FOXBOROUGH — Patriots coach Bill Belichick gave his side of the story Monday about what happened immediately after Justin Tucker’s field goal was signaled good by game officials Sunday night, giving the Ravens a 31-30 win.
Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork ripped off his helmet after the 27-yard kick went through the uprights as time expired, protesting whether the kick was indeed good, and Belichick ran to line judge Esteban Garza trying to get his attention. He wound up grabbing the official on the arm.
The NFL announced Monday that it is investigating the actions of Belichick, and also those of Baltimore coach John Harbaugh, who was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after going on the field in the fourth quarter. Harbaugh said he was trying to get the officials’ attention to call a timeout.
Also, Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s actions are being looked into, after he chased officials off the field Sunday and berated them.
After opening his Monday press conference with a quick overview of the Patriots’ performance in Baltimore, Belichick began a statement on the incident with the game official. He said that he meant no disrespect, but he stopped short of apologizing for what had occurred.
“I’ve been asked about the situation at the end of the game, so I’m just going to take a couple of minutes to explain that, and then that will be the end of it,” he said.
“On the final kick, after we took the timeout and rushed the kick, from the sideline I saw the ball go pretty close to the upright, couldn’t obviously tell from where I was at where exactly it went but I saw players waving that it was no good, then I saw the officials give the signal that it was good, and I just wasn’t sure from where I was standing whether the ball, when it went over the crossbar, was above the upright or in between or not in between the upright.
“So by rule if the ball isn’t over the crossbar and it’s either inside or outside of the upright, that’s reviewable; if it’s over the top of the upright, then it’s not reviewable, but I couldn’t tell from my angle when the ball crossed the crossbar where it was, so I didn’t know whether that play was going to be under review or whether it wasn’t, so when the game was over I went out and I was really looking for an explanation from the officials as to whether or not the play was under review and I did try to get the official’s attention as he was coming off the field to ask that but I really wasn’t able to ask that.
“I’ve coached in this league a long time and I’ve never been penalized, never had any incidents with officials or anything like that, I have never meant any disrespect or in any way tried to abuse or be disrespectful to the officials and the job that they do. I was trying to get an explanation for obviously an important call, play in that game and that’s the No. 1 thing between coaches and officials that’s always in the forefront is communication of what’s going on, what’s happening.”
Belichick referenced a situation at the end of the 2000 regular-season finale against Miami in Foxborough in which Belichick asked referee Johnny Grier about a play called a fumble that he believed was an incomplete pass.
After the players had gone back into the locker room, the play was reviewed, and it was discovered that Belichick was right. The teams came back out for one final play, though the Patriots still lost the game.
“So I was trying to get the official’s attention to get an explanation on it, and in no way was I ever trying to do anything other than that,” Belichick concluded. “I have nothing further to add about that situation, but that’s what happened.”
The call to review the field goal would have come from the replay official; because it occurred with less than two minutes in the half, Belichick could not throw his challenge flag.
As Belichick mentioned, by rule a field goal that goes over the top of the upright is not reviewable because you cannot determine exactly when the ball is over the upright vs. when it might have drifted outside of the upright.
After the game Sunday night, Belichick said he didn’t think he would be fined for his actions.
But Monday, the league announced that Broncos coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio had been fined $30,000 and $25,000, respectively, for their behavior toward officials during Denver’s loss to Atlanta a week earlier.
As part of the announcement of the fines, NFL vice president of football operations Ray Anderson wrote, “There is a longstanding NFL rule prohibiting verbal or physical abuse of game officials.”
The league has warned clubs more than once since the start of the lockout that coaches and players are to respect the replacement officials, and the fines to Fox and Del Rio enforce the edict.
Their actions were only verbal in nature; for Belichick to have put a hand on an official, whether out of anger or not, violates that long-held rule and it is expected that his fine will be more than Fox’s because of that.