By Tom E. Curran
After Sunday's loss, I asked both Tom Brady and Deion Branch about one of the big plays in Sunday's 24-23 loss to the Seahawks.
With 2:52 left in the game and the Patriots facing third-and-8, Branch was split wide to the left and ran a slant.
A heartbeat before the ball arrived, Seattle corner Brandon Browner went through a diving Branch, pretty much obliterating his chance to make the play.
No pass interference was called and the Patriots punted. It worked out badly from there.
Both players nodded when asked about that play. Both also referenced Branch getting held near the end zone as being a bigger call.
Neither Brady nor Branch said when the hold occurred but when watching the game back, it's obvious what they were referring to.
On both the second and third-down plays before the half, Branch was Brady's first read and on both plays, Branch was in the embrace of linebacker K.J. Wright when Brady looked to him.
On the second-down play, Brady reloaded and threw late to Rob Gronkowski. That pass was nearly intercepted by Earl Thomas.
On the third down play with six seconds left in the half, Brady had ducked from pressure and, upon finding Branch in a chokehold, threw it out of the end zone. The result then was an intentional grounding and the 10-second runoff cost the Patriots a chance to score any points before the break.
Brady's gotten a lot of heat for bungling the final play of the half and it's been alleged locally that the Patriots were arrogant for not taking the field goal at that point. The fact is, though, that the Patriots actually ran the play in four seconds and - had Brady not been called for grounding - there should have been two seconds on the clock.
The mistake wasn't running the play. The mistake was that Brady should have thrown the ball at Branch's feet to attract attention to the ongoing hold and stop the clock.
And the bigger mistake was the blatant defensive holding that went uncalled.
The Patriots were guilty of awful clock management on that half-ending series and that's the second week in a row they've been discombobulated going into the break.
But a look at the tape from Sunday helps explain why the most criticized play of the game for the Patriots offense unfolded the way it did.
Another play less referenced but perhaps even more impactful on the final score came with 7:21 left in the fourth. On fourth-and-3 from the Patriots' 10, Russell Wilson threw a fade to the back shoulder of Braylon Edwards. Edwards, covered on the play by Alfonzo Dennard, hit the brakes and began to work back to the ball. On the replay, you can see Edwards reach over Dennard and pull Dennard's jersey to get leverage to get back to the ball. Dennard (whose left arm is obscured by Edwards) wound up in no-man's land. A flag flew and - on that play that meant either points for the Seahawks or the Patriots getting the ball ahead 13 points - the call went against Dennard. A no-call was in order and, watching the tape, if any call was made it should have been offensive pass interference.