The Patriots lost 26-10 to the Chiefs on Monday night, but things might have turned out differently if not for a controversial call before the end of the half.
With the Patriots trailing just 6-3, the New England defense appeared to come up with a fumble after a sack of Patrick Mahomes. The turnover would have given New England a possession already in Chiefs territory, and the possibility of either tying at 6-6 or perhaps taking the lead.
But officials blew the play dead, and it was ruled no turnover. Patriots coach Bill Belichick was heated afterward.
A closer look at the play sure makes it look like a fumble. Mahomes is still moving around, and the ball comes out of his hands before his body hits the ground. It also did not appear to be a throwaway, as the New England defender looked to have batted the ball out of Mahomes’ hand.
So what gives? A rule of “in the grasp” was called by the officials on the field. The NFL rulebook mentions “in the grasp” as part of its section on roughing the passer.
Here’s what it says:
“The Referee must blow the play dead as soon as the passer is clearly in the grasp and control of any tackler behind the line, and the passer’s safety is in jeopardy.”
Referee Tony Corrente spoke with a reporter after the game to explain his call.
Here’s the exchange:
Question: Why was in the grasp called (on a 3rd-and-4 play with 6:22 remaining in the second quarter)? It looked like the quarterback was on his way to the ground as the ball was coming out.
Corrente: “I felt that he was being controlled quite a bit prior to him actually going to the ground. And as he was being controlled, other players were coming in at him. And so with those other players baring down on him, a quarterback is considered in the grasp and his forward progress is considered stopped when I feel as though the player’s safety is being jeopardized. And that was the case in this instance. So, rather than allow him to get hit by a second and third player, we shut it down and considered it forward progress at that point.”
Question: Could New England have challenged that play since they made a clear recovery?
Corrente: “No, because the play was shut down and stopped prior to the fumble occurring, or prior to him losing control of the football. There was no reviewable aspect of that play.”
Mahomes also was asked about the play after the game.
“I immediately heard the whistle blow. I mean, obviously, I didn’t know what reason it was, if I was down or whether it was based on my forward progress. But I heard the whistle blow and so I just went along with the game,” Mahomes said. “And, obviously, it was a play that hopefully I don’t encounter again.”
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