ESPN officiating expert Gerry Austin, twice a Super Bowl referee, explained why the flag was picked up in the end zone on the final play of the Patriots’ 24-20 loss to the Panthers.
Austin explains that while Rob Gronkowski was clearly grabbed in the end zone by Luke Kuechly, the flag was picked up because the ball was not catchable. It was intercepted in front of Gronkowski by Robert Lester.
“You can see that 87, Gronkowski, is going to run to the end line,” Austin explains to Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden in the video above. “He is grabbed. You’ve got a foul that’s in the making. However, if the ball is knocked down or intercepted short of getting to the receiver, then there’s no foul.”
Terrence Miles, the back judge, threw the flag. He then called in the officials and the flag was picked up by referee Clete Blakeman.
“I think he’s aware at that time that the ball has been underthrown and intercepted underneath,” Austin explains. “In order to be pass interference, it must be a catchable ball for that player. This is clearly not catchable. If you have anything, it can only be holding.”
Why wasn’t holding called?
“I don’t think at the time that that occurred, that was enough,” Austin said. “He was going where he wanted to go even though the guy had his arms around him.”