x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

NFL must explain controversial Patriots-Panthers finish

Referee fleeing the field does no one any favours

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady lost his cool at the end of Monday's loss to Carolina Panthers, chasing down a referee to vent his complaints after a controversial decision ended the game. Stephan Savoia / AP Photo
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady lost his cool at the end of Monday's loss to Carolina Panthers, chasing down a referee to vent his complaints after a controversial decision ended the game. Stephan Savoia / AP Photo

Week 11 closed on a sour note for all but Panthers backers and Patriots haters. On the final snap of the final game, with Carolina leading by four points, a penalty flag was dropped on a throw into the end zone by Tom Brady of New England.

As both teams braced for a pass-interference call, the referee Clete Blakeman picked up the flag, waved off the infraction and declared the game over as viewers scratched their heads and asked, “Huh?”

I had never seen the “uncatchable ball” rule applied to a situation where the pass was headed directly to a receiver. Normally, the rule cancels out a penalty if the ball is considered well beyond his reach. In this case, a Panthers player in the path of Brady’s target and the alleged offender on defence intercepted the pass.

The scenario was so rare that some former NFL officials disagreed afterward in media interviews on whether the rule was properly interpreted.

So the officiating crew cannot be faulted for the call, which leaves plenty of blame on Blakeman for acting as if he were late to catch a plane. He exited without a word to the stadium crowd or the television audience, much less the coaches.

The NFL owed all parties an explanation. Charge them with a fumble.

Then again, the league loves it when debates over mildly controversial topics bridge the weekends and maintain interest. You don’t suppose they instructed the referee to walk away? Nah.

sports@thenational.ae