Refs defend no-call; Patriots puzzled by end

Updated: November 19, 2013, 1:41 AM ET

Field Yates |

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — For the second time this season, the New England Patriots lost a game in which a controversial call — or non-call in this case — by an official late in the game made headlines.

A throw from Tom Brady to tight end Rob Gronkowski was intercepted as time expired in regulation, although Gronkowski appeared to be held by Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly.

A flag was thrown on the play, but after conferring with his group of officials, referee Clete Blakeman announced that there was not in fact a penalty, waving off the flag.

Gronkowski was asked whether he felt he was held on the play, responding, “I’ve gotta rewatch, but if you saw that, then I would say yeah.”

Following the game, Blakeman explained and defended his crew’s decision, saying the original call was pass interference but that Gronkowski’s distance from the ball rendered the penalty moot.

“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 [immediately] at that point intercepted at the front end of the end zone,” Blakeman said. “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.”

“It just wasn’t completed, and there was no flag,” Gronkowski said of the play. “There was a flag, but it got called back. I don’t even know why they threw it, and there’s just no excuse. I’m not trying to be here to make excuses; [the Panthers are] a good football team, they scored more points than us and they beat us straight up.”

“It is how it is now, and they took the call back and can’t do anything about it,” he also said. “And that’s not when the game is [won] and [lost]. They’re a very good team; they played tough all four quarters.”

Asked whether he said anything to the refs following the play, Gronkowski said: “When they threw the flag, that’s what I thought it was going to be. And, it was waved off, so, I can’t do anything about it.”

Patriots coach Bill Belichick indicated in his postgame remarks that he did not receive an explanation of the non-call from officials, saying, “I saw what you saw.”

Brady had a heated exchanged with officials as he left the field following the game’s conclusion but said postgame he didn’t get any explanation from the refs.

“[The ref] didn’t say anything,” Brady said. “I didn’t really see the play, either, so I don’t know whether it was a good call or a bad call.”

Ultimately, Brady lamented that the Pats’ fate Monday night came down to one final play.

“I wish it wouldn’t come down to that,” Brady said. “I think there are plenty of plays we could have made. But it did, and they are going to make a call or they are not going to make a call. … We can play better than that.”

Information from Patriots reporter Mike Reiss contributed to this report.

Field Yates has previous experience interning with the New England Patriots on both their coaching and scouting staffs. A graduate of Wesleyan University (CT), he is a regular contributor to ESPN Boston’s Patriots coverage and ESPN Insider.

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