By Michael Parente
Rob Gronkowski had no chance of catching that ball.
Neo from The Matrix wouldn’t have caught it.
Neo from The Matrix with 10-foot arms wouldn’t have caught it.
Neo from The Matrix with 10-foot arms and a rocket up his ass wouldn’t have caught it.
If Gronkowski couldn’t even catch the Hail Mary from Tom Brady in Super Bowl XLVI that fell less than six inches from his feet there was no way on God’s green earth he was catching a ball that either a.) he overran or b.) Brady underthrew by about six feet.
It doesn’t matter that Luke Keuchly smothered Gronkowski like a wet blanket. Gronkowski’s momentum carried him away from the ball, not Keuchly’s bear hug. You can’t call pass interference on an uncatchable ball, which that ball clearly was, so, no, there was no chance the Patriots were getting the ball at the 1-yard line with one more play to run unless the officials totally disregarded the rule book. They could’ve called defensive holding on Keuchly, which they should’ve, but all that would’ve done was move the Patriots five yards closer to the end zone and given them one more crack at the game-winning touchdown from 13 yards out – no guarantee against the league’s second-ranked defense.
To assume the Patriots would’ve scored with one more play at their disposal, or that the referees “stole” this one away, is typical of the arrogance oozing out of the pores of New England fans everywhere from Claremont to Quincy. If you ask Belichick’s disciples, the Patriots haven’t lost a game in 11 years without either being screwed by the referees (refer to the bitch-fest following Super Bowl XLII) or hampered by unforeseen roadblocks no other team in the history of the NFL has ever had to deal with (as in, they lost Super Bowl XLVI because Gronkowski had a bad ankle). Once again, all the angst and anger is aimed at the wrong target.
The officials might’ve cost the Patriots another opportunity to win the game, which, again, was no guarantee anyway, but they sure as hell didn’t cost them the game. Kyle Arrington’s matador tackling on Ted Ginn Jr.’s game-winning touchdown did. So did the Patriots’ porous third-down defense, which allowed Carolina to convert on eight of its 11 opportunities, including three times on the Panthers’ final offensive series.
You could argue the referees at least owe the Patriots an explanation as to why they picked up the flag thrown on the final play, but they don’t owe them much beyond that. The Patriots are now 2-3 on the road with one signature win away from Gillette Stadium, which is a generous description considering that win was two months ago against the Atlanta Falcons, who plummeted to 2-8 this past weekend following an embarrassing loss to Tampa Bay.
Monday was supposed to be the turning point of the season with Gronkowski, Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen together on the field for the first time all year. Instead, it was more of the same from a schizophrenic, inconsistent offense plagued by the same careless mistakes we bitched about in Week 1. The pass protection is still woeful and Stevan Ridley still can’t hold onto the ball. What’s changed?
The Patriots were average Monday night, and they’ve been average in games of this magnitude – bright lights, primetime … regular season or postseason – for quite some time.
Study your rule book, go to bed, and aim your venom at the real problem. Here’s a hint – it’s not the referees.
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