FOXBORO -- Lost in the chaos immediately following the Patriots-Panthers regular-season matchup in November of 2013 was the fact that it was one of the best games of the year. About four years later, that reality has been largely lost to history as well. All because of how it ended.
Late in Carolina's 24-20 victory, referee Clete Blakeman's crew picked up a flag issued for pass interference called on Luke Kuechly. The former Boston College linebacker was on Rob Gronkowski in the end zone, defending against a potential game-winning pass when he hugged the 6-foot-6 tight end before the football arrived.
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No penalty. That was the officiating crew's decision. Tom Brady chased them off the field, irate. Bill Belichick said after the game that, "There was no explanation given to me. The officials ran off the field. I didn't see anything."
Judging by the replays, the Patriots had plenty to be unhappy about. Even now, Kuechly's willing to admit that.
"I might have got away with one there," he said during a conference call on Wednesday. "I'm not even going to act like I didn't. I might have got away with one."
Though the Patriots have won two Super Bowls since then, Kuechly expects to hear from fans at Gillette Stadium about the non-call when the Panthers visit to play the Patriots in Week 4.
"I'm sure somebody will say something to me," he said. "I've spent some time up there and I know what those fans are like. They love football and it'll be fun. We'll see what happens."
Panthers coach Ron Rivera says that game has been all but cast aside as his team readies for Sunday. Too much turnover between then and now. Though many of the key figures -- Brady, Cam Newton, Kuechly, Gronkowski -- are still involved, there's been too much change since then.
"There's not enough carryover," Rivera said. "Some of the things we've done, obviously, we've transitioned to some different things. And I imagine preparing some of the things that we've seen, they're different as well."
The one lesson that carries over from 2013 to 2017 for Rivera? Don't give Brady the opportunity to attempt a comeback in the fourth quarter. It was a lesson the Texans learned first-hand last weekend.
"I just remember," Rivera said, "we left too much time on the clock for Tom Brady . . . He's an experienced guy. The biggest thing you really don't want to do is let him on the field too early."