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Explaining the controversy: poor calls against the Patriots

Posted by She's Game Sports  September 24, 2012 02:26 PM
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In the wake of the Patriots 31-30 loss Sunday night, there has been much discussion over the poor officiating and very costly penalties that hurt the Patriots in the game. While the officiating alone should not be an excuse for a loss, there were quite a few calls that deserve scrutiny. For those who missed the game or don’t quite understand why there is so much talk about certain plays, we put together a list of the top five plays that Patriots fans are upset about in the aftermath of the loss to the Ravens.

1. Holding on Devin McCourty – Fourth quarter, 6:18 remaining, Patriots lead 30-21

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The situation: With 6:18 left in the game and Baltimore facing a second-and-14 situation at their own 16-yard line, Joe Flacco threw a pass that was incomplete to Torrey Smith. The incompletion would have resulted in a third-and-14 situation at the Ravens’ own 16 with 6:11 left in the game, but then the refs called a defensive holding penalty on Devin McCourty.

Definition of holding: when a player illegally grasps or pulls an opponent other than the ball carrier when trying to prevent a block or cover a receiver.

The controversy: McCourty never grasped or pulled at the opponent. If anything, he may have tapped the opponent on the play, but it was never even close to holding. Even the announcers were left speechless by the call.

The result: The penalty cost the Patriots five yards and gave the Ravens an automatic first down, meaning what should have been a difficult-to-convert third-and-long from deep in the Ravens’ own end turned into first-and-10 at the Ravens 21. The Ravens later scored on the drive, tightening the game to 30-28. The moment was a huge turning point in the game for the Ravens and likely changed the outcome of the evening.

2. Holding on Brandon Spikes – Fourth quarter, 4:15 remaining, Patriots lead 30-21

The situation:
The Patriots were hurt once again later in the same drive as the McCourty call by another holding call, this time on Brandon Spikes. With 4:15 left on the clock and the Ravens facing second-and-goal at the New England 10, Chandler Jones and Kyle Love rushed in and sacked Joe Flacco for a loss of 12 yards. The play was negated, however, when Spikes was called for holding.

Definition of holding:
when a player illegally grasps or pulls an opponent other than the ball carrier when trying to prevent a block or cover a receiver.

The controversy:
Spikes, like McCourty, didn’t seem to hold Dennis Pitta on the play at all – in fact, it was Pitta who grabbed Spikes’ jersey and yanked him down to the ground. The call easily could have been holding on Pitta, not Spikes.

The result:
Instead of a third-and-22 situation from the Baltimore, 22, the Ravens received a first down five yards from the end zone. On the very next play, Flacco completed a touchdown pass to Smith to cut the Patriots lead to 30-28. Had the penalty never been called, it is very likely that the Ravens would have had to kick a field goal, and in a game where the difference in the final score was one point, that touchdown ended up really hurting the Patriots.

3. Bill Belichick grabs the referee – Postgame

The situation: With two seconds left in the game, Justin Tucker kicked a 27-yard field goal that was ruled good by the referees to give the Ravens the 31-30 win. The kick appeared to have just barely made it over the uprights, but it was a close enough play that the Patriots seemed to want a review. In the postgame craze on the field, Bill Belichick rushed to the referee asking for an explanation of the call and grabbed an official.

The rule: According to Mike Pereira, a rules analyst for FOX Sports, “a field goal that goes over the top of an upright is not reviewable because you cannot determine when exactly the ball is directly over the pole.” A field goal is considered good if it makes it above the crossbar and through the uprights or when above the uprights, between their inside edges.

The controversy:
The field goal was very close and it was above the uprights. From some angles, it looked as if it was definitely between the outside edges of the uprights, but from other angles, it was harder to tell. The referees did not take much time to call the play good, and an angry Vince Wilfork stormed over to the referees in an attempt to ask them to review the play, which apparently, they could not do anyway.

The result: The Ravens won the game, and Belichick will likely receive a fine from the NFL for abusing an official.

4. Pass interference on Jerod Mayo – Second quarter, 15 minutes remaining, Patriots lead 13-0

The situation: At the start of the second quarter, it was all Patriots. New England led, 13-0, and the Ravens were tasked with converting on third-and-6 at their own 22 to start the quarter. On the play, Joe Flacco appeared to throw an incomplete pass to Ray Rice, but the incompletion was negated when Jerod Mayo was whistled for a 2-yard pass interference call

Definition of pass interference: When a player makes contact with an intended receiver after the ball is thrown but before it is touched by another player in a way that prevents the player from catching the pass (i.e. holding a receiver’s arms down, cutting off the receiver’s path without making a play for the ball, restrictive contact with a player without making a play on the ball etc.)

The controversy:
Mayo did not seem to do much that would constitute a classic pass interference call, and you very rarely see pass interference calls made on a 2-yard play.

The result:
The call gave the Ravens a first down, their first of the game, therefore marking a huge turning point in the game. If not for the call, the Ravens would have had to punt on fourth-and-6 at their own 22. Instead, the Ravens drove 82 yards down the field to score their first touchdown of the game.

5. Offensive pass interference on Julian Edelman – First quarter, 1:48 remaining, Patriots lead 10-0

The situation: Toward the end of the first quarter, Tom Brady and the Patriots were facing a third-and-11 on the Baltimore 30. Brady appeared to complete a pass to Julian Edelman at the Baltimore 11 that would have given the Patriots a first down, but it was called back due to an offensive pass interference call against Edelman.

Definition of pass interference:
When a player makes contact with an intended receiver after the ball is thrown but before it is touched by another player in a way that prevents the player from catching the pass (i.e. holding a receiver’s arms down, cutting off the receiver’s path without making a play for the ball, restrictive contact with a player without making a play on the ball etc.)

The controversy:
It’s hard to understand where the pass interference on Edelman was since he was shoved in the chest by the defender who did not turn around or make an attempt to make a play on the ball. Since Edelman caught the pass, it looked like the play should have stood as it was.

The result:
The penalty cost the Patriots 10 yards, but it was repeat third down, so the Patriots attempted to convert on third-and-21 from the Baltimore 40. Brady moved the ball up nine yards thanks to a pass to Wes Welker, and the Patriots had to settle for a field goal instead of having an easier chance at scoring a touchdown on what should have been first-and-10 at the Baltimore 11.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.
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