Blame the refs?
Well, that’s what everyone is doing. But I am not going to.
Sure, there were a handful of questionable calls going against the New England Patriots in their loss against the Denver Broncos Sunday night. And, in reality, the officiating across the NFL has been abysmal for some time now, especially this year. Clock errors. Bogus pass interference calls, specifically offensive. Erroneous ball placements on the field. What is a catch and what is not a catch? Endless conferences and time under the hood. Inadvertent whistles. Etc.
Even though “reffing” this year has been bad, to be kind, I try not to get on their backs too much. These guys have to make split second calls while looking at a few different things (hands, feet, boundary lines, etc.) while also having to kind of “interpret” the rule book…reception rules or injury time run off or inadvertent whistle decisions and so on. Sure, these guys are supposed to be professionals and it is their job to know everything, but when retired guys in the booth such as Mike Carey or Gerry Austin get stuff wrong when the announcers throw it to them for analysis, do you expect guys on the field to know every nuance of the rule book by heart? Maybe. But then we can get into how this is a part-time job for these guys and also how the game has passed some of them by or there are several new guys on the job and all that. Different topic for a different day. And really, do YOU know every aspect of your own job head to toe? If you do, I’m impressed. But I would argue that assertion.
Anyway, I digress. I try not to get on the refs too bad because they have to process everything quickly. We, as TV viewers, get to see 8,000 replays at 2,000 different angles and make a decision from there. When it comes down to it, the refs are right quite a bit. They are only egregiously wrong a handful of times. And those are the ones we focus on of course. Because most of those are horrible mistakes.
Were the officials egregiously wrong last night? Well, I wouldn’t have called the Gronk offensive PI late. Or the Patrick Chung holding in the end zone late. But you could make a case for both. It’s been common knowledge that the league has targeted offensive pass interference more aggressively this year. Gronk’s a big guy you say, and he can’t help it? Maybe so. But he did kind of push his forearm out there. And Chung did grab some shoulder, however little it was. The better question may have been why Chung seemed to be one on one against Demaryius Thomas, but whatever. Pass interference, illegal contact, holding…these could likely be called on every play. Probably 90% of the time the refs should just “let the boys play”. Only 10% of those types of penalties are probably blatant enough to deserve a flag. Unfortunately for the Pats, the refs decided to flag them for these marginal infractions at the wrong time of the game.
But that is NOT why they lost the game.
I can think of several reasons why they lost the game. The refs may have had a small role. I think the following had larger roles:
*Chris Harper. Fumbling a punt with a 21-7 lead early in the final quarter after holding the Broncos to a three and out. Not damaging in and of itself…if the D holds again. But they didn’t. And it essentially changed the momentum of the entire game. Have to catch that punt.
*10 punts by Ryan Allen. Sure the weather would hold down any offense. But 10 punts? This is a team that went an entire game without a punt against Jacksonville earlier this year. Ok, Jacksonville. But still. More importantly, here is where 6 Patriot drives ended in punts: Denver 49, Denver 42, Denver 49, New England 47, New England 48, New England 47. The Pats had pretty good field position for the majority of the evening. 6 punts stalled around mid-field…where another first down or two would present a field goal opportunity. If they kick even 3 field goals out of the 6 drives it’s a different game.
*Conservative drive at the end of the first half. 14-7 Pats, 2:07 left, all three timeouts in their pocket. And 5 straight runs to end the half???!! Surely this cannot be the Patriots. 7 point lead on the road in bad conditions with limited weapons against a good team…I can see maybe a little conservatism. But this was ridiculous. This is historically where the Pats make a move, especially considering they were to receive the 2nd half kickoff. Completely mystifying here.
*Not trusting the running game at certain moments. Ok, the running game was brutal. But in a way they did not give it a chance. There were certain times that they should have run the ball. The most glaring was the play that Gronk got hurt. 2:53 left, 1st and 10 at NE 40, Denver had only 1 timeout remaining. THIS was the play to run and make them use their last timeout. Chances are Blount would have been stuffed for 2 yards or less. But the timeouts would be gone. Then a 2nd down run would’ve likely taken them to the 2 minute warning. If you want to try a screen or something on 3rd down…maybe…but another run would’ve taken it down to less than a minute and a half. I get that the pass is the Patriots’ way of closing out a game. But it may have been smarter to run on these downs. In this situation anyway. Then put pressure on the kid to go the length of the field with 1:30 or less left and no timeouts. You may say that Osweiler still did go downfield and score while only using 1:22 so it wouldn’t have mattered. But I would say the circumstances between the two scenarios would have been different and he may have made quicker and more riskier decisions. Different plays may have been called. Etc.
*Offensive line. Maybe not as much as the previous game against Buffalo, but the OL had its struggles in this one too. And the Broncos didn’t even have DeMarcus Ware. People don’t think that Tre’ Jackson should’ve been called for the penalty that wiped out a 51 yard pass play. I say if he doesn’t haul Von Miller down, Brady doesn’t get the pass off. Looked like a legit penalty to me. Anyway, they didn’t give Brady a ton of time I felt. Which made all the 3rd and 10 bombs to Brandon LaFell even more mystifying to me.
*Defense in crunch time. Sure, the fumbled punt and the offense shutting down in the 4th quarter didn’t help the D. They may have been a little tired. Losing Hightower hurt as well. Special teamer Jonathan Freeny and the Ghost of Jerod Mayo played entirely too many snaps. But there were several big plays in the 4th and OT as well. Logan Ryan played well…until the end. Malcolm Butler got torched a few times. The safeties? Seemed a little late on several plays. 23 points allowed in the 4th quarter and OT? Awful.
That about sums it up. Not all about the refs. The Pats had a legit chance to go undefeated, even with all the injuries. So will this loss help? Maybe. As long as they keep the #1 seed. With the 5 cream puffs coming up on the schedule (please don’t try to sell me on the Texans or Jets, even in their house), the team should win those games and be able to manage playing time and injuries. As long as Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower return for the playoffs and the team suffers no more major injuries, the Super Bowl is within reach. But we will cross that bridge when we get to it…
Posted on December 1, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged Bill Belichick, Brandon LaFell, Brock Osweiler, Chris Harper, Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos, Dont'a Hightower, Emmanuel Sanders, Gronk, Jamie Collins, Jerod Mayo, Julian Edelman, Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler, New England Patriots, NFL, NFL officials, NFL referees, Patrick Chung, Peyton Manning, Rob Gronkowski, Sunday Night Football, Tom Brady, undefeated season. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.