During his weekly radio interview, Tom Brady admitted that the Patriots offense could have done more even though it put up 30 against the Panthers. But he also implied that he felt as though he had two opponents at times on Sunday: Ron Rivera's defense and Jerome Boger's officiating crew.
“Yeah, I mean they called it pretty tight on us yesterday," Brady told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan show. "I’ve watched the film a bunch of times. We just didn’t get the calls. I guess they got the calls and we didn’t get them. I don’t know what to say."
The Patriots were docked for two offensive pass interference penalties -- one each on Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola -- as well as two hands-to-the-face penalties on Stephon Gilmore. In all, they were flagged seven times for 55 yards. The Panthers were flagged once for 33 yards on a pass-interference call that was made when Gronkowski was contacted down the field.
The Gronkowski offensive pass-interference penalty seemed to be handed down after minimal contact. Amendola's was more obvious because of the amount of contact, but it seemed as though the defender cut off Amendola mid-route.
Brady clearly didn't love either call.
"Gronk is doing what he’s got to do to get open. There was such minimal contact and the ref just felt . . . they were cued up ready to throw it," Brady said. "It is what it is. We didn’t get it. We overcame that one and the one to Danny, we didn’t overcome. Danny is just trying to get across the guy's face. The guy kind of contacted him, Danny is trying to shed him on his route. I don’t know what they can do more than that."
Brady indicated that there's a history of Boger's crew calling things closely while working Patriots games. Since 2007, Boger’s crew has consistently thrown more flags for more yards than the league average.
“Again, they were calling it tight on us," he said. "From previous [games], that crew has called much more penalties on us than the other team. We just have to figure out how to play and tighten it up. If we don’t get the calls, we don’t get them, we still have to go out and play better than we’ve played. It’s just about us doing our job better, all of us. And we can. It’s not like that was the best game we could possibly play and we lost.
"I think we all know we can play better and if we play better we’ll win. It’s got to be done, just not talked about. That brings more urgency to everything we’re doing. The meetings, the practices, the games. We can’t let up for one second. We have to keep pushing each other to be at our best. Hopefully over the course of the next three months we can rise to a much higher level than we’re at high now."
FOXBORO -- The Patriots went into Sunday night's game with only three corners available to them, and even one of those was questionable. Pitted against a Falcons attack that features the reigning MVP and one of the most physically-gifted receivers to ever play, that felt like a problem.
It still might be, but that one questionable corner -- Johnson Bademosi (abdomen) -- will be in uniform to help thwart Julio Jones and Co. Patriots tight end Jacob Hollister (questionable with a chest injury) is also active and in uniform.
The Patriots ruled out three players in the days leading up to the game: corners Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe and defensive end Harvey Langi. Joining them as inactive on Sunday night at Elandon Roberts (ankle), Geneo Grissom (healthy scratch), Cam Fleming (healthy scratch) and Cole Croston (healthy scratch).
Running back Rex Burkhead will be available to the Patriots for the first time since Week 2 when he injured his ribs against the Saints. Though he's only seen a very limited number of snaps this season, when he was on the field through the first two weeks he was heavily involved. He's seen just 18 offensive snaps, but he's carried the ball five times and he's been targeted seven times in the passing game.
Also in uniform will be veteran linebacker David Harris. He's played just seven snaps this season, but with Roberts out, maybe this is the week when he sees more playing time. He should slot in behind Kyle Van Noy and Dont'a Hightower as New England's off-the-ball 'backers.
PITTSBURGH - Ben Roethlisberger threw for 224 yards and two touchdowns, Le'Veon Bell added 192 total yards and Pittsburgh's defense dominated the Cincinnati Bengals in the second half of a 29-14 victory on Sunday.
The Steelers (5-2) relied on their stars to take the lead and then on their reinvigorated defense to blunt Cincinnati's and give themselves a significant cushion over the rest of the underwhelming AFC North.
The Bengals (2-4) came in looking to add some street cred to their resurgence after their 0-3 start, but instead spent the second half reverting to the kind of ineffective offense that got Ken Zampese fired two weeks into the season. The Steelers picked off Andy Dalton twice and sacked him three times over the final two quarters to pull away.
Chris Boswell added five field goals for Pittsburgh, which posted its highest points total and appears to be rounding into form as Halloween nears.
Two weeks after openly questioning whether he still "had it," Roethlisberger put together easily his best half of the season. He hit Antonio Brown for a 7-yard touchdown to cap Pittsburgh's first drive, found a wide-open JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 31-yard score in the second quarter and threw a perfectly placed 23-yard deep out to Brown late in the second quarter to spark a drive that ended with a 24-yard Chris Boswell field goal that put the Steelers up 20-14 at the half.
Dalton and Cincinnati appeared ready to keep pace early. He connected with Brandon LaFell and Tyler Kroft with first-half touchdowns, but when the Steelers turned the pressure up, the Bengals crumbled while losing for the eighth time in their last nine meets with their longtime nemesis.
Cincinnati managed just one first down in the second half, much of which Dalton spent on the run or throwing picks. Joe Haden collected his first interception with Pittsburgh when he made a juggling grab that set up Boswell's field goal. William Gay added one later in the third quarter on an ugly overthrow by Dalton.
Dalton finished 17 of 30 for 144 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The Bengals had just 19 yards of total offense in the second half. Given one last desperate shot to get back in it with 5 minutes left trailing by 15, Dalton threw the ball away on fourth down, a microcosm of a forgettable afternoon.