Should The Patriots Have Been Called For A Penalty On Their Game-Tying Score?

The Patriots 25-point second comeback against the Falcons was punctuated by a game-tying two-point conversion from Tom Brady to Danny Amendola on a quick screen to the outside. While Madden 17 was able to predict the comeback, and Dez Bryant called the Falcons’ conservative play leaving room for Brady’s heroics, nobody could draw up exactly what would happen on Sunday.

It was an extremely clever play design from Josh McDaniels, putting Tom Brady under center with an empty backfield to force the Falcons to cover over the center in case of a long quarterback sneak attempt from Brady, who is one of the NFL’s best at the QB sneak. With the defense spread wide in single coverage, it was a numbers game for Brady to toss the ball out to the left quickly where Amendola punched it in.

On the play, Falcons defensive end Dwight Freeney was flagged for offsides, which was declined as the Pats took the points. However, that isn’t the only penalty that should have been assessed on the play.

Chris Hogan and Julian Edelman both engage their defenders prior to Amendola receiving the pass (especially Hogan, as he initiated contact with his defender, while the inside defender jumped into Edelman). You can see in video that the Falcons defenders point in the Patriots direction once they saw the flag, assuming that this would be called.

Unlike the college football rule that allows for downfield blocking prior to the completion of a pass so long as it stays behind the line of scrimmage, the NFL rule stipulates that blocking cannot be initiated by the offensive player until the ball is touched.

Actions that constitute offensive pass interference include but are not limited to:

(a) Blocking downfield by an offensive player prior to the ball being touched.

Let’s take a closer look.

So, there is Amendola, awaiting the ball, with both Hogan and Edelman engaged. By rule, that should have been flagged, thus creating an offsetting penalty situation and a retry of the conversion attempt.

Would that have changed the outcome? Possibly! Based on the way New England’s offense was operating in the fourth quarter you would assume the Pats would still find a way into the end zone on the second conversion attempt, but we also assumed the Falcons would hold onto a 25-point lead in the second half, and we see how that worked out.

So, there you have it Falcons fans, one more thing to be upset about today.