CHARLOTTE -- Clete Blakeman’s explanation of how the fateful final flag came to be picked up isn’t going to make Patriots fans feel much better.
In an interview with New England pool reporter Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com and Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, Blakeman explained that, after the back judge threw the flag for Luke Kuechly’s end zone contact with Rob Gronkowski, “There were two officials that came in,” Blakeman began.
The umpire and side judge joined in the discussion, said Blakeman. “There was a discussion at that point as to the, in essence, the catchability of the ball due to its location. So it was determined at that point in time that when the primary contact occurred on the tight end that the ball, in essence, was coming in underthrown and in essence it was immediate at that point intercepted at the front of the end zone. So there was a determination that, in essence, uncatchability, that the ball was intercepted at or about the same time the primary contact against the receiver occurred.”
Those having seen replays and the captured images will note that the ball was not at the front of the end zone and that contact with Gronkowski was initiated well before the ball was picked off.
Blakeman said he and his crew reviewed the video in the official’s locker room.
“We all saw it, looked at it and that was, in essence, it pretty much mirrored the discussion that occurred,” Blakeman said. “Terrence Miles, our back judge, saw the contact, he saw what he saw and threw on it. And then the discussion came in with respect to the ball and its location and the defender who ultimately basically undercut the play and intercepted it at them in essence, the middle to front part of the end zone.”
Given the length of official conferences during games over minor scenarios and the detailed explanations that follow, it was unconscionable for the Blakeman and his crew to pick up the flag and exit the field without giving the two teams and – more importantly – the American viewing public an explanation.
Asked if he was confident they got it right, Blakeman said, “Yeah, in review, yeah. I think so. I’m pleased that…well, two situations. You never like to end the game with some controversy like that on a call but I’m pleased that our officiating crew got together and communicated and discussed it and, ultimately, I believe we got it right. So that to me is the part that is coming away from it. I’m pleased that our crew was able to discuss it and make the right call.”