Patriots on controversial calls in loss to Chiefs: 'A tough pill to swallow'

Patriots on controversial calls in loss to Chiefs: 'A tough pill to swallow'

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."

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Jimmy Garoppolo says it would be ‘hard’ so see Tom Brady leave Patriots

Jimmy Garoppolo says it would be ‘hard’ so see Tom Brady leave Patriots

MIAMI – If Jimmy Garoppolo were to give a Patriotic answer to a question about Tom Brady on Monday night, the upshot of it would have been that he was focused on his own self at this juncture.

But Garoppolo’s not a Patriot anymore so, when asked if he was curious where his former teammate may end up, the 49ers quarterback dove right in.

“Definitely,” Garoppolo said during Super Bowl Opening Night. “I think everybody’s curious. Whenever he makes a decision and whatever he decides, I’ll be happy for him.”

Garoppolo paused then added, “But … I heard Danny (Amendola) say the other day, ‘It’ll be hard to see him in anything other than a Patriots uniform.’ So we’ll see.”

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The atmosphere Monday night was positively playful as the Chiefs and 49ers met with the media en masse at Marlins Park. The Chiefs went first from 7 to 8 p.m. The Niners had the late slot, 9 to 10 p.m.

The indignation, irritation, rage, grudging respect and flat-out fatigue the Patriots inspire among the national media and football fans in general has given way to a kinder, gentler atmosphere this week, it seems.

The coaches are relatively cuddly. The quarterbacks are fresh-faced. The perpetual plumbing for scandal that accompanies every Patriots postseason run is wholly absent. Everyone wants to have a nice time.

But Garoppolo’s presence and past means the Patriots still have a hand in this one. I asked Garoppolo if he was at all eager to blaze a trail away from being thought of as a “former Patriot.”

“Your past is always part of you,” he said. “The Patriots is where I started and really introduced me to the pro game and how different it is than college. I thank everyone over there for everything they did for me. Obviously what they did there got to this point here. Everything’s tied together but the 49er team is kind of a story of its own.”

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What Tom Brady texted Jimmy Garoppolo ahead of Super Bowl Week

What Tom Brady texted Jimmy Garoppolo ahead of Super Bowl Week

For the the first time in his career, Jimmy Garoppolo will serve as a starter in the Super Bowl.

That's not to say that the former New England Patriots quarterback doesn't have experience with the Super Bowl. He earned two rings as the backup to Tom Brady during his time in New England. But now, he'll get a chance to lead the San Francisco 49ers to a title when they take on the Kansas City Chiefs.

And ahead of the game, it seems that Jimmy G is taking some advice from Brady.

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As Garoppolo told NFL Network's Michael Irvin at Super Bowl Opening Night, Brady did text Garoppolo some words of encouragement ahead of the big week.

"Yeah, he shot me a text," Garoppolo said. "Just good luck and everything like that. Go handle business. It wasn't anything complicated. It was just, 'Go handle business. Go win.'"

That sounds very much like something Brady would say. It's a page from the Patriots playbook. Stay focused, keep it simple, do your job.

We'll soon see if Garoppolo and the 49ers can execute and do their jobs when they take on the Chiefs in Sunday's Super Bowl.

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