Free agency is underway, and it’s business as usual in New England.
No splashy moves, no big names, just good fits and role players to round out the squad. That somehow people are simultaneously bashing the Patriots for their approach to free agency while also bashing the Patriots for the bad contracts they negotiated when they went big in free agency in 2021 is as Boston media as it gets.
Time for a break from the nonsense. Let’s knock out another of my Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2022.
The list so far:
20. The Patriots trade N’Keal Harry.
19. A game-sealing Mac Jones interception is coupled with a gruesome ankle injury against the Ravens
18. Rookies step up big in relief duty against the Arizona Cardinals.
At No. 17, we find ourselves reliving a moment that seems to happen, some capacity, each and every year in the NFL, both to the Patriots and around the league as a whole. I dream of the day when I don’t have to talk about this stuff at all, but I just never see it happening.
17. Hunter Henry catches/doesn’t catch a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings have, for a while now, been one of those teams that nobody can really figure out. They win games, they beat great teams, and yet there really isn’t anyone who ever says, “People better watch out for Minnesota this year.”
The 2022 Vikings were no different; if anything, they were one of the more anomalous teams in the league. They went 8-2 over their first 10 games, including big wins over Green Bay and Buffalo... but they also lost to the Cowboys 40-3 and got blown out by the Eagles as well. Minnesota seemed like a “beat the bad teams, get beat by the good teams” paper tiger that were hard to put a finger on.
So, when they hosted the Patriots on Thanksgiving Night, fresh off that 40-3 beatdown, the general consensus was that any early season magic for the Vikings was gone and they’d start to slide down the stretch. The Patriots had won five of their last six and were seemingly finally starting to hit their stride.
As far as 2022 games go, this Pats-Vikes matchup was one of the better ones Mac Jones played. He went 28-of-39 for 382 yards and two scores, five different Patriots had over 60 yards receiving, and with virtually zero help from the running game and a D that seemed susceptible to big plays (Justin Jefferson went off for 139 yards and a score), he was able to match the Vikings almost score for score throughout the game. The teams went into the locker room at halftime tied at 16, and the Patriots got 10 points out of their first two drives of the third quarter to take a 26-23 lead.
The thing is, though, the Patriots should have gotten 14 points out of their first two drives of the third quarter to take a 30-23 lead.
Mac Jones followed his eight play, 75-yard scoring drive with a nine-play, 69-yard drive that ended at the Minnesota 6. It ended at the 6 because on 3rd-and-goal, Jones found Hunter Henry in the end zone on a quick out route off the line that saw him make the grab, turn mid-air, and cross the plane for the score. Originally ruled a touchdown on the field, the play was under review, as the ball for sure moved during the process of the catch and Henry didn’t fully secure it until he was on his back and the play was over. The initial replay looked to show that the ball did in fact move as it hit the ground, which made it an easy call; however, when the replay showed the zoom angle, Henry’s full hand is completely under the ball, which would render any movement of the ball moot as it never fully touched the ground.
After several minutes of review and delays from the refs, the verdict was in: incomplete pass, 4th-and-goal. The Patriots had to settle for three, and it would be the last points they’d score that night. The Vikings took the game 33-26 on a kick return for a touchdown and an overturned TD that took points off the board.
For the record, this Henry catch/non-catch didn’t end up costing the Patriots the game; they had four possessions after that one to try and generate points, and they couldn’t do a thing. And that the Patriots lost this game doesn’t really move the needle for me either. The big issue I have with this catch, and for the way these replays seem to go in general, is that the NFL seems to have no idea what the phrase “clear and indisputable” actually means. “Indisputable” is defined as “unable to be disputed, denied, or contested,” but I have completely lost track of the number of times the call on the field ends up getting reversed based on WILDLY inconclusive evidence.
Whatever the ruling was on the field for that Henry catch should have stood, as there was nothing incontrovertible to show any reason to overturn it. I would have had no problem with the call on the field staying as it was even if it was originally ruled an incomplete pass; the game happens fast, refs are forced to make calls extremely quickly, and if replays from every possible angle show that it could very well go the other way, but there’s nothing indisputably conclusive so the call has to stand, it’s tough to argue with that. But there’s just zero consistency or logic to any of these calls. Sometimes you’re on the ass end of it, sometimes it works out in your favor, and you just kind of have to hope it will all even out by the end of the season.
And the next day, instead of recapping the game and talking about how well Jones played, even in a loss with no running game and a Special Teams unit that gave up a kickoff return TD, the national dialogue was once again how nobody has any idea what a catch is. And in a season where the Patriots really struggled to score points and every game mattered in terms of the playoff race, to lose a game by a single TD on a call that should have stayed as-is because there wasn’t enough conclusive evidence to overturn it really sticks in your craw. And as annoying as it was, it was definitely one of those moments that still stands out from last season, so here it is at No. 17.
Check out the catch/non-catch here.
Full game highlights here.