Did Kam Chancellor interfere with Rob Gronkowski on New England's final play in Sunday night's eventual 31-24 loss to the Seattle Seahawks? Did Gronkowski get a little push-off himself? Did the officials swallow another whistle to give Seattle a crucial win?
I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I'm a firm believer in football karma and since Seattle got away with a major pass interference call in a Week 6 victory over the Falcons, maybe they should have gotten some payback here. But after watching this play over and over, I, to borrow a phrase, think I think this: Officials got it right not throwing a flag on that fourth-and-goal play from the one. It was a good no-call.
Here's how it all went down: After Pete Carroll's controversial decision to go for a two-point conversion that would have put Seattle up nine points had failed, New England had plenty of time to drive down the field in hopes of getting a game-tying (seven point) touchdown. A beautiful Tom Brady pass (he and Russell Wilson had so many on Sunday night) to Gronkowski put the Pats on Seattle's 2 with 1:29 left. A Brady sneak failed on first down. LeGarrette Blount was about eight inches from scoring a touchdown on second down. Another Brady sneak on third down failed, this time almost disastrously as the center/quarterback exchange was sloppy and Brady had to fall on a fumble to keep New England alive. Then on fourth-and-goal from the 1, the Pats went big, split Gronkowski wide and threw the fade route that bedevils so many quarterbacks.
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Kam Chancellor was manned up on Gronkowski. Contact was made just before the ball went in the air. The two players were engaged until a split second before Brady's pass got to the spot, whereupon Gronk let go, leaped and saw the ball fly over his head. His pleas for a flag went unheeded. Seattle took over and the game was done.
If you watch the end of the play, Chancellor has his arm wrapped around Gronkowski. A clear hold. Have to throw the flag.
If you watch the beginning, Gronk plows into Chancellor like a sumo wrestler. Offensive pass interference. Have to throw the flag. Right?
No. When both players are going at each other in such a crucial moment, eating the flag is the only way to go. Offsetting penalties doesn't work with under 20 seconds left and identifying one or the other for a penalty would have been far more controversial.
Overall, Seattle played a better game and won (unlike that Atlanta game one month ago). But if New England fans still want to complain about the endgame, then the fourth-down fade to Gronkowski is probably the better jump-off for an argument. Throw that on second or third down. On fourth down, with that big guy package in there, run it up the gut and pray.