The New England Patriots are not going to blame their loss at the hands of the officials. They know they didn’t accomplish what they needed to in order to avoid letting one or two calls affect the outcome of the game. They also knew that head referee Jerome Boger was going to flag the Patriots whenever he could.
“From previous [games], that crew has called much more penalties on us than the other team,” Patriots QB Tom Brady said on WEEI. “We have to figure out how to play and tighten it up. If we don’t get the calls, we don’t get them. We still have to go out and play better than we played.”
And if you look at the past two games, that Boger has called with the Patriots, Brady’s not wrong. In 2014, Boger was the referee for the famous “We’re on to Cincinnati” game where he flagged the Patriots 12 times for 114 yards and the Bengals just 4 times for 37 yards. Boger also called the game between the Patriots and Rams in 2016 and called 8 penalties against the Patriots versus just 4 for Los Angeles. On Sunday, Boger flagged the Patriots 7 times and the Panthers only once.
So over the past three games with Boger, the Patriots have been penalized three-times more than their opponent (27 to 9). Boger is actually responsible for penalizing the home team at a rate far above the league average and calling multiple penalties more than average per game.
There were five big penalties against the Patriots that really shifted the course of the game and some were much more valid than others.
3-5-NE 41 (5:40) (Shotgun) T.Brady pass short left to R.Gronkowski to CAR 45 for 14 yards (J.Bradberry, M.Adams). PENALTY on NE-D.Amendola, Offensive Pass Interference, 10 yards, enforced at NE 41 - No Play
Drive outcome: Instead of the first down to Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots faced a third-and-15 where Tom Brady was sacked, ending the drive.
“The one [penalty] to Danny we didn’t overcome,” Brady explained on WEEI. “He was trying to get across the guy’s face and the guy kind of contacts him and Danny is trying to shed him and run his route.”
I get calling this even though it had nothing to do with the play. Danny Amendola should have done a better job avoiding the defender because there was literally no need to engage. The defender doesn’t have to move out of Amendola’s way and he doesn’t step forward to initiate contact, eliminating “illegal contact.”
From the officials standpoint, it looks like Amendola is lowering his shoulder into the defender and blocking, hence the flag. Every official should call this as blocking down the field, even if they don’t call it consistently against every team.
2-6-CAR 42 (15:00) (Shotgun) T.Brady pass short right to R.Gronkowski to CAR 32 for 10 yards (L.Kuechly). PENALTY on NE-R.Gronkowski, Offensive Pass Interference, 10 yards, enforced at CAR 42 - No Play.
Drive outcome: Gronkowski draws a 33-yard pass interference penalty on the next play (the only call against the Panthers), setting up the Patriots in the red zone. Brady finds Chris Hogan for a 2-yard touchdown.
“They called it pretty tight on us yesterday,” Brady said. “I watched the film a bunch of times and they got the calls. We didn’t get them. I don’t know what to say. I think [Rob Gronkowski] is doing what he’s got to do to get open, there was such minimal contact. It is what it is...We overcame that one.”
This is a ridiculous call that only ever gets thrown against Gronkowski. He’s operating under a different set of rules than any other player in the league. Defenders are allowed to climb on his back twenty yards down the field without a second glance. Gronkowski can’t even stem his route without getting flagged.
3-8-NE 37 (4:49) (Shotgun) C.Newton pass incomplete short right to D.Funchess. PENALTY on NE-S.Gilmore, Illegal Use of Hands, 5 yards, enforced at NE 37 - No Play
Drive outcome: Four plays later, Cam Newton finds Devin Funchess for a 16-yard touchdown.
This was a brutal call against Gilmore that extended the Panthers drive. His receiver wasn’t even a part of the play. Officials are supposed to throw a flag whenever a defender touches a receiver on the neck, face, or head. Gilmore shouldn’t be engaging with the helmet, even if it’s a gentle caress.
PENALTY on NE-J.Jones, Interference with Opportunity to Catch, 15 yards, enforced at CAR 21.
Drive outcome: Cam Newton runs for a 7-yard touchdown and a 30-16 lead.
Rule 10, Section 1, Article 1, Note: It is not a foul if a kicking team player is blocked into the receiver, or the contact is the result of a foul.
I’m pretty sure that Jonathan Jones gets blocked into the receiver (punt returner) by #36 of the Panthers. Would this be called if a defender was trying to block a punt and were pushed into the kicker? Doubtful. Bad call.
“Some weeks you get those calls, some weeks you don’t. We just didn’t get them yesterday,” Brady said. “Still, we’re not making any excuses. We didn’t get the job done offensively, defensively, special teams. We just have to collectively do a better job to win these games.”
3-7-CAR 27 (2:23) (Shotgun) C.Newton sacked at CAR 16 for -11 yards (D.Wise). PENALTY on NE-S.Gilmore, Illegal Use of Hands, 5 yards, enforced at CAR 27 - No Play.
Drive outcome: Panthers kick the game-winning field goal.
Instead of giving the ball back to Tom Brady and the Patriots offense with 2:11 left on the clock and three timeouts, this penalty gave Carolina a fresh set of downs and the eventual game-winning field goal.
The sunlight makes it almost impossible to see what happens and the game broadcast doesn’t have a better angle. But with the official having already called one such penalty against Gilmore this game, he has no excuse for getting hit with a second hands to the face call.
Of these big and possibly momentum changing calls- all of them either took away a first down from the Patriots or gave one to the Panthers- two were particularly bad calls by the officiating crew. Two were fifty-fifty calls that went against the Patriots. The final play is a mystery because we don’t have a good angle.
Officiating was not the reason the Patriots lost against the Panthers. New England’s horrendous defensive performance is the start and finish of why the Patriots are 2-2 instead of 4-0. But these plays definitely didn’t help.
And Sunday’s game was Boger’s 15th with the Patriots and Brady, dating back to 2004. Over those 15 games, he has called 96 penalties against the Patriots for 819 yards.
He’s called 96 penalties against the opponent for 827 yards, too.