The coach let it be known the day after a controversial call ended the Patriots’ game in a 24-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers that he was not going to dwell on what could have been, had Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly been assessed a penalty for not allowing Rob Gronkowski to make a play on a pass that could have won the game for New England.
“I don’t really have any comment to add to the officiating or any of those calls,” Belichick said. “It’s not really our job to call the game, it’s to play and coach it. Whatever calls [the officials] make are the ones we live with, we can’t let that effect what we’re doing.”
As Gronkowski was held by Kuehly, back judge Terrence Miles threw a penalty flag and it looked the Patriots were going to get another chance to win the game. But the officials met together and head referee Clete Blakeman announced that there was no foul on the play and the game was over.
In a media pool report filed after the game, Blakeman explained why the original call of a penalty was not made, stating that the pass was uncatchable. Belichick would not comment on whether he had seen the pool report or if he had any other comments regarding the decision.
“Whatever the officials think is the only thing that matters,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what any of us think: they’re the ones that make the calls, so it’s their explanation and their judgment that we all have to abide by.
“It was a highly competitive game, a good football game. I’m proud of the way our team fought from beginning until the end. It came down to a handful of plays that ultimately decided the game and they just had a few more than we did. We [have] got to do a better job of taking advantage of our opportunities. Obviously the red area was a big difference in the game from a scoring standpoint, so we just need to do a better job with the opportunities that we have.”
A positive note from the loss was the return of running back Shane Vereen, who had one carry and eight catches for 72 total yards, a team high. This was the first game Vereen played since breaking his wrist Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills.
“It was good to have [Vereen] back,” Belichick said. “He missed two months of football; I think he’ll be better as we go along. He’s worked hard; he definitely made some plays that helped us in the game. I think he’ll improve and get better like any player will with more reps, more opportunities to practice and play, so it’s definitely good to have him back out there… [there are] plenty of things for him to work on, but he’s a diligent, hard working kid that always gives you a solid effort.”
Belichick and the Patriots turn their attention to the Denver Broncos, who come into Week 12 with a 9-1 record and are currently sitting in first place in the AFC. This will also be the first time receiver Wes Welker returns to Foxborough, where he was Tom Brady’s go-to receiver for six seasons before filling a similar role this season with Peyton Manning.
“I think Wes has been Wes,” said Belichick when asked about his former receiver’s play this season. “[He plays] like the player that we have seen most of the time: he lines up in the slot, he plays like we all saw him play around here for the time [that] he was here.”