The New England Patriots got off to a disastrous start against the Dolphins in Miami on Sunday, and the officials didn't help their cause.
The Dolphins already led the Patriots 14-0 late in the first quarter of their regular-season finale when they attempted a fake punt on fourth-and-3.
Punter Michael Palardy didn't reach the first-down marker, but New England's Brandon Bolden was called for unnecessary roughness after appearing to hit Palardy in the head as Palardy slid feet-first.
Slow-motion replay revealed that Bolden barely grazed Palardy's shoulder, however, and didn't make contact with the punter's head. But after a brief conference, the head referee Alex Kemp and his crew stuck with the call, assessing a 15-yard penalty that gave Miami a first down and set up a field goal which stretched the Dolphins' lead to 17-0.
The CBS broadcast brought in former NFL official Gene Steratore to assess whether the right call was made, and Steratore responded with a very polite "no."
"You wouldn't want to see a foul on this play, but this play is really a difficult play to referee in real time," Steratore said on the broadcast.
Injured Patriots running back James White had a bit of a stronger take about the play.
While it's true that Bolden's "hit" may have looked like a penalty in real time, the replay clearly showed he avoided serious contact with Palardy and shouldn't have been penalized.
Alas, penalties aren't reviewable in this situation, so Bill Belichick and the Patriots had no recourse for what was an unfortunate break at an unfortunate time.