The New England Patriots offense was in full swing Thursday night in the third quarter, moving the ball at will against the Minnesota Vikings defense. It appeared that Hunter Henry, Pat’s tight end, scored his second TD in as many drives, but the 6-yard score was negated by another play, forcing the Patriots to settle for a field goal.
The four-point swing was a killer for New England, which eventually fell 33-26.
“I think I caught him,” said Henry after the game through ESPN. “He said he hit the ground. But I believe my hand was under the ball. The hand was under the ball, so it jumped up hitting the ground.
“They called. I just have to learn to live with it.”
Henry grabbed the ball and reached the pigskin across the goal line. Referees called the game a touchdown live. After assessment, it was determined that Henry did not maintain control as he went to ground.
Bill Belichick was in no mood to repeat the key game.
“Why don’t you take your pool reporter to the umpires and ask them about the game and let them explain it to you?” he replied after the game. “Okay? Isn’t that what you do? Thank you.”
Okay, Bill, let’s get on with that. You don’t have to be wary.
ESPN’s Mike Reiss spoke to NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Walt Anderson, who said the ball hit the ground, then Henry lost control, leading to the incomplete ruling.
Anderson was asked why Henry was not given possession before the ball hit the ground.
“Because when he goes down, he has to keep control of the ball when he hits the ground,” he said. “The term that is often used is ‘surviving the ground’… he has the elements of two feet and control, but because he goes to ground, he has to control the ball.”
With Henry’s hand under the ball, it’s challenging to watch the strip of pigskin hit the turf that caused the incomplete pass. You have to slow down the game frame by frame to see the ball slide across the ground. To use a Jerry Jones line, it felt like umpires were cutting a mosquito to see if the ball hit the ground.
Usually in such situations the call is left on the field because it is not “clear and obvious”. However, the replay team believed it was clear, even though most of the play’s viewers were torn.
Even Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell was surprised that the touchdown was reversed.
“I think it’s one of those things that could have gone a lot of different ways. I was really happy it went the way it did,” said O’Connell.
When asked about the Friday morning play, Belichick noted that there was still time to play after the decision.
“I don’t know. It was a four-point game,” he said when asked how much the momentum was hampered by the rating, via Alex Barth of 98.5 The Sports Hub. ‘I don’t know. Many more things have happened.’
Along the stretch, the New England offense had chances to make a play, but fell short, going 3-and-out on the next two possessions before a turnover on downs and a futile penalty drive with no timeouts left.
“We have to get rid of that [overturned] play and play the rest of the game. There was plenty of time left,” quarterback MacJones said. “There were other times we could have smashed it in and that wouldn’t have been a problem. One phone call can’t determine the outcome. We have to be able to do better, so it’s not even close.”
The loss dropped the Pats to 6-5, and currently out of the playoff position in the AFC.