EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Austin Seferian-Jenkins was sure he had a touchdown. So were his teammates. All the Jets fans in the crowd thought so, too.
A slight bobble and a video review resulted in an agonizing call reversal, taking Seferian-Jenkins’ 4-yard TD off the scoreboard and leaving many of the Jets angry and searching for answers following a 24-17 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday.
“I’m pretty sure everybody’s going to look back and say that was a B.S. call,” wide receiver Jermaine Kearse said.
After Stephen Gostkowski’s 28-yard field goal gave New England a 24-14 lead 50 seconds into the fourth quarter, New York appeared to make it a one-score game on its next possession. Seferian-Jenkins took a short pass from Josh McCown and reached over the goal line for what was initially called a touchdown by down judge Patrick Turner.
But officials reviewed the score with the league offices in New York and said the video replay showed that Seferian-Jenkins slightly lost control of the ball when Malcolm Butler nudged it loose as the tight end was crossing the plane of the goal line. Seferian-Jenkins didn’t regain control until after he had stepped out of bounds, resulting in a fumble and a touchback — despite the ball never hitting the ground. That gave the Patriots back the ball, with the Jets’ sideline irate.
“I feel like I scored,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “But at the end of the day, that’s what the refs called. I’m going to go with what the refs said. But I’ve got to have better ball security.”
Added coach Todd Bowles: “From my angle on the replay, I didn’t see the ball fumbled. I saw it bobbled and I saw him gain control of it.”
The Patriots were adamant that it wasn’t a touchdown, with Butler yelling at the officials and waving his arms to say it shouldn’t count.
“We knew it was close,” safety Devin McCourty said. “Once they threw it up on the big screen, you could see the ball get juggled a little bit. It always comes down to how they see it. Is it enough evidence? Is it not enough? We felt the ball was juggled a little bit, but I didn’t know which way it was going to go.
“As a defense, we’ll take it any day.”
Referee Tony Corrente explained the decision to a pool reporter after the game, saying Seferian-Jenkins lost control of the football before he got to the goal line and didn’t re-establish control until he was out of bounds.
“It came out of his control as he was almost to the ground,” Corrente said. “Now, he re-grasps the ball and, by rule, now he has to complete the process of a recovery, which means he has to survive the ground again. So, in recovering it, he recovered, hit the knee, started to roll and the ball came out a second time.
“So, the ball started to move in his hands this way and he’s now out of bounds in the end zone, which now created a touchback. So, he didn’t survive the recovery and didn’t survive the ground during the recovery, which is what happened here.”
Corrente said the end zone shot of the play made the decision “pretty obvious” and added that the final call had nothing to do with the catch itself.
“It was all dealing with the goal line and going to the ground,” Corrente said.
It was a crucial call that changed the game. Instead of the Jets (3-3) being down by just three points, they still trailed by 10 — and the Patriots got the ball back with 8:24 left.
“Yeah, it was just frustration,” McCown said. “I think we all thought it was good. It was hard, at least from what we could see in the stadium, to tell how they would overturn it.”
New England went three-and-out, and the Jets were able to cut it to a one-score game on Chandler Catanzaro’s 28-yard field goal with 3:40 remaining. But their last-minute comeback attempt fell short.
On fourth-and-16 from the Patriots 49, McCown’s desperation heave fell incomplete to end the Jets’ three-game winning streak. It also gave Tom Brady his NFL-record 187th regular-season victory and the Patriots (4-2) sole possession of first place in the AFC East.
“It’s difficult to take the loss,” Bowles said. “It’s not just the one play. We lost the ballgame. They made more plays than us.”
That wasn’t the case early, though. New York stormed to a 14-0 lead and the Patriots looked a bit rusty while playing in their first game in 10 days after beating Tampa Bay 19-14 on Oct. 5.
McCown and the offense were humming through their first few possessions, but then couldn’t consistently muster effective drives against a Patriots defense that entered the game ranked last in the NFL. New England still allowed 408 total yards, but two interceptions of McCown proved costly — as did the play with Seferian-Jenkins.
“It comes down to me,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “If I take care of the ball like I’m supposed to and don’t let it move or anything like that, we don’t have this discussion.
“I let the team down.”