NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino on Tuesday provided the league’s viewpoint on the controversy at the end of the Patriots-Panthers game Monday night.
On NFL Total Access, Blandino broke down the final play as follows:
“Here’s [Rob] Gronkowski in the formation. The back judge in the middle of the field, he’s on the end line, that’s his key. We’ve got [Aaron] Dobson down here, the side judge who is on the goal line, that’s his key. Let’s watch the play develop.
“The back judge is going to see restriction right there [when Luke Kuechly contacts Gronkowski], and he’s going to throw his flag for that restriction. The side judge, who had Dobson, his mechanics are once the ball’s in the air, he’s going to go to the ball and he’s going to focus on the interception. After the play, you’ll see the flag come out, the back judge is going to signal to the side judge, they’re going to get together and they’re going to have a discussion.
“What they are going to talk about is when did the restriction occur in relation to the ball being touched, because once the ball is touched, you cannot have pass interference. This is a judgment call, the officials don’t have the use of replay, they don’t have slow-motion replay, and ultimately they ruled that the restriction occurred simultaneously with the ball being touched, and when you watch it at full speed, you can see why they would make that call on the field.”
Then Blandino was asked if the flag should have been picked up, which is what the officials did.
“Again, it’s a judgment call. There was contact, but there’s contact on a lot of passing plays downfield. The issue isn’t the contact, the issue is the restriction, does it occur prior to the ball being touched, and at full speed, the officials made a tight judgment call and they determined that the restriction occurred just as the ball was being touched.”
Blandino said the officials would not be “downgraded” for their work Monday. Officials’ performance is reviewed after every game.
“When we look at tight judgment calls like this and we feel like the officials followed proper mechanics, we do not downgrade the officials for this type of situation,” he said.