Friday, March 7, 2014
Well the long wait for Rob Gronkowski ended Sunday when the tight end made his first start of the season for the New England Patriots.
And while Gronkowski showed that he hadn't lost anything, the Patriots simply lost. Nick Folks' 42-yard field goal in overtime lifted the New York Jets over the Patriots 30-27, ending New England's string of 12 consecutive victories against AFC East opponents.
Gronkowski caught eight passes for 114 yards, setting a team record with his 10th 100 yard-plus receiving game for a tight end. Six of those catches went for a first down.
But this game will be remembered mostly for the 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty called on New England rookie defensive tackle Chris Jones that negated a missed field goal by Folk in overtime.
Mike Reiss, the Patriots pool reporter from ESPNBoston.com, spoke to referee Jerome Boger after the game. Here's what was said, courtesy of the Patriots Media Relations:
Q: Please explain the penalty that was called on No. 94 [Patriots defensive tackle Chris Jones] on the field goal.
A: The call was that No. 94 on the defense pushed his teammate into the formation. That is a rule change for 2013 that a teammate cannot push a teammate into the opponents’ formation.
Q: Is it any type of push? Is it a two-handed push?
A: Any push. It could be with the body, not necessarily with the hand, but with the body into his teammate, into the formation. It’s any type of pushing action.
Q: Is there anything else to go over with this penalty?
A: No, the umpire’s flag went up almost instantaneously as he observed the action. We just enforced it as he called it.
Q: And that’s a 15-yard penalty …
A: For unsportsmanlike conduct.
Obviously Patriots coach Bill Belichick didn't agree. He told reporters afterward, "You can't push in the second level. I don't think we did that.''
Jones, who had two sacks in the game, met with reporters after (and as one Boston reporter noted, not every player would have stood there and answered these questions) and said, "It was just my mistake, nobody else's. I've just got to man up and fix it next time.''
Jones was asked if he knew he couldn't push a teammate: "Yes. We have probably talked about it before. It slipped my mind at the time. Now I know it. I just have to keep that in mind during the up coming games so I don’t make that mistake again.''It was a hard lesson learned for everyone.
Mike Lowe has covered the New England Patriots since 1999 for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram and has had a nice view of their emergence as one of the NFL’s premier franchises.
He’s been at the paper since 1982 and has covered everything from a Little League World Series to the Summer Olympics. He is married to Tracie and they have three children and two grandchildren.
Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeLowePPH.