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Patriots-Panthers game ends on controversial no-call in end zone

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com

So this is how one of the most exciting games of the season ended: With three seconds on the clock and the Patriots trailing the Panthers 24-20, quarterback Tom Brady tried to find tight end Rob Gronkowski in the back of the end zone, but the ball was intercepted by Carolina's Robert Lester.

One problem: There was a flag on the play because Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly had Gronkowski in a bear hug.

But after conferring, the officials picked up the flag, game over.

So what was discussed?

"There were two officials that came in," referee Clete Blakeman said after the game, according to MassLive.com's Nick Underhill. "One was the umpire and the other one was our side judge and there was a discussion at that point as to the, in essence, the catchability of the ball due to it's location.

"So it was determined at that point in time that when the primary contact occurred on the tight end that the ball, in essence, was coming in underthrown and, in essence, it was immediately at that point intercepted at the front end of the end zone," Blakeman continued. "So there was a determination that, in essence, uncatchability, that the ball was intercepted at or about the same time the primary contact against the receiver occurred."

Not surprisingly, Brady disagreed.

In his post-game press conference -- but before Blakeman spoke with the media -- Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked if he "got a sense of what the facts were" on that final play.

"No," he said. "There was no explanation given to me. ... The officials ran off the field and I didn't see anything."

After a pause, Belichick said, "I've been through that before. The last time I tried to ask an official a question about a call that, you know, was the wrong thing to do so I have no idea."

He was referring to an incident from Sept. 2012 when he touched an official following a loss to the Ravens. The NFL fined him $50,000.

When pressed by the media Belichick said, "We've been down that road before. We didn't get [a call] tonight, we didn't get one in that Baltimore game. Guess that's the way we do it."

Blakeman conceded that "You never like to end the game with some controversy ... but I'm pleased our officiating crew got together and communicated and discussed it and ultimately, I believe we got it right."

Meanwhile, in the Panthers locker room, a smiling Kuechly said, "They picked up the flag. So apparently I did all right."

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