? 

drunkLobster
drunkLobster

@11wildbill No.  Defensive holding can only be called before the ball is thrown.  Once the ball is in the air, it's in the realm of pass interference.  The contact clearly happens after the ball is thrown.



drunkLobster
drunkLobster

@KevinAmaral It was uncatchable because a defender intercepted the ball 5-7 yards in front of the intended receiver.  

mckimsey
mckimsey

@KevinAmaral  I don't agree.  Yes, I think it could have gone either way, but I think it was more an interception than pass interference, so rounded off, I'd agree it was a good non-call.

Michael Groves
Michael Groves

The biggest difference between the play on Monday night and the million times you've seen it called is that Gronk basically made no attempt to get back and catch the ball. He seemed to give up on it. Sounds to me like it's sour grapes coming from you, a Patriot's fan

Jesse Bernal
Jesse Bernal

@JimSmith4  

The rule doesn't require that the player being interfered with to "go after" the ball.  

dlivings89
dlivings89

@JimSmith4 While it doesn't appear that he could have made the catch anyway, I've seen interference called on balls that landed much further away than that one.  Whether or not the ball was catchable had nothing to do with their final call.  Their final call was based on the fact that they thought the ball was intercepted before contact was made on Gronk.  Watching the replay makes it pretty obvious that they were wrong.  Contact was made before the ball was intercepted and it should have been pass interference; however, if you're an official watching at full speed and trying to make the determination without the benefit of a slow motion replay, it's easy to see why they came up with the final call.  

fixyoursNOW
fixyoursNOW

@Median2 You mean like the AFC championship game when the Ravens kicked a "field goal"? Or the jets game a few weeks ago? And now the Panthers. Yeah, the Pats get all the breaks.

RedDan
RedDan

@Median2 Actually, the pats have not had calls "going their way" for years. There are many sites devoted to statistical breakdown of penalties... and the Pats are not at the top of any of those ranked lists.


drunkLobster
drunkLobster

@NFL_is_a_Joke Holding and illegal contact only apply before the pass is thrown.  If the contact is initiated after the ball is in the air, those two rules no longer apply, and the rules of pass interference apply.  In this case, the question is not whether the defender interfered with the received (everyone including the refs acknowledge that he did) but whether the ball was catchable, as you cannot call PI on an uncatchable ball.   I personally do not believe a ball intercepted 7 yards in front of the receiver is catchable, but I can see people arguing the other way.

StevedeKater
StevedeKater

@CodyDakota I have to agree with you...in the Colts game, it took almost 5 minutes to review a "too many men on the field" penalty.  It seems like EVERY close play is looked at now.  I no longer know what pass interference is, what constitutes a catch, when is a fumble really a fumble, when is a runner actually down, and on and on.  I do know that a team does not want to have a lead late in the game and let the other team get possession, because there will almost certainly be penalties and stupid plays that allow teams to march down the field, seemingly unimpeded, to tie or win the game in the closing seconds. 

Boodah
Boodah

@Richard--Ramirez Pretty much...the Pats lost the game on the drive before this one when they were pounding the ball on the ground and then went to play-action on 3rd and short from the 11 or 12. If they picked up that 1st down and then a TD instead of the FG, they could have won with an FG at the end.

Chip
Chip

@JimSmith4 Ummm ... no.

 It was a blown call against the Patriots. I have no love for New England ... I'm a Ravens fan ... but a blown call is a blown call.

Fifilo
Fifilo

@drunkLobster @KevinAmaralTotally correct. Had the ball been tipped I think people would have understood it better since in those cases PI's get picked up all the time. The ball never made it to to receiver. Tipped, picked, doesn't matter.

Median2
Median2

@drunkLobster @KevinAmaral This, I wish more people would understand this, regardless if Gronk was in the path to catch the ball (which he wasn't) but lets say he was, the ball would have been intercepted regardless, this play had all of 0 chance to succeed and EVERYONE knows it. Maybe the pats should not fall behind 4 with 5 seconds left and rely on officials to win them games?

KevinAmaral
KevinAmaral

I don't know what play you're talking about, because I have just watched it over and over..paused it frame by frame....I described it to a tee...also,.in a situation like that, which directly impacts the outcome of a game, the flag was thrown after the two minute warning, therefore it should upheld, then reviewed, not discussed by officials who did not have the benefit of replaying it, to get the call right

JimSmith4
JimSmith4

@dlivings89

Well based on your logic they can only be wrong about one thing.  Absurd.  They clearly knew the ball was uncatchable because the db had the position all the way and Gronk could not get to it.  If a ball is uncatchable then there is no interference.  That's the rules.  End of Game.  Panthers Win!!!

Median2
Median2

@RedDan @Median2 That wasn't my main point, my point was regardless of the rule, even if Kuechly was not there GRONK HAD NO SHOT TO CATCH THE BALL, watch the replay, Gronk was already heading EXACTLY where Kuechly "pushed" him, The ball would still for SURE have been intercepted, if the Pats got another shot at a play that had no SHOT TO SUCCEED, that would have been unfair, if you actually think Gronk had a chance in hell to catch that ball you are so biased it's ridiculous.

JimSmith4
JimSmith4

@Chip

You obviously need a pacifier and some glasses and some science lessons and some lessons on the rules.  Gronk could not have physically made the play on the ball even if Luechly doesn't touch him.  Luechly would still have been in that space and the safety had the far better position on the ball.  Gronk would have comitted offensive pass interference.  Also, Gronks momentum was clearly still going back towards the back of the end zone not towards the ball.  He didn't react to make a play either.  When asked immediatley after the game Gronk did not say that he was interfered with or held.  If the ball is uncatchable then there is no interference and once the ball is in the air there can be no holding call, so the ball being uncatchable and in the air at the time of contact leads to a non call which results in the end of the game plain and simple.  

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

@Chip @JimSmith4 Ahh, like the missed defensive pass interference call on Eric Decker that turned into a pick-6 and got your Ravens back into the game in last year's playoffs?? Agreed! Give the Broncos your rings, you don't deserve them...

mckimsey
mckimsey

@JimSmith4 @dlivings89 I think you both have your points, but the sheer six of one, half a dozen of the other regarding this play says to me the refs ended up with a good call, probably the best call.

JimSmith4
JimSmith4

@Joebuckster

Get this guy a pacifier so we don't have to continue to hear the whining coming from his obviously boo hooing mouth.  The call was correct.  Uncatchable ball for Gronk.  Panthers win!  Pats lose!  Game over!!!

RedDan
RedDan

@Joebuckster @Chip @JimSmith4 Or the missed "leading with the helmet" call against Bernard Pollard that led to the Ridley fumble that broke Pats' momentum in the AFCG?

Point being to NOT be a homer, point being that the officiating has for too long been too arbitrary in critical situations. Honoring the fact that the refs are human and will make mistakes, our only honest solution should be: SIMPLIFY the rulebook, REMOVE all the crazy lawyer-ese and multiple sub-clauses.

IF the player leads with their head, THEN it's a penalty, period. (Or not, period).

IF the defender touches the receiver, THEN it's a penalty (or not) period.

IF the ball touches the ground, THEN it's incomplete... or not, period.

Simplify, simplify, simplify