The New England Patriots lost for the third time in their last five games on Sunday, but this time, fans had something other than an inept offense to blame (though the offense was still plenty inept).
The Kansas City Chiefs snapped the Patriots’ home winning streak at 21 games, prevailing 23-16 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Patriots fans and Boston-area media outlets are howling about two bad calls in the second half, both of which they say denied the Patriots touchdowns.
The first controversial play occurred at the end of the third quarter, as Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce had the ball poked out of his hands just before he hit the ground.
— Steven Van Over (@StevenVanOver) December 8, 2019
Referees blew the play dead as Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore scooped the ball up and took off with it.
The Patriots were given possession of the ball after a review, but fans argued Gilmore would have scored a touchdown if the play hadn’t been blown dead prematurely.
As many of you noted, it also should’ve been Stephon Gilmore’s second touchdown of the season. Jerome Boger’s crew REALLY screwed up there. https://t.co/SzlXPczPrX
— Matt Dolloff (@mattdolloff) December 8, 2019
But claiming Gilmore would have scored on the play is a strange assertion to make, seeing as how there were three Chiefs players ahead of Gilmore — all of whom would seemingly have had a decent chance of tackling him.
Sure, Gilmore had a chance at scoring a touchdown, but it seems less than likely that he would have.
The second controversial play was more clear cut — the Patriots definitely would have scored a touchdown if not for an officiating error.
Patriots rookie receiver N’Keal Harry caught a pass in the flats before breaking multiple tackles and diving across the goal line. But instead of ruling it a touchdown, the officials decided he had stepped out of bounds at the three-yard line.
I thought N’Keal Harry reminded me a lot of Dez Bryant coming out of the draft. Just a guy that plays with so much physicality, grit, and has an edge to him.
This play reminded me of the bright future he has in this league. pic.twitter.com/ADLexypIOM
— Boston Cream 🍩 (@itsbostoncream) December 9, 2019
Because the Patriots had no challenges remaining, the call on the field stood even though it was obviously incorrect.
Despite a first-and-goal, the Patriots were unable to put the ball in the end zone and ended up settling for a field goal.
While this was a clear officiating error that you’d like to see the referees get right on the field, mistakes like this happen and won’t stop happening anytime soon.
It would have been easy enough to overturn after an official replay review, but an inexplicable inconsistency in the rulebook prevented that from happening.
All touchdowns are automatically reviewed, but for some reason that does not extend to plays that may have been a touchdown but are not ruled as such on the field. The NFL could easily change this rule in order to prevent situations like this from occurring.
It’s worth mentioning that Patriots fans insisting they would have won the game if not for these two calls are exaggerating.
The Harry play happened on the ensuing Patriots possession after the Kelce fumble.
If the fumble hadn’t been blown dead and Gilmore had returned it for a touchdown, the Harry play never would have occurred. And if Harry’s would-be touchdown had been automatically reviewed, the missed call on Gilmore’s return would not have ended up mattering.
If one of those two plays had been a touchdown, the Patriots likely would have been able to kick a field goal to tie the score on their final drive, sending the game to overtime.
Poor officiating or not, the Patriots will need to quickly regroup if they want to turn around what has been a dismal second half of the season so far.
The Buffalo Bills are now breathing down their necks for the AFC East title, and the two teams will meet in Week 16 for a pivotal game.
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