Several key penalties by the Patriots should have been called late in Super Bowl LI

HOUSTON -- The story surrounding the end of Super Bowl LI is pretty obvious. The Patriots stormed back against the Falcons in historic fashion, piling up points in the fourth quarter and erasing a 28-3 deficit to win the game 34-28 in overtime.

But the Patriots' victory isn't without a little bit of (admittedly next-day nitpicking) controversy surrounding some calls (or non-calls) by the refs in the game.

For starters, the Patriots should have been flagged for offensive pass interference on their second two-point conversion that tied the game up. Trailing 28-26, the Pats had Tom Brady throw what looks like a quick screen to Danny Amendola.

As noted by CBS Sports colleague Pete Prisco on Twitter, the Patriots got away with a violation of Rule 8, Section 5, Article 4, which makes it illegal for offensive players to block defensive players while a pass is in the air.

You can clearly see two players blocking "in the vicinity of the player to whom the pass is thrown" when the ball is in the air:

danny-amendola-two-point-conversion.jpg
via NFL Game Rewind

The play in question in moving picture form:

And here's the rule in full -- please read all the way through before complaining in the comments, because the "note" at the bottom is important.

ARTICLE 4. OTHER PROHIBITED ACTS BY THE OFFENSE. Blocking more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage by an offensive player prior to a pass being thrown is offensive pass interference. See 8-3-1-Item 1 for exception for an ineligible offensive player.

Note: It is also pass interference by the offense to block a defender beyond the line while the pass is in the air, if the block occurs in the vicinity of the player to whom the pass is thrown. See 8-3-1-Note for exception for ineligible players.

Also important: the Pats wouldn't have been penalized 10 yards for this because the Falcons were offsides. The penalties would have offset and New England would have been forced to redo the two-point conversion.

But the result would have also been the Falcons getting a shot to catch their breath, design a play and potentially stop the Pats. They do that and they're up two with 57 seconds left and a shot to win without worrying about overtime.

It was a big play.

Also big was the chop block that should have been called in overtime against Patriots lineman Shaq Mason. On a play from the Falcons' 25-yard line, the screen pass to James White picked up 10 yards.

Before the 2016 season, the NFL outlawed all chop blocks, meaning if there's a situation where one blocker is going high on a defender and one is going low, it's a 15-yard penalty.

This was clearly the case with Mason when he pulled and dove at the knees of rookie Deion Jones, who was having a breakout game on a very big stage.

shaq-mason-chop-block.jpg
via NFL Game Rewind

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution points out that Mason wasn't necessarily behaving in any nefarious manner, at least on purpose. He was attempting to throw a cut block, which is legal, but because Patriots center David Andrews also shoved Jones at the same time, then the high-low factor is created.

If the play is called, the Patriots are moved back 15 yards and have first-and-25 from the Falcons' 40-yard line.

The Patriots didn't win because of these two plays, and the referees actually did a fantastic job of managing this game and effectively officiating a difficult Super Bowl (they were fantastic on difficult catch plays involving both Julian Edelman and Julio Jones).

But it appears they missed these two potential game-changing plays late with the Patriots rolling and the Falcons struggling.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

Show Comments Hide Comments
Our Latest Stories
    All Access