BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots and Panthers played down to the wire in 2013, as Tom Brady came within one play of answering Cam Newton’s late touchdown drive with a comeback of his own. Unfortunately for the Patriots, referee Clete Blakeman’s crew picked up the flag on what appeared to be an obvious pass interference call on Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, ending the game in controversial fashion.
Four years later, Kuechly admits that the flag probably should have counted.
“I might have got away with one there,” said Kuechly during a Wednesday conference call. “I’m not even going to act like I didn’t. I might have got away with one.”
Brady threw in the direction of Rob Gronkowski on the infamous 2013 play, appearing to deliver a perfectly catchable touchdown ball. But Kuechly basically bear-hugged Gronkowski in the end zone without so much as glancing toward the ball, which even the linebacker admits should have resulted in a penalty and given the Patriots one more play.
Beyond the clear-as-day penalty, New England has a legitimate gripe over the non-call. Had the Patriots gotten one more chance and won the game, they would have been 13-3 and tied with the Broncos, who they had beaten earlier in the season. The 2013 AFC Championship Game would have been played in Foxboro instead of Denver, and who knows what would have happened from there.
But of course, the play is in the past, and the hope is that the referees call a better game on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. Also, the Panthers better hope they don’t give Brady a chance to win the game at all.