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NFL officiating chief: Crew made right call at end of Pats-Panthers

11.19.13 at 5:25 pm ET
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Dean Blandino, the NFL’s vice president of officiating, told the NFL Network on Tuesday that the officiating crew who worked Monday night’s Patriots-Panthers game — which ended with a disputed call in the end zone — made the right decision in picking up the flag.

Blandino said the officiating crew made a “tight judgment call” on the final play of the game, ruling that the “restriction” of tight end Rob Gronkowski by linebacker Luke Kuechly took place at the same time as the interception that was being made by defensive back Robert Lester. Because of that, no call should be made in that instance.

“It’s a judgment call,” Blandino said. “There was contact, but there is contact on a lot of passing plays downfield. The issue isn’t the contact; the issue is the restriction. Does it occur prior to the ball being touched? At full speed, the officials made a tight judgment call and they determined that the restriction occurred just as the ball was being touched. Again, at full speed, you could see why they made that call.”

Blandino praised the group — led by referee Clete Blakeman — for coming together and making a decision as a group.

“They have to make this call, they used proper mechanics,” Blandino said. “They got together after the play to determine that, in their judgment, that the contact occurred simultaneous with the ball being intercepted and that’s what the officials did.”

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday that the Patriots are moving on from the disputed finish and focusing on this week’s opponent, Denver.

“It doesn’t matter what I think,” Belichick said when asked about his take on the finish. “It’s whatever the officials think is the only thing that matters. It doesn’t matter what any of us think. They’re the ones who make the calls. It’s their explanation and their judgment that we all have to abide by.

“It’s not really our job to call the game — it’s to play it and coach it,” he added. “Whatever calls they make are the ones that we live with. We can’t let that affect what we’re doing, we just have to do continue to coach the techniques and do the things that are right and within the rules and assume that they’ll be officiated accordingly. So that’s how we’ll handle that.”

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