Gronkowski on final play: If refs say it's not a penalty, then that's what they say

Gronkowski on final play: If refs say it's not a penalty, then that's what they say

FOXBORO -- The Patriots loss to the Seahawks wasn't decided on one play or one set of downs. But when a team faces a first-and-goal situation at the two-yard line with 43 seconds left and a chance to tie, as Tom Brady and his teammates did, that set of downs deserves a closer examination. 

Here's how it played out, leading to New England's 31-24 loss, with commentary from Brady and the target of his final pass Rob Gronkowski. 


First-and-goal from the Seattle 2, 43 seconds remaining: After completing a 26-yard pass to Gronkowski on the previous play, Brady got his team to the line of scrimmage with a plan. They did not want to score immediately. They opted to run some clock instead, bringing backup offensive tackle Cameron Fleming into the game as an eligible tight end. 

"It was just some situational football," Brady said. "We were trying to get it very close but not in."

Brady kept the snap, surged into the middle of the line, and picked up one yard on the quarterback sneak. That forced the Seahawks to burn their final timeout as they hoped to keep as much time on the clock as possible for a potential last-ditch scoring drive in case the Patriots tied the game. 

Second-and-goal from the Seattle 1, 37 seconds remaining: Fleming reported as an eligible receiver again, but instead of allowing Brady to keep it again, the Patriots called for a LeGarrette Blount run. The 250-pound back had run for three scores to that point in the game and twice from one yard out. Had he been able to plunge in yet again, it would have drawn the Patriots to within an extra point away from a tie. 

Blount followed lead-blocker James Develin between the left guard and the center. From about two yards away, Blount left his feet to try to break the plane of the end zone. However, safety Kam Chancellor grabbed his legs, and defensive tackle Tony McDaniel was a wall, and Blount was denied. 

The Patriots called timeout with 19 seconds remaining. 

Third-and-goal from the Seattle 1, 19 seconds remaining: Fleming reported as eligible yet again, and Brady took his place under center, ready to sneak it for a second time in the previous three plays. 

This time, however, when center David Andrews snapped the ball, Brady never got a grip on it. The ball rolled around on the turf for an instant before Brady was able to scoop it up at the Seattle two-yard line.

"That was, that was just my fault on the ball-handling," Brady said. "I was going left, and Dave thought I was going straight. Just my mistake."

Fourth-and-goal from the Seattle 2, 14 seconds remaining: The Seahawks were called for 12 men on the field, moving the ball half the distance to the goal line. 

Fourth-and-goal from the Seattle 1, 14 seconds remaining: Fleming . . . eligible. Gronkowski aligned wide to Brady's left, and Brady worked out of the shotgun. Off the snap, Gronkowski charged hard at Chancellor, extending his arms on the safety. 

When Brady released the pass to the back corner of the end zone, Gronkowski tried to break free and flailed toward the football. He wasn't close. And when he got up, he looked for a flag, as did several of his teammates. There was none.  

"It didn't get called," Gronkowski replied when asked if he thought there should have been a flag. "It is what it is. If it's not [pass interference] to the refs then it's not PI to the refs so . . . it is what is is. You can't really change it."

Gronkowski insisted he wasn't going into that play with the plan of trying to bowl over Chancellor, as it appeared.

"No I wasn't [trying to force a call]," Gronkowski said. "I was going in. He was playing off me a little bit. Pretty far. Farther than usual. You usually don't see that. It was a fade so I had to go up to him, make a little move. I wasn't trying to initiate contact. It just happened. Just went up to him, just wanted to get on top of his toes. That's what you're taught. Get on top of the toes, make a little move, and release outside. I just got up on his toes a little bit too much, obviously. I wasn't trying to make contact. I was just trying to make a move and get outside and catch a fade ball."

Brady said he didn't have a good vantage point to see if there should have been a penalty called. 

"I didn't see it," Brady said. "There's a lot of . . . There's always a lot of contact with that team. Sometimes you get the calls, sometimes you don't. Certainly looks like it comes down to one play, but [there] was a lot of plays in this game that we could've done a better job of. They're a good team. We knew that going in. We had to play better than the way we played. Just too careless with the ball. They weren't. Turnovers were a big factor. We had our chances. We just didn't make enough plays."

Brady added: "They play to the end. They've been in a lot of close games and it came down to one yard at the end. And we didn't get it."

How well does Tom Brady play against former Patriots coaches?

How well does Tom Brady play against former Patriots coaches?

The Patriots will face the Detroit Lions Sunday night in the Pats latest matchup against a former Bill Belichick assistant. The Lions hired Matt Patricia after the defensive guru spent 14 seasons under Belichick in New England. But so far, Patricia and the Lions are off to a rough start (0-2), and it could get worse -- it's been well-established that former Belichick pupils have struggled against the Patriots. 


But what about Tom Brady against Patriots assistants-turned-head coaches? Patricia will be the fifth former coach Brady will face, joining Eric Mangini, Romeo Crennel, Bill O'Brien, and Josh McDaniels. Patricia will join Mangini and Crennel as former defensive coordinators to scheme against Brady, while O'Brien and McDaniels went from calling plays for Brady to trying to stop him. Who has the advantage, Brady or his coaches?


Belichick first discovered Mangini as a ball boy in Cleveland. Mangini eventually became New England's defensive coordinator for a season before accepting the head coaching job with the New York Jets. Because he was in the AFC East, Brady played Mangini the most of any former coach. Brady and the Pats went 4-2 in the regular season and 1-0 in the postseason against Mangini's Jets. Mangini's defenses picked Brady four times in those six games, but Brady still threw nine touchdowns. He completed 116 of his 190 pass attempts (61 percent) for 1,346 yards.

As head coach of the Browns in 2010, Mangini's team beat Brady and the Pats 34-14 for one of their five victories that season. Brady went 19-for-36 for 224 yards and two TDs in that game.


The defensive coordinator for the Patriots' first three Super Bowl champion squads had no answers for Brady and the New England offense in a matchup against the Browns in 2007. The 2007 NFL MVP completed 22 of 38 passing attempts (58 percent) for 265 yards, three TDs, and zero interceptions. 


Bill O'Brien called plays for the Patriots from 2009 to 2011, but is probably most known in New England for his infamous yelling match with Brady on the sidelines during a game in 2011. O'Brien is now in his fifth season as the coach of the Houston Texans and his defenses -- which, for the record, have been very good -- have had absolutely no success against Brady. The Patriots are 3-0 in regular-season games and 1-0 in the postseason when Brady starts against O'Brien. Brady threw for 1,168 yards in those four games, completing 91 of 142 passes (64 percent) and throwing 12 TDs and just three interceptions. 


McDaniels, who is in his second stint as the Patriots offensive coordinator, has a great relationship with Brady, as shown in Brady's Facebook docu-series Tom vs. Time. But in 2009, the two faced off against each other when in McDaniels' first season as Broncos head coach. McDaniels got the win in overtime, but Brady played solid. He was 19 of 33 (58 percent) for 215 yards, with two TDs and no picks. 


It's been business as usual for Brady against his former coaches, with a record of 8-3 in the regular season and 2-0 in the playoffs. In those 13 games, he completed 61 percent of his passes for 3,218 yards, 28 TDs and seven interceptions. Brady will look to continue his success against Patricia this weekend, as the Patriots look to get back on track with a win.

-- Will Lefkovich