I’ll tell the Patriots and their fans the same thing I told the Ravens and their faithful followers who bellyached in the wake of last week’s loss at Philadelphia: Please don’t cry about the officials.
New England lost Sunday night’s game in Baltimore because they had two chances to put away the game and they failed.
It’s that simple.
The Patriots had a 2-point lead when they got the ball back with four minutes remaining. All Tom Brady and Company had to do was pick up a few first downs and the game was in the bag. But they couldn’t do it.
Baltimore’s offense took the field with two minutes left on their own 21 yard line. The Patriots defense merely needed a hold — anything to keep the Ravens from a field goal — and they were winners. They couldn’t do that, either.
Two chances to win. Two failures.
The same thing happened to the Ravens last week in Philly.
Afterwards, Joe Flacco and Ray Lewis took on the refs when, honestly, they should have been chastising themselves for failing to come through with the game on the line.
New England faces the same type of self-examination in the aftermath of a 4th quarter collapse at M&T Bank Stadium. Their offense failed — and so did their defense — when the chips were down.
Now…were the officials horrendous on Sunday night in Baltimore?
Absolutely. There were bad calls and missed calls throughout the sixty minutes.
But the officials weren’t covering Torrey Smith on Sunday night. Someone from the Patriots was…or, perhaps I should say, someone from the Patriots was “supposed to be” covering him.
The national focus will no doubt center on the officials Monday and Tuesday. As it should, frankly. While New England did itself in with poor execution over the last four minutes of the game, that doesn’t take away from how bush-league the officials were on Sunday night.
I’ve been saying this since well BEFORE the season started, but it bears repeating with each passing weekend. The league has disgraced itself with this collection of nitwits who are reffing the games. It’s getting ridiculously close to resembling professional wrestling, minus the steel chairs. I called the outcome of this one as soon as the Patriots got the ball back with four minutes to play. “The Ravens will get a stop here…get the ball back…and then the refs will help move them down the field and Tucker will kick the game-winner at the buzzer.” Neither Nestor or Luke – seated to my left and right – disagreed with my assessment, both knowing it was probably going to turn out that way.
Bill Belichick refused to engage the media afterwards when it came to the question of officiating. He kept mumbling something about “you need to talk to them, not me” and deflected every question with a sour-puss expression that most coaches would have on their face if their team squandered a 9-point lead in the fourth quarter.
When asked “real” football questions, Belichick didn’t really answer those, either.
Someone asked him if the final field goal was, in fact, good. He mumbled something about not seeing it.
Then he was asked if the kick should have been reviewed. Again, he didn’t really give a legitimate reply.
After the game-ending kick, Belichick raced to midfield to confront the officials who were high-tailing it out of the place. He appeared to make contact with one of the refs, but when asked afterwards what he was trying to discuss with them, the coach just sort of brushed aside the question and kept on staring straight ahead until another question was asked.
It was a strange scene in the Patriots press conference, because none of the Boston media had the gumption to ask the coach what he thought of his secondary, which allowed the Ravens to move freely down the field in the final two minutes to set up Justin Tucker’s game winning 27 yard field goal.
Instead, everyone waited for the coach to crack and berate the officials, but he wouldn’t do it.
Maybe that’s because he knew the truth.
The truth: The referees were awful. Again. But they didn’t cost New England the game. Just like the Ravens last week in Philly, the Patriots have no one to blame but themselves. When pressed, their offense couldn’t put the game away. And their defense folded like a cheap suit on the final drive.
The better team might not have won on Sunday night.
But the better team had chances to sew up the game and they didn’t.
In that case, the Patriots deserved to lose.