MINNEAPOLIS — Officials controversially overturned a touchdown in the second half of Thursday’s Patriots-Vikings game, arguing that tight end Hunter Henry did not maintain possession throughout the play.
“He was going to the ground, the ball ended up touching the ground, and then he lost control of the ball in his hands,” said NFL senior vice president of officiating Walt Anderson in a pool report.
With the score tied at 23, on a third and goal midway through the third quarter, Henry fought to cross the goal line after appearing to make a six-yard catch. Officials initially ruled the play a touchdown. As kicker Nick Folk took the field to attempt the extra point, though, they announced the reception was under review.
Following a lengthy pause in the action, officials returned to announce the call had been overturned. The play was deemed an incomplete pass, leading to fourth and goal. The Patriots elected to have Folk kick a 25-yard field goal, which gave them a 26-23 lead.
Henry insisted he made the catch, arguing that he had full control of the ball even as he went to the ground. According to Henry, who had only watched the replay via the jumbotron during the game, his hand stayed under the ball.
“They called what they called,” Henry said. “I believe I caught it. But they made the call and you just have to live with it.”
According to Anderson, however, Henry did not maintain control of the ball upon contacting the ground, which is why officials did not grant him possession.
“The term that’s commonly used is ‘surviving the ground,’” Anderson said. “As he’s going to the ground, he has the elements of two feet and control, but, because he’s going to the ground, he has to maintain control of the ball when he does go to the ground.”
Per the NFL rulebook, “movement of the ball does not automatically result in loss of control.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick showed no interest in discussing the ruling, referring reporters to conduct a pool report with Anderson.
Asked about the significance of the replay reversal, quarterback Mac Jones downplayed its impact. The Patriots didn’t score again for the remainder of the game, going three-and-out twice, turning the ball over on downs, and then running out of time on their final drive of the game.
“The refs have a job to do,” Jones said. “They looked at the review and ruled it incomplete, so we have to move on from that play. There was plenty of time left, and there were other times that we could have punched it in and that wouldn’t have even been an issue.”
Read more about the game
- Christopher L. Gasper: Patriots should be thankful for one thing on an otherwise disappointing holiday — Mac is back
- Instant Analysis: Vikings were the first real test for the Patriots’ defense, and it didn’t meet the moment
- Between the hash marks: Patriots fail to keep up with the Vikings in the fourth quarter and lose in the end
- How it happened: Patriots’ offense fizzles out after three furious quarters in loss to Vikings
- Box score: Vikings 33, Patriots 26