BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots suffered their first loss of the season Sunday night, falling to the Denver Broncos 30-24 in overtime.
It was a game that will likely go down as one of the best of the season, but as it seems with every game in the NFL this year, it didn’t come without some controversy regarding the officiating.
While there were no “inadvertent whistles” in this one, there were plenty of flags that left players and fans alike shaking their heads. Two questionable flags hurt the Patriots in the fourth quarter: An offensive pass interference on Rob Gronkowski that negated a 10-yard gain on third-and-5, and a defensive holding on safety Patrick Chung that wiped out a sack for the New England defense that would have had the Broncos facing a third-and-goal from the 15-yard line.
The Patriots were forced to punt a play after Gronkowski’s flag, and the Broncos scored the go-ahead touchdown after Chung’s penalty.
Boomer Esiason of The NFL Today and WFAN joined Toucher & Rich on Monday morning to discuss the Patriots’ loss, and said those questionable calls by the refs spoiled what was an otherwise great game.
“It’s unfortunate because the only way you can beat the Patriots is if you take four of their top offensive players off the field, the officials have their hand in the game, and then you have to have some momentum switch because [Chris Harper] muffs a punt. The officials were calling penalties all over the place, some legit some not so legit. I feel like the officials last night really let the game get out of control. There were questionable calls, especially the offensive pass interference on Gronkowski. The holding in the end zone on Chung was very questionable,” said Boomer. “It seemed liked the entire fourth quarter there was a yellow flag on the field, and when it was thrown it was against the Patriots. The whole thing was spiraling out of control.
“Even with all that happen, Tom Brady still got the team back for the game-tying field goal by Gostkowski,” added Boomer, who said Brady played one of his best games of the season despite not having most of his top receivers. “For whatever reason, after the muffed punt, the whole game went south for the Patriots.”
Gronkowski, who appears to be OK after an injury scare late in the game, has been flagged for offensive pass interference an NFL-high five times this season.
“I don’t know if [those flags are] unfair, but that call last night was ticky tack, as was the call against Chung. You could call these on every single pass play where there’s two players next to each other. You can’t cover a guy in the NFL anymore,” said Boomer. “I don’t want to sit here and cry about the officiating or sound like I’m doing that, but when the game is on the line you have to let them play. You just have to let them play.
“Last night, the game was so choppy because the amount of flags thrown late in the game. It was unfortunate because it was a great football game,” he said.
One solution people have been kicking around is making NFL officials full-time employees of the league, but Boomer doesn’t think that will fix all the issues plaguing refs this season.
“For the most part they do a very good job. If you watch the game in slow motion they make calls that are frustrating, but they are the right calls more often than not,” he said. “The unfortunate thing for these officials is some of these blunders and mixups happen in these high-profile games. We had another issue with the clock last night — they called it an extra timeout [for a Denver injury]. What the ref failed to mention to Tom Brady and the Patriots was they were going to start the clock when they put the ball into play. As [Cris] Collinsworth pointed out last night, the rule book is like the IRS tax book and no one understands it.”
Boomer said he’s also heard of some problems with referees and their boss at the league offices.
“There is a building resentment, I believe, that the referees have towards Dean Blandino, the head of officiating in the NFL offices. The reason is because he is way too open about some of the mistakes that have been made, and he’s trying to hold them accountable by suspending them and taking them off of major games,” said Boomer.
Boomer also touches on the hit that sidelined Rob Gronkowski and what the Broncos should do with Peyton Manning the rest of the season: