NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino appeared on his weekly segment on NFL Network's Total Access and discussed the way officials handled the final play of Monday night's thriller between the Carolina Panthers and the New England Patriots.
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The Patriots were driving for the game-winning score as time was running out, and Tom Brady was intercepted after there had appeared to be contact by Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly on Patriots tight end Ron Gronkowski. The back judge threw a flag after seeing the contact, but the officials picked it up and allowed the game to end in a 24-20 Panthers victory.
Blandino said Tuesday that referee Clete Blakeman's crew acted properly — though he hardly gave them a ringing endorsement either.
Some of the highlights of Blandino's segment:
• Blandino called it a "judgment play" and said that the refs had to determine the timing of the interference. "After the play, you’ll see the flag come out," he said, as he rolls through the play. "The back judge is going to signal to the side judge and they’re going to get together and have a discussion. What they’re going to talk about is when did the restriction occur in relation to the ball being touched? Because once the ball is touched you cannot have pass interference. This is a judgment call; the officials don’t have the use of replay. They don’t have slow motion replay and ultimately they ruled that the restriction occurred simultaneously with the ball being touched. When you watch it at full speed, you could see why they would make that call on the field.”
• Blandino was asked why the flag was picked up. He said: "Again, it’s a judgment call. There was contact, but there is contact on a lot of passing plays downfield. The issue isn’t the contact; the issue is the restriction. Does it occur prior to the ball being touched? At full speed, the officials made a tight judgment call, and they determined that the restriction occurred just as the ball was being touched. Again, at full speed you could see why they made that call.”
• Blandino then was asked the question everyone was asking Monday night, and into Tuesday: Were the officials wrong to make the call? Blandino: “I wouldn’t say that they were wrong. Again, they have to make this call. They used proper mechanics. They got together after the play. They determined that in their judgment the contact occurred simultaneous with the ball being intercepted and that’s why the officials did what they did.”
• Blandino said that when referees are judged and graded by the NFL, judgment calls are not taken into consideration.
• Blandino said the crew's postseason assignments — both the Patriots and Panthers are very much in the hunt right now — would not be affected by what happened on the final play.
So ... are you satisfied with Blandino's response? Does this sew things up? Or is there still lingering doubt?
The telling part might be when Blandino was asked if the officials were wrong. He easily could have made a firmer stance and said, no, in fact, they were correct. Instead, he praised the process and continued to call it a judgment call. Blandino in essence was saying that it might not have been the right call with another set of eyes on the play but that the officials conferred and handled it correctly.
Do you have another take on Blandino's day-after assessment?
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