Why officials didn’t review Rob Gronkowski’s controversial catch against the Texans

"They got to us on the field, but the play had already developed."

Rob Gronkowski
Rob Gronkowski sits on the sideline during the second half. –AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Texans cornerback Aaron Colvin wasn’t happy with one of the calls from Sunday’s season opener at Gillette Stadium.

With just over a minute remaining in the first half, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw a pass up the middle intended for tight end Rob Gronkowski. Defended by Colvin and Texans inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney, Gronkowski appeared to make the catch in double coverage for a 28-yard gain. Though Gronkowski signaled for the first down, Colvin and other Texans gestured the pass was incomplete.

“I don’t think he caught that ball,” Colvin told reporters after the Patriots’ 27-20 win. “I think that was the big play in the game, but it is what it is. We got to get that ball and make it unquestionable.”


Gronkowski used his helmet to help bring in the ball, but whether he maintained possession was unclear. Brady and Patriots quickly hustled up the field to start the next play, Houston did not use one of their three remaining timeouts, and the catch was subsequently not reviewed. New England ended up scoring a touchdown on the drive and entered halftime with a 21-6 lead.

“I did make the catch,” Gronkowski said after the game. “I don’t know how. When I went to the ground, I had it stable in my hand, so it was definitely a catch. Tom went up to the line really quick just to make sure. We got the play off, which was nice.”

Referee Tony Corrente said the NFL offices in New York are responsible for initiating reviews after the two-minute warning. The office had requested a review, but game officials in Foxborough did not receive the message until the next play had already started — making the previous play unreviewable.

“They got to us on the field, but the play had already developed,” Corrente said. “It had started.”

Corrente confirmed Texans coach Bill O’Brien would have been penalized for throwing the challenge flag in that situation. O’Brien, however, could have called a timeout to prevent the Patriots from getting off their next play — and potentially allow for game officials to receive the request for review from New York — but he told reporters doing so is “not [his] job.”


“That’s not my job,” O’Brien said. “Let me make it clear: I don’t have challenges with under two minutes to go. It’s not my job to call a timeout to make their job easier.”

Colvin called the outcome “tough” and also suggested the Patriots might have gotten a little assistance from the referees.

“I mean, we’re playing in New England,” he said. “So you know what that means.”