David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Patriots may have benefitted from premature whistle on Myles Jack strip fumble

Alex Reimer
January 22, 2018 - 9:50 am

It wouldn’t be a Patriots Super Bowl run without controversy hovering over the proceedings. This time, the focus is on some dubious officiating that’s benefitted the Pats throughout the season. 

New England bested the Jaguars Sunday in the AFC championship, overcoming a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to advance to their eighth Super Bowl in the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era. The Jaguars had multiple opportunities to put the Patriots away, but none loom larger than their inability to capitalize off linebacker Myles Jack’s forced fumble early in the period. With 13:53 remaining, Jack stripped the ball from Dion Lewis, who was running upfield after a nifty trick play that featured Danny Amendola throwing him the football. The referees immediately blew their whistles, signaling that Jack was down when he recovered the ball. 

But upon further review, it doesn’t seem as if Jack was touched. The whistles may have been premature. 

Since NFL rules prevent officials from reviewing plays after they’re ruled dead, the referees could only check whether the ball was fumbled. The Jaguars went three-and-out on their ensuing drive, failing to increase their two-possession lead. 

“They give this to the Pats, it’s rigged,” professional troll Max Kellerman tweeted afterwards. 

The Big Lead and USA Today’s For The Win also sided with Jack, who spiked the ball in apparent frustration after he was ruled down. At the least, the seemingly ill-timed whistle cost the Jaguars incredible field position. At worst, it robbed them of a touchdown. 

NFL referees have struggled all season, so it’s not surprising they’ve botched crucial calls in the playoffs as well. The Patriots benefitted from some questionable first-half penalties against the Titans in the Divisional Round, too, and saw three potentially game-changing touchdowns overturned in the regular season –– most notably Steelers tight end Jesse James’ dropped touchdown catch in their December meeting.

Jacksonville was flagged six times for 98 yards Sunday, whereas the Patriots only received one penalty for 10 yards. Some of their players voiced frustrations with the discrepancy after the game.

Interestingly enough, the first person to congratulate Brady on the field was referee Clete Blakeman. (Entering the game, Blakeman was notable around these parts for overturning a seemingly obvious pass interference call on Rob Gronkowski in 2013, which cost the Patriots a regular season contest against the Panthers.)

It’s asinine to think anything besides referee incompetence explains the Patriots’ recent good fortune. But in a Super Bowl largely bereft of storylines, expect this wild conspiracy theory to gain some traction. 

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