Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
"You blew it!!!"
These are the immortal words of hotel tycoon/high school graduate, Billy Madison (Knibb High football rules!), arguably the greatest character Adam Sandler's sick mind has ever created.
I assume that was the gist of what Tom Brady was saying to head referee, Clete Blakeman, while exiting the field on Monday night.
Okay, maybe I cleaned it up a little. Thankfully, Jon Gruden kept his thoughts on Monday's controversial ending PG-rated enough for us to print them.
"You have to call something," Gruden said of Clete's no-call on what looked to be a pass interference penalty by Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly. "Calling it an uncatchable pass is a cop-out."
What say you, Mike Golic?
"In my opinion, that was the wrong call," Golic said on Tuesday's broadcast of Mike and Mike.
Even Golic's co-host Mike Greenberg, a man who has never masked his hatred for all things Patriots, was in disbelief. "If that isn't pass interference, then nothing is pass interference."
Call it Hug-Gate. Call it everything that's wrong with the NFL. Call it the craziest game you've ever seen.
Call it whatever you want. It's not going to change the outcome. The Panthers won and the Patriots lost.
Was it the right call? Probably not. And for a Patriots team with about two healthy defenders left (not to mention a daunting matchup with Denver in Week 12), that reality is pretty devastating.
But that isn't even the half of it. Think of all the fantasy games that were won and lost on one of the most controversial finishes in recent memory.
Let's say you had Tom Brady in one league going up against Carolina's defense. If the play had gone the other way, as initially signaled by Blakeman, it could have been at least a four-point swing.
In standard leagues, the Carolina defense finished with five points while Brady put up 13. Without Rob Lester's interception on the last play, Brady finishes with 15 points to Carolina's three.
But let's suppose pass interference is called and the Patriots get an un-timed first down at the one-yard line. The 17-yard penalty would have pushed New England's yardage total from 390 to 407. That enters the Carolina defense into a separate yardage threshold and strips them of at least one fantasy point. Suddenly, Carolina's defense, once at five points, is down to just two.
And that's before we factor in the touchdown that New England never had a chance to score. The Patriots would have had a number of different options at the goal line.
The most obvious would have been to give it to the team's designated goal line back, Stevan Ridley. The one-yard gain wouldn't have mattered as Ridley was two away from the next threshold (he finished with 48 yards), but the touchdown would have pushed his total from eight points to a far more respectable 14.
Another option would have been to try the QB sneak. Though risky, Brady has been one of the league's best when it comes to short yardage situations. The 36-year-old has amassed seven rushing touchdowns in his last two and a half seasons. The longest of those touchdowns came from just four yards out.
Remember, rushing scores are worth two more points than passing touchdowns, so the six points would have brought Brady's total to 19 points for the night.
And of course, there's another possibility. Bill Belichick could have gone way outside the box and opted for a throw, probably to the 6-foot-7 Rob Gronkowski in the back of the end zone or maybe to Danny Amendola on a quick slant. That would have been four points for Brady and seven more for Gronkowski (the one- yard gain would trigger an extra point as Gronkowski's yardage total would increase from 59 to 60). An Amendola one-yard score would have brought his total to double-digits (four to ten).
Calling pass interference probably would have started a riot in downtown Charlotte, which certainly had to be a factor in Blakeman's decision to pick up the flag. But he did have another option, one that probably would have been a fair compromise to both sides. Blakeman could have whistled Kuechly for holding, a five-yard penalty and an automatic first down. New England then would have had one last chance to win it from the 13-yard line.
It could have been intercepted again (most Hail Mary throws are) but it's not inconceivable that Brady could have punched it in from that distance. In fact, his game-winning toss to Kenbrell Thompkins against New Orleans back in Week 6 actually traveled 17 yards, four yards longer than the throw he would have attempted had holding been the call.
Knowing he dodged a bullet by not getting called for pass interference, Kuechly probably would have backed off Gronkowski a bit, giving New England's hulking tight end an added yard or two to secure the catch. A touchdown from that distance would have upped Gronkowski's fantasy tally to 19 points while propelling Brady from 13 to an even 20 (the 13 yards would have pushed Brady over the 300-yard mark, thus triggering another point).
So no wonder Brady had some colorful things to say as he left the field. He probably had Gronkowski on his fantasy team.
Or maybe he had money on the Patriots. New England entered the game as three- point underdogs. They lost by four.
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