MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Hunter Henry was ruled on the field to have secured a tough catch at the goal line for what would have been a third-quarter touchdown to give the New England Patriots the lead late in the third quarter at Minnesota.
After a lengthy replay review, the call was overturned to an incomplete pass. The Patriots had to settle for a field goal — and didn’t score again in the 33-26 loss to the Vikings.
“They called what they called,” Henry said. “I believe I caught it, but they made a call. Just got to live with it.”
The officials, with referee Alex Kemp leading the group, conferred with the NFL during the review. The determination was that the ball touched the ground and Henry lost control.
“As he’s going to the ground, he has to maintain control of the ball upon contacting the ground,” NFL senior vice president of officiating Walt Anderson told a pool reporter. “The term that’s commonly used is ‘surviving the ground’ – a lot of people refer to that. So, 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.”
Henry appeared to have a hand under the ball when he hit the turf. The ball did come loose, but he held on and maintained possession. It was the temporary loss of control that led to the reversal.
“Well, if he had maintained control of the ball with two hands, even if the ball were to touch the ground, if you don’t lose control of the ball after it touches the ground, that would still be a catch,” Anderson said.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick was in no mood to discuss the reversal in his postgame press conference.
“Why don’t you guys go to the officials with your pool reporter and ask them about the play, and let them explain it to you,” Belichick said.
Henry was more forthcoming about what the officials told him.
“They said it hit the ground, but my hand was under it,” said Henry, who had a touchdown catch earlier in the third quarter. “I believe my hand was under the ball. The hand was under the ball with hitting the ground. That’s what kind of caused it to jump up. Just got to live with it. They made the call.”
Said Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell: “I thought for the most part we would either be looking at a fourth-and-inches or it was incomplete. They did a great job of communicating with me throughout that whole scenario, and it just ended up being overturned. I think it’s one of those things that could’ve gone a lot of different ways, but I was very happy that it went the way that it did.”
Henry’s non-catch ended a night of efficient offense for New England as the two teams traded blows on Thanksgiving night. After the reversal, the Patriots struggled to find the same success moving the ball.
New England went three-and-out on its next two drives, while Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson helped the Vikings secure another second-half comeback win.
“We’ve got to move on from that play and play the rest of the game,” Patriots quarterback Mac Jones said. “There was plenty of time left, and there was other times we could have punched it in and that wouldn’t have even been an issue.”
Nick Folk had four field goals, another sign of persistent trouble in the red zone. On three trips inside Minnesota’s 20, the Patriots never crossed the goal line. New England entered the week scoring touchdowns at 42.9% in the red zone, the second-worst mark in the league.
“We did some good things better than we have been,” Henry said. “We just still at the end made some crucial mistakes, losing yards, negative plays. Got to keep getting better.”
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