Patriots

Patriots' Dont'a Hightower, NFL Twitter react to Packers-Lions penalty fiasco

Patriots' Dont'a Hightower, NFL Twitter react to Packers-Lions penalty fiasco

It's hard to blame the Detroit Lions for being upset at the officiating in their 23-22 loss to the rival Green Bay Packers on "Monday Night Football."

Lions defensive end Trey Flowers, who signed with Detroit as a free agent in the offseason after winning multiple Super Bowl titles with the New England Patriots, was called for two suspect illegal hands to the face penalties, one of which prolonged an early-fourth-quarter drive that ended with a 35-yard touchdown pass by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Flowers' first penalty came during a 3rd-and-10 play where the Lions sacked Rodgers. Green Bay likely would've punted, but the penalty resulted in an automatic first down to keep the drive alive.

Flowers was called for another illegal hands to the face penalty on Green Bay's final drive. This penalty crept the Packers closer to the end zone, and kicker Mason Crosby eventually converted a 23-yard field goal as time expired to seal a 1-point Green Bay win.

NFL Twitter, including several current and former players, were not pleased (or at least were confused) with the officiating. One of those players was Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower, who played with Flowers for three seasons. Here's a collection of notable Twitter reaction to the penalties on Flowers:


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Xavier McKinney on NFL Combine meeting with Patriots: 'It was a little tough, a little awkward'

Xavier McKinney on NFL Combine meeting with Patriots: 'It was a little tough, a little awkward'

The New England Patriots have been the subject of many NFL Combine meeting stories over the years. And 2020 has been no different.

Notably, the team told one tight end prospect that he had a "loser's mentality" at one point in their interview. They also asked one of the quarterback prospects how he would feel to replace Tom Brady. And an LSU tight end said that he was "kinda scared" in his meeting with the team.

Some haven't minded the meetings. And one Clemson Tiger actually "felt comfortable" talking to the Patriots.

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Still, the same can't be said of former Alabama safety Xavier McKinney. 

McKinney had a formal meeting with the Patriots at the combine and he called his interview with New England "tough" and "awkward".

"That was one of the harder meetings that I had. It was a little tough, a little awkward," McKinney said, per Nora Princiotti of The Boston Globe. "But Vinnie Sunseri was in there so it just made me a little more comfortable just knowing that I’ve been in the room with him plenty of other times. It was a good meeting though."

Sunseri joined the Patriots coaching staff this offseason but the former Alabama safety had previously served as a graduate assistant with Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban before. So, he had a connection with McKinney, which eased his nerves a bit.

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But McKinney said he just felt "uncertain" about the meeting coming out of it.

"Just towards the end, I wasn’t sure if they enjoyed the meeting or if I did well," McKinney said. "You kind of walk out of these meetings kind of uncertain sometimes. But I think that’s just how it goes. You just try to do the best you can."

McKinney has a good point and players often are unsure about what teams think of them. That's by design. Some teams really don't like to tip their hand in the lead-up to the draft, and the Patriots are certainly among those that keep their intentions close to the vest. 

So, it's well within the realm of possibility that the team liked McKinney. They just may not want him to realize that right away.

McKinney had 95 tackles, three sacks, and three interceptions in his final season at Alabama. He's expected to be one of the first safeties off the board and our own Phil Perry mocked him to the Patriots in his first NFL mock draft of the offseason in January.

NFL Rumors: Patriots reportedly showing interest in free agent quarterback Marcus Mariota

NFL Rumors: Patriots reportedly showing interest in free agent quarterback Marcus Mariota

The New England Patriots are facing uncertainty at quarterback this offseason. Tom Brady will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason for the first time in his career and it seems possible that he will leave New England. In fact, one ESPN reporter even said that he'd be "stunned" if Brady returns to the Patriots.

So, the Pats may find themselves looking for a new starting QB. Luckily for them, they may be looking at one of the best free-agent quarterback classes ever, so they should have a chance to add a talented player if Brady walks.

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And it appears that they are at least looking into one of the other passers on the market.

Per Pro Football Network's Tony Pauline, the Patriots are showing interest in free-agent quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Keep this in the back of your mind – with all the uncertainty surrounding Tom Brady, the New England Patriots are showing interest in soon to be free agent quarterback Marcus Mariota. The former first-round pick is being courted by several teams who may have an open competition at quarterback.

Mariota was selected No. 2 overall by the Tennessee Titans in the 2015 draft. Though he started his career off well, he plateaued after leading the team to the playoffs in 2017. His TD-INT ratio dropped from 45-to-19 in his first two seasons to 31-to-25 over the course of the next three. And after a 2-4 start to the 2019 season, in which the Titans offense just averaged 14 points per game, he was replaced by Ryan Tannehill and didn't start again.

Still, Mariota has upside. He's only 26 and if he can shake the nagging elbow injury that has plagued him the past couple of years, perhaps he'll return to the form he demonstrated earlier in his career.

While Mariota could be a sensible option for the Patriots, as our own Phil Perry noted in a recent piece, they may have competition if they do try to sign him. Pauline noted that the Colts have an interest in Mariota.