‘I think I caught it’

The New England Patriots offense was on fire in the third quarter Thursday night, moving the ball at will against the Minnesota Vikings defense. Pats tight end Hunter Henry appeared to score his second TD in as many drives, but the 6-yard score was overturned on replay, forcing the Patriots to settle for a field goal.

The four-point swing was a killer for New England, who eventually fell 33-26.

“I think I caught it,” Henry said after the game, via ESPN. “He said it hit the ground. But I think my hand was under the ball. The hand was under the ball, hitting the ground, that’s what made it bounce up.

“They called. Just have to live with it.”

Henry grabbed the ball and reached the pigskin over the goal line. The refs called the play a touchdown live. After review, it was determined that Henry did not maintain control going to the ground.

Bill Belichick was in no mood to resume the key play.

“Why don’t you go to the officials with your pool reporter and ask them about the play and let them explain it to you?” he replied after the match. “Good? Isn’t that what you do? Thanks.”

All right, Bill, we’ll get to it. No need to get tested.

ESPN’s Mike Reiss spoke with NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Walt Anderson, who said the ball touched the ground and then Henry lost control, leading to the incompletion.

Anderson was asked why Henry didn’t get possession before the ball hit the ground.

“Because when he goes to the ground, he has to maintain control of the ball when he makes contact with the ground,” he said. “The term commonly used is ‘surviving the ground’… he has the elements of two feet and control, but because he goes to the ground he has to maintain control of the ball.”

With Henry’s hand under the ball, it’s challenging to see that sliver of pigskin touch the turf that caused the incomplete pass. It requires slowing down the game frame by frame to watch the ball graze the ground. To borrow a Jerry Jones line, it felt like the umpires were circumcising a mosquito for signs of the ball hitting the ground.

Usually, in such situations, the call is on the line because it is not “clear and distinct”. However, the replay team thought it was clear, even though most viewers of the play were torn.

Even Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell was surprised the touchdown was overturned.

“I think it’s one of those things that could have gone a lot of different ways. I was very happy that it went the way it did,” O’Connell said.

Asked about the play again Friday morning, Belichick noted there was still time to make a play after the decision.

“I don’t know. It was a four-point game,” he said when asked how much momentum was hampered by the review, via Alex Barth of 98.5 The Sports Hub. “I don’t know. There were a lot of other things that happened besides that.”

Down the stretch, New England’s offense had chances to make plays but fell short, going 3-and-out on its next two possessions before a turnover on downs and a futile fine drive with no timeouts remaining.

“We have to move on from that [overturned] play and play the rest of the game. There was plenty of time left,” quarterback Mac Jones said. “There were other times we could have punched it in and it wouldn’t have been a problem. A call cannot determine the outcome. We have to be able to do better, so it’s not even close.’

The loss dropped the Pats to 6-5, and currently out of playoff position in the AFC.

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