MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Hunter Henry was ruled on the field for making a hard catch at the goal line for a touchdown in the third quarter to give the New England Patriots the lead late in the third quarter in Minnesota.
After a long re-examination, the call was turned into an incomplete pass. The Patriots had to settle for one field goal — and didn’t score another goal in the 33-26 loss to the Vikings.
“They shouted what they shouted,” said Henry. “I think I caught it, but they called. I just have to live with it.”
“If he goes down, he needs to maintain control of the ball when it hits the ground,” said NFL senior vice president of officing Walt Anderson, a pool reporter. “The common term is ‘ground survival’ – a lot of people refer to that. So when he goes down he has the elements of two feet and control, but because he goes down he has to keep control of the ball when it goes down.”
Henry seemed to have one hand under the ball as it hit the turf. The ball broke loose but he held and maintained possession. It was the temporary loss of control that led to reversal.
“Well, if he’d kept control of the ball with two hands, even if the ball hits the ground, if you don’t lose control of the ball after it hits the ground, that would still be a catch,” Anderson said.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick was in no mood to discuss the reversal in his post-game press conference.
“Why don’t you guys take your pool reporter to the officials and ask them about the play and have them explain it to you,” Belichick said.
Henry was more forthcoming about what the officers told him.
“They said it hit the ground but my hand was under it,” said Henry, who had a touchdown catch early in the third quarter. “I think my hand was under the ball. The hand was under the ball when it hit the ground. That caused it to crack open. Just have to live with it. You called.”
Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said: “I thought for the most part we were either looking at a quarter and an inch or it was incomplete. They did a great job of communicating with me throughout the scenario and it ended up being overturned. I think it’s one of those things that could have gone a lot of different ways, but I was very happy it went the way 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 turn, the Patriots struggled to find equal success in moving the ball.
New England went three-and-out on the next two drives while Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson helped the Vikings to another second-half comeback win.
“We have to go from this play and play the rest of the game,” said Patriots quarterback Mac Jones. “There was a lot of time left and there were other times we could have put it in and that wouldn’t even have been a problem.”
Nick Folk had four field goals, another sign of ongoing trouble in the red zone. In three trips within Minnesota’s 20, the Patriots never crossed the goal line. New England started the week scoring touchdowns at 42.9% in the red, the second-worst mark in the league.
“We’ve done some good things better than we’ve ever done,” Henry said. “In the end we still made some crucial mistakes, lost yards, negative moves. Must keep getting better.”