COMMENTARY | The New England Patriots lost an exciting game in Week 11 to the Carolina Panthers, as a last-second attempt to score was erased by a controversial non-call for defensive pass interference. As the debate continues to rage over the legitimacy of the decision, it now takes its place among the other most famous referee calls in team history.
The Patriots are no stranger to playing games that have had widely debated calls. Once the dust settles from the latest, it will be interesting to see where this incident will fall among the other decisions of renown.
Here are some of the other most memorable calls (or non-calls) in New England Patriots team history:
The Snow Plow Game: On December 12, 1982, the Patriots hosted the Miami Dolphins in the midst of a heavy snow storm. New England won the game 3-0 on a late field goal by kicker John Smith after he received an unusual assist in the blustery conditions, as described by ESPN Boston's Field Yates.
In a timeout before the 33-yard field goal was attempted, stadium snow plow driver Mark Henderson took his machine out on to the field. He was supposed to be able to only remove snow to uncover the yard markers but he went the extra mile in making sure his kicker had more room and a bare path to operate.
Despite heavy protests by Miami head coach Don Shula, the action was allowed to stand and the successfully converted kick represented the only points of the game.
This non-call became a part of football lore and led to snow plows being banned from fields during games the following year.
The Tuck Rule Game: In January 2002, the Patriots hosted the Oakland Raiders in the divisional round of the playoffs. A steady snow storm slowed the game down, and things looked truly ominous late in the fourth quarter with New England trailing 13-10.
As quarterback Tom Brady attempted a pass, he was sacked by Oakland defensive back Charles Woodson, who also appeared to cause a fumble on the play that was recovered by a teammate.
Instead of the big play preserving the win for Oakland, the referees invoked the "Tuck Rule," which according to The Boston Globe's Steve Silva stated, "NFL Rule 3, Section 21, Article 2, Note 2. When [an offensive] player is holding the ball to pass it forward, any intentional forward movement of his arm starts a forward pass, even if the player loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body. Also, if the player has tucked the ball into his body and then loses possession, it is a fumble."
Given new life, the Patriots went on to tie the game on a field goal by kicker Adam Vinatieri, and then won in overtime when he was able to put another through the uprights. New England used the momentum to go on and win Super Bowl XXXVI.
The Tuck Rule was hashed and rehashed for years before finally being eliminated by owners earlier this year.
The Field Goal Push Game: The Carolina game wasn't even the first time the Patriots have experienced a controversial ending this year.
In Week 8 against the New York Jets, the game was tied at 27 in the waning seconds as New York kicker Nick Folk came in to attempt a desperate 56-yard field goal to try and tie the game. He missed the kick but received another opportunity after Patriots rookie defensive lineman Chris Jones was flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty for pushing his teammate from behind in a perceived effort to collapse the line.
After having the 15-yard penalty marked off, Folk calmly converted his second-chance kick and eked out the 30-27 victory for the Jets.
The penalty drew attention not only for the number of people who disagreed with it, but also because it was new to the rule book and was the first time it had ever been called in a game, according to Mike Pereira, the Rules Analyst for Fox Sports.
Conclusion: Any sport with referees or umpires will encounter the human element at one time or another. NFL games are fast-paced and there are many rules to uphold, so controversial calls have been and will continue to be a staple.
The Patriots have been involved in a number of these contentious moments during their history. They have benefited from some and been left in a state of frustration by others. What is clear is that they shouldn't expect this most recent polarizing call to be the worst or the last one they will experience.
In addition to the Yahoo Contributor Network, Andrew Martin has written extensively for Bleacher Report and a number of print publications and websites on the topics of history and sports (particularly the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots). He also produces his own blog and has appeared on various sports talk shows and podcasts.
You can also follow Andrew on Twitter: @HistorianAndrew.
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