What we know after the Panthers' win over the Patriots
Thanks a lot, refs. The most entertaining and competitive Monday night game of the NFL season ended with a bogus no-call on the final play of the Panthers’ 24-20 win over the Patriots.
Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly had his arms wrapped around Rob Gronkowski in the end zone as Tom Brady floated a pass for his tight end from the Panthers’ 18-yard line. Safety Robert Lester picked off the ball to apparently seal the win, but a flag was thrown.
Brady believed the defensive pass interference call would position the Patriots on the Panthers’ 1-yard line with one untimed down. Instead, the officials picked up the flag after they deemed the pass uncatchable.
The Patriots began their final drive with 59 seconds on the clock, the ball on their own 20 and a frenzied Charlotte crowd ready to blow out Bank of America Stadium. But ever the steady pro, Brady guided New England 62 yards in 10 plays to get to the 18 with 3 seconds on clock. Understandably, Brady was furious after the no-call and let referee Clete Blakeman hear it while walking in the tunnel.
NFL on FOX officiating guru Mike Pereira offered up his take on the no-call minutes after the action concluded.
My thoughts..Since the flag was thrown they should have stayed with the call. There was clear contact before the ball was intercepted. More.— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) November 19, 2013
You could make a case that the pass might have been uncatachable, but the flag was thrown and you should stay with it. My thoughts— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) November 19, 2013
“There were two officials that came in. 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,” Blakeman said in a pool report. “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.”
On the flip side, Cam Newton walked off the field in the glow of, to this point, the signature victory of his career. What's more, he's the one who painted Brady into that final corner, hitting Ted Ginn on a 25-yard catch-and-run score to give the Panthers that 24-20 lead.
Newton saved his best game of the season for the biggest stage on Monday Night Football. The third-year quarterback completed 19 of 28 passes for 209 yards and three touchdowns.
What was even more impressive was his ability to escape pressure and racked up 62 yards on 7 carries. His highlight of the night was this 14-yard, third-quarter scramble on third down and 7. Eight plays later, Newton hit tight end Greg Olsen for a 15-yard TD.
Newton, 24, finally has his signature win and proved to many doubters that he can galvanize a team in the most dramatic moments. It also helps that the Panthers defense is one of the fiercest in the league.
The Panthers (7-3) haven’t locked up a playoff spot just yet, but a favorable schedule (Week 12: at Miami, Week 13: vs. Tampa Bay) in the coming weeks could be of favor to them. They still play the 8-2 Saints twice, meaning the NFC South is well within grasp, as well.
As for the team we are used to see battling for top playoff positioning? The Patriots (7-3) still hold a two-game lead in the AFC East and are tied with Indianapolis for the second-best record (and a first-round bye), but they must lick their wounds and get ready for Peyton Manning and the 9-1 Broncos next Sunday night on a short week.
The no-call on the final play may have infuriated the Patriots, but they didn’t use it as an excuse in the postgame news conference. Rightfully so. There were missed opportunities including a Stevan Ridley fumble in the red zone in the first quarter and a questionable play-action pass play call on 3rd-and-1 in the fourth quarter with the game tied.
Brady vs. Manning — the NFL's premier franchise-QB rivalry for more than a decade. But it looks like Newton is getting this whole franchise quarterback thing down pat in his own right:
Who doesn’t love a little bow tie action?
You can follow Ross Jones on Twitter @RossJonesFOX.