FOXBORO — Bill Belichick wasn't thrilled. He stood at the podium in the belly of Gillette Stadium, his team coming off of its second consecutive loss, and he was peppered with questions about the officiating. This after he'd said in his opening remarks, "A lot of other circumstances in the game; no point in talking about those."
The officiating queries came anyway.
"You'd have to talk to them about that," he said. "I'm not going to speak for them."
Asked if calls made by Jerome Boger's crew impacted his team's ability to sustain any momentum: "I don't know," he said.
In all, there were 15 penalties called for 161 yards in the game, and penalties were among the calls garnering attention after the fact. But the calls that generated the most buzz in the Patriots locker room weren't penalties. The headliner was the call that took points off the board for Belichick's team early in the fourth quarter.
Tom Brady hit rookie N'Keal Harry with a short pass that he took down to the goal line. Diving into the end zone, it appeared as though Harry had scored a touchdown. He celebrated as though he had. Replays showed he remained in bounds. But one official marked him out of bounds at the three-yard line.
The Patriots weren't able to challenge the play — they were out of challenges after losing a pass-interference challenge earlier in the game — and they kicked a field goal three plays later to make the score 23-16.
"We still had a chance to win," Brady said. "Wish we could have scored there at the end."
A touchdown and an extra point would've made the score 23-20, meaning on the final Patriots drive of the game, where they entered deep into Chiefs territory, they would've been able to kick a chip-shot field goal to tie it.
"I thought it was a touchdown," said Harry, who left the game with a hip injury. "I'm pretty sure everybody else thought it was a touchdown. It's something that's out of our control, out of my control.
"It's definitely frustrating, but at the end of the day I was always told to control what I could control. I felt like I did that. I felt like my effort was good. That's all I can give."
ESPN's Mike Reiss, serving as the pool reporter, spoke to Boger after the game about the call.
"What led to it was the covering official on the wing was blocked out by defenders," Boger said. "The downfield official who was on the goal line and looking back toward the field of play had that he stepped out at the three-yard line. So, they got together and conferred on that. The final ruling was that he was out of bounds at the three-yard line."
Calling the play a touchdown and then using replay to the crew's advantage — since all scores are reviewed — was not discussed as an option, Boger explained.
"Not really. Those two officials who were covering it, they look at it in real time," he said. "This case was unique in that the guy who would have ruled touchdown had him short. So maybe if that ruling official on the goal line had a touchdown, we could have gotten into that, but he thought that that guy stepped out of bounds. The goal line wasn’t in the play."
The reason the Patriots couldn't challenge the Harry play was because they'd had a challenge fail earlier in the contest. Late in the third quarter, Belichick threw his red hanky when on a third-and-4 play Stephon Gilmore got picked by Travis Kelce, allowing a catch to Sammy Watkins. Watkins was tackled right near the line to gain, and so Belichick was challenging both the pass interference and the spot of the ball.
The challenge failed, which meant they'd have just one more challenge for the game, even if that next challenge succeeded.
Later in the third quarter, on a third-down pass to Kelce, Devin McCourty punched out the football and Gilmore recovered it quickly with a good deal of open space in front of him. The play was whistled dead.
The Patriots challenged and won. It was a momentum-shifter, but the fact that they had to use their challenge at all — on a play that was clearly fumbled upon review, no guesswork there — bothered the Patriots after the fact.
"It sucks because at the end of the day, we felt like those were plays that were gonna help us change the momentum of the game and put us in a good spot to eventually win the football game," safety Duron Harmon said. "It was taken away from us. I know the refs, they have a hard job. I'm not going to sit here and say obviously their job is easy. 'Just make a better call, and do this better.' At the end of the day, we all have a job. We all get paid money to do the job and do it well."
Harmon added: "I just feel empty. We played a good team and had a chance to win. We didn't win. Like I said, I'm not going to just sit here and blame the refs. The Chiefs probably feel some calls could've gone their way, didn't go their way, but at the end of the day when you got two touchdowns taken away from you, that's always a tough pill to swallow."
The Patriots finished the game going 1-for-3 in the red zone. They were 3-for-15 on third and fourth down. They averaged — including three sacks — just 4.6 yards per pass. They averaged 3.4 yards per carry in the first half against a defense that was allowing over 5.0 for the season.
There was plenty they could have done to help themselves. But it's not hyperbole to say that final drive — which resulted in a fourth-down pass breakup on a Brady attempt to Julian Edelman — should have been an opportunity for them to tie the game with an easy field goal.
"You don't wanna blame officiating," Harmon said, "because at the end of the day, we still had an opportunity to win."
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.