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Rob Ninkovich on M&M: ‘It’s a blatant foul’

11.19.13 at 12:29 pm ET

Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich joined Mut & Merloni on Tuesday, following Monday night’s controversial loss to the Panthers, and voiced his opinion on the non-call that ended the game.

Rob Gronkowski was impeded by Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly in the end zone and a flag was thrown, but the officials determined the ball was not catchable and called off the penalty, giving Carolina a 24-20 victory.

“When you see a play like that — on the previous drive when Devin [McCourty] is holding his arms in the air and the tight end is pulling his arms to him and they call you for holding, that’s frustrating,” Ninkovich said. “And then when they throw a flag at the end of the game, you think, OK, it’s a blatant foul, the foul’s made, there’s a guy being [fouled], both arms are being wrapped around the receiver as the ball’s in the air, a foul’s a foul. No matter what it is, the ball’s there. It’s not like the ball’s 20 feet over his head or it lands on the 5-yard line or something. The ball’s there.  ‘€¦ Anything within three feet of Gronk is a catchable ball.”

Ninkovich said the lack of an explanation on the field left the Patriots upset.

“That’s the frustrating part. You’re wanting to hear an explanation for why the flag was picked up and to clarify it or justify the reasoning behind it. The guy that threw the flag was the one that was standing right behind the ball, right there. And the side ref came over and said it wasn’t catchable. Anyone knows if you’re 20 yards away from the action, the ball might have looked not catchable, but when you’re right there — if you look at the replay, the ref that was right behind Gronk threw the flag.

“I don’t know. It’s a tough way to lose a game, especially when your offense does so well to get down to that point, and it’s an obvious foul. It should have been at least a five-yard penalty. If it wasn’t pass interference, it was defensive holding.”

That said, Ninkovich acknowledged that the Patriots had chances to win the game had they played better prior to that last play.

“There’s a ton of plays we could have done better, should have played better,” he said. “There’s always a handful of plays that change the game. I can think of three, four plays myself that defensively I could have done better and I should have not let the quarterback step up in the pocket. You’re always thinking about a certain play here or a certain play there. There’s never a perfect game, but at the end of the game, you want to feel good about what you did. I feel like we just had a bad taste in our mouth after that game. We should have definitely capitalized on our opportunities better.”

The Patriots are back in action Sunday night with a game against the Broncos, who are tied for the best record in the AFC at 9-1.

“We’re playing a big game. You’ve just got to turn the page on this last game here and move on from it,” Ninkovich said. “You can’t dwell on it and think about it during the week of preparation for Denver. We’re going to move on from it and try to learn from the mistakes that we made. It’s still a long season. We’ve got a lot of games to play. We’re still in a good position. We just have to continue to press on and improve and keep winning football games.”

Sunday night’s game will mark the return to Foxboro for Wes Welker, assuming he is recovered from his concussion suffered in Denver’s last game.

“I don’t think it will be any different. We’re just going to go out and play hard,” Ninkovich said. “We’ve got to prepare hard for Wes, he’s a great football player, we all know that. Again, just go out there and play just like it’s any other game. Just go after it. I’m still going to hit Wes like I hit any receiver. It will definitely be a fun game, a lot of excitement for this game.”

To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at

Read More: Devin McCourty, Rob Gronkowski, Rob Ninkovich, Wes Welker



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