As usual after a tough loss, Patriots coach Bill Belichick is ready to move on and focus squarely on the road ahead.
The coach let it be known the day after a controversial call ended the Patriots’ 24-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers that he was not going to dwell on what could have been, had Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly been assessed a penalty for not allowing Rob Gronkowski to make a play on a pass that could have won the game for New England as time expired.
“I don’t really have any comment to add to the officiating or any of those calls,” Belichick said. “It’s not really our job to call the game, it’s to play and coach it. Whatever calls they make are the ones we live with. We can’t let that affect what we’re doing.”
As Gronkowski was held by Kuechly, back judge Terrence Miles threw a penalty flag, and it looked as though the Patriots were going to get another chance to win the game. But the officials met and referee Clete Blakeman then announced that there was no foul on the play and the game was over.
In a pool report, Blakeman explained why the original call of a penalty was not enforced, stating that the pass was uncatchable. Belichick would not comment on whether he had seen the pool report.
“Whatever the officials think is the only thing that matters,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what any of us think. They’re the ones that make the calls, so it’s their explanation and their judgment that we all have to abide by.
“It was a highly competitive game, a good football game. I’m proud of the way our team fought from beginning until the end. It came down to a handful of plays that ultimately decided the game and they just had a few more than we did. We have to do a better job of taking advantage of our opportunities. Obviously the red area was a big difference in the game from a scoring standpoint. We just need to do a better job with the opportunities that we have.”
Belichick said Monday night he had received no explanation about the call from the officials.
“The last time I started asking an official about a call, that was the wrong thing to do, so I have no idea,” he said, referencing the $50,000 fine he drew after making contact with an official following a controversial end to a loss in Baltimore last season.
A positive note from the loss was the return of running back Shane Vereen, who had one carry and eight catches for 72 total yards, a team high. This was the first game Vereen played since breaking his wrist in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills.
“It was good to have him back,” Belichick said. “He missed two months of football. I think he’ll be better as we go along. He’s worked hard, definitely made some plays that helped us in the game. I think he’ll improve and get better, like any player will with more reps, more opportunities to practice and play. It’s definitely good to have him back out there.”
Belichick and the Patriots turn their attention to the Denver Broncos, who come into Week 12 with a 9-1 record and are in first place in the AFC. This also could be the first time receiver Wes Welker (who is dealing with a concussion) returns to Foxborough, where he was Tom Brady’s go-to receiver for six seasons before filling a similar role this season with Peyton Manning.
“I think Wes looks like Wes,” said Belichick when asked about his former receiver’s play this season. “Like the player we’ve seen. Most of the time he lines [up] in the slot, and he plays like we’ve all seen him play around here for the time he was here.”