Welcome to the May doldrums! With the splash of free agency and the draft drying up in the soon-to-be summer sun, it’s normal for sports writers to look back on what could have been in their team’s history had things gone just a little different. One such writer, Pat Lane, from Mile High Report’s sister site, Pats Pulpit, scanned the spartan history of injustices against his team and somehow settled on one of the greatest plays in Champ Bailey’s career, the 99-yard non-scoring interception during the divisional round of the 2005 playoffs. You may review the article, here.
It is, in my opinion, one of the worst calls in NFL history (there might be an article coming about another one some time soon). The ramifications from that play could have changed the outcome of not only the game, but the entire playoffs that season.
One of the worst in NFL history? Ramifications? Come on Pat. You know better than that. Even over here in Broncos Country, we all know what the worst call in NFL history was and it pains us to say it. Just don’t tell Raiders fans we agree with them.
With 1:03 left in the third quarter of a 10-6 game, Tom Brady took the snap from the Broncos’ 5-yard line. Pressure from safety Nick Ferguson forced him right, and he threw a pass off his back foot, into the end zone, towards Troy Brown. Champ Bailey stepped in front of the pass, intercepted it, and raced up the Broncos sideline. After stepping out of a tackle by Kevin Faulk at the 45, it looked as though there was only grass between Bailey and the end zone. Then, just as he was about to score, Watson sent him, and the ball, flying into the end zone.
Well, at least we know the ball went into the end zone. The refs, one of whom Watson passed on his way to tackle Bailey, said the ball went out at the 1, and, instead of it being and touchback and Patriots ball at the 20, Mike Anderson got his second 1-yard rushing touchdown of the day.
Pat’s description of the play is entirely accurate. Tom Brady tossed an interception to Champ Bailey in the red zone and Champ ran it all the way back and had the ball knocked out of his hand at the 1-yard line. The refs called it as they saw it and the rest is history. Then Bill Belichick had the play reviewed.
The review looked to clearly show the ball out of bounds in the end zone, but it was a tough call to overturn. Although Bailey never went out of bounds until he was in the end zone, and the ball was in his inside hand when it was knocked away, there just isn’t a conclusive picture.
Being 2005, there was no pylon cam, no sideline cam, no other angles that definitively showed the ball’s location once it was knocked from 2019 Hall of Fame inductee Champ Bailey’s hands. Pat says it himself, there just isn’t a conclusive picture.
Pat then goes full Zapruder, breaking down the end of the play. He carefully documents the location of the ball while completely discounting the angle of the shots. None of the photos adequately depict the ball or the goal line in relation to the sideline and goal line.
The ball clearly didn’t break the laws of physics and take a sharp left turn out of bounds at the 1.
The photos were taken from the roving camera-mobile thing, likely around the Patriots 15-yard line. It’s hardly an angle where a single yard can be adequately judged. For better or worse, without clear photographic evidence, which the video wasn’t then and the photos aren’t now, deference must be given to the refs on the field and their verdict still holds true to this day.
The question I’m trying to answer is: would the Patriots have won the game if the Watson play was called correctly? They ultimately lost by 14 points, and were a complete mess the entire game. The Patriots ended the game with five turnovers, two of them happening in the last two minutes of the first half, with the Patriots up 3-0. First, Kevin Faulk fumbled at the Patriots 40, then Asante Samuel was called for a terrible pass inference penalty in the end zone on the next play.
Mike Anderson punched it in from 1-yard on the very next snap. On the ensuing kickoff, Ellis Hobbs was tackled by the kicker, Todd Sauerbrun (who ended up playing for the Patriots the following year) and fumbled, leading to a Broncos field goal. Then, with ten minutes left and the Patriots trailing by eleven points, Troy Brown muffed a punt inside the Patriots 20. Three plays later, the Broncos went up by 18, and the comeback was hopeless.
Like in 2013 and 2015, the 2005 Patriots were no match for the Denver Broncos. Despite their tremendous success (free of controversy, scandal, and consternation), it’s interesting to see them return to one of their worst post-season losses and wonder what could have been. I know the Patriots and their fans love to create narratives where they are somehow the underdog to rally support for their team as though theirs isn’t one of the most impressive sports dynasties in sports history, but is this really the best hill on which to plant that narrative? Despite all the photos...
CHAMP BAILEY IS STILL THERE... You know, out at the 1-yard line.
If we’re breaking down tragedies on video, I suggest Pat look at this incredibly creepy mattress commercial that airs locally in New England. What is up with this nightmare?
What’s with the turtleneck? What’s with the elongated stares? Why establish opulence only to reveal a jail cell-like room with no windows? I hold the other fellow in the commercial as complicit in whatever nefarious acts (crimes?) Tom is about to commit on this spartan and likely overpriced mattress set. “Can I get you anything?” Yeah, dude, how about a damn pillow?! Just what the hell is going on here?!
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