The Patriots and the Panthers played a really good football game last night. Unfortunately, the final result will be overshadowed by the game's final play.
Down 24-20 with three seconds remaining in the game at the Panthers' 18 yard line, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady hoisted a pass into the end zone to tight end Rob Gronkowski. Initially, it had appeared that the ball was simply underthrown. But as we quickly learned, Gronkowski was driven out of the play by Panthers' linebacker Luke Kuechly:
Now, it's pretty clear from this close-up that this should have been a pass interference call on Kuechly. The ball was intercepted at the point where the foul began, meaning Gronkowski had no chance to get back to the ball and make a play on the football.
Had it gone uncalled, there would have been some outcries, but no big controversy. But the back judge actually threw the flag. The referee standing closest to the play threw the flag. And then the flag was picked up with absolutely no explanation from official Clete Blakeman.
Disappointing way for a great football game to come to an end. Had the flag stood, the Patriots would have had one opportunity from the one yard line to score the touchdown and win the game.