CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Patriots' latest loss came with a touch of controversy.
Despite an interception thrown by Tom Brady as time expired Monday night, all eyes remained on his target, Rob Gronkowski, who appeared to be held by Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly on the game's final play.
The Panthers held on to beat the Patriots, 24-20, but questions about the call, or no-call, dominated the postgame interviews.
Terrence Miles, the back judge for the officiating crew, saw contact between Kuechly and Gronkowski on the play, and immediately threw his flag. But it was picked up after a discussion with umpire Garth DeFelice and side judge Greg Meyer.
"There were two officials that came in," said referee Clete Blakeman, explaining the decision in a pool report to the media. "One was the umpire and the other one was our side judge and there was a discussion at that point as to the, in essence, the catchability of the ball due to its location.
"So it was determined at that point in time that when the primary contact occurred on the tight end that the ball, in essence, was coming in underthrown and in essence it was immediate at that point intercepted at the front end of the end zone.
"So there was a determination that, in essence, uncatchability, that the ball was intercepted at or about the same time the primary contact against the receiver occurred."
But there was no discussion on whether or not a defensive holding occurred. Blakeman said his crew, which reviewed the play immediately after the game, was confident in the call.
"Yeah, in review, yeah. I think so," he said. "I'm pleased that ... well, two situations. You never like to end the game with some controversy like that on a call, but I'm pleased that our officiating crew got together and communicated and discussed it and, ultimately, I believe we got it right. So that to me is the part that is coming away from it. I'm pleased that our crew was able to discuss it and make the call right."
Bill Belichick said he received no explanation on the call, nor did Tom Brady or Rob Gronkowski, who walked away from the play clapping expecting to get another shot at the end zone.
"He didn't say anything," Brady said. "I didn't really see the play either so I don't know whether it wads a good call or a bad call."
Brady was seen on cameras arguing with the referee as he entered the tunnel to exit the field.
"I wish it wouldn't have come down to that," Brady said. "I think there are plenty of plays we could have made. But it did, and they are going to make a call or they are not going to make a call.
"We can play better than that."
Brady was intercepted by Carolina's Robert Lester to end the game.