FOXBORO -- It was less than three weeks ago that the Patriots were bitten by a pass interference call that never was. On Sunday, they benefited from a pass interference call that many believe never should have been.
Two plays after the Patriots recovered an onside kick in the fourth quarter against the Browns, Tom Brady lofted a pass deep down the right sideline to rookie receiver Josh Boyce. With a step on Cleveland corner Leon McFadden, Boyce stretched out in the end zone for a potential go-ahead touchdown reception.
Immediately after the ball bounced away incomplete, a flag was thrown for pass interference. McFadden and Boyce did some hand fighting as they ran toward the goal line, and McFadden put his right hand on Boyce's back as the ball approached. McFadden did not appear to extend his arm and push Boyce, but it was deemed enough contact for a penalty.
After a timeout by Cleveland, the Patriots completed a one-yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola with 35 seconds left to take the lead, 27-26. New England later won by the same score.
On Monday night football in Week 11, the Patriots had a chance to win the game late in the fourth quarter, but Brady was intercepted in the Panthers end zone on the final play of the game while it appeared as though Brady's target, Rob Gronkowski, was interfered with.
McFadden admitted there was some contact on the play that was ruled pass interference and resulted in a 29-yard gain for the Patriots. He did not, however, believe the right call was made.
"I feel like it wasn't pass interference," McFadden said. "But all I can do is go back and look at the film and make my corrections."
His coach felt the same way.
"I did not," Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said when asked if he believed pass interference should have been called on the play. "I felt like those two were both jostling for the ball and obviously, the penalty was called. So at the end of the day it doesn't really matter what I think."
Browns cornerback Joe Haden was running alongside Boyce and McFadden as he covered Patriots receiver Julian Edelman. When he saw a flag thrown, he threw his hands in the air, quickly and vehemently disputing the call.
"I dunno know what happened," Haden said. "I saw Leon running with [Boyce]. I saw Leon running with him because I was next to him. I didn't really see . . . I saw a good play."
"Leon," Browns defensive back TJ Ward said with a laugh. "I have no comment about that call."
At Gillette Stadium, against one of the best teams in the league, the Browns weren't necessarily expecting to have any calls go their way.
"We're on the road," said Cleveland corner Jordan Poyer. "You can't expect no calls to go your way. Especially when you're playing the New England Patriots. You just have to keep playing and keep fighting."
Even after the Patriots recovered the Stephen Gostkowski onside kick, Haden admitted he felt safe with a 26-21 lead and one minute remaining in the game. The Patriots had to go 40 yards with no timeouts.
"I still knew that we just had to go out and stop them," Haden said. "They didn't have any timeouts left so we go out there and just play top down. [McFadden] did a really good job running with him.
"It just doesn't fall our way. It just doesn't."