Bill Belichick grabs an official after the Patriots loss. (Courtesy: NFL.COM)
By Chris Chase, USA TODAY
Bill Belichick grabbed a replacement official after the New England Patriots lost a penalty-filled road game to the Baltimore Ravens 31-30 on a last-second kick by rookie Justin Tucker.
The New England coach exploded after the kick, chasing down the offending official and grabbing his arm to get him to stop. Belichick appeared angry that Tucker's kick, which sailed high above the goal post, could have been ruled no good.
The incident ended quickly, but isn't likely to go away as quietly. Belichick should expect a hefty fine from the league office for making contact with a man in stripes, even though he said later that he doesn't expect one.
Belichick, like John Harbaugh on the other side of the field, was upset with shoddy officiating during most of the game. He seemed to be angry during Baltimore's entire final drive, especially on a 27-yard pass interference penalty on Devin McCourty that put the Ravens inside the 10-yard line to set up a game-winning field-goal attempt. Then, when Tucker's kick barely sailed over the top of the left upright and was called good, Belichick exploded. He chased down one of the officials and berated him, grabbing his left arm in at attempt to hold him in place so Belichick could get out all his anger.
Watch the video. It shows Tucker's game-winner, followed by a confused Vince Wilfork begging officials to reconsider, then shows Belichick's unfortunate grab.
Belichick said he didn't know if the field goal had been reviewed. The Ravens rushed the field to celebrate the victory immediately after Tucker's kick.
"You should talk to the officials and ask them those questions, because obviously I don't have the answer. I'm just coaching the game and watching it like you are," he said.
Tucker said in the locker room he had no doubt his field goal was good. Asked if the field goal went in, punter/holder Sam Koch flashed a wide grin in the locker room. "Of course it did," he said. "The ref put his hands up and it was good."
Whether he thought the kick should have been called no good, or whether he was venting about the rest of the horrendously-called game, is unclear. That won't matter anyway. The image of Belichick making contact with an official is the story. It should bring a steep fine, perhaps one of those "I'm Roger Goodell and I'm sending a message" ones that the commish loves to hand down. If Goodell has no intention of bringing back the regular refs, even as the country mocks the replacements, he at least needs to ensure that the officials aren't treated like bad substitute teachers in rough schools. It's not so much the blown pass interference calls. We complain about that every week. It's the lack of control of the game. It's hard to watch seven grown men spend nine minutes figuring out where to spot a football.
Belichick obviously had no interest in discussing why he tried to get the official's attention. "I'm not going to comment on that," he said. "You saw the game. What did we have, 30 penalties called in that game?
Harbaugh could also face discipline after bumping an official while he was trying to call a timeout near the end of the game. Harbaugh received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for the exchange.
"What we're told is to get the timeout where they can see it in front of their face in those situations. That's what I've been told for five years going into this game," Harbaugh said. "I think he took it as bumping him. I didn't mean to bump him. I wanted to call a timeout, so I apologize for bumping, but the intent was to call a timeout."
It could be possible that the situation with replacement officials has reached a tipping point and might finally push the league towards a settlement with its locked-out refs. Belichick, a Hall of Fame-caliber coach, was so exasperated he had to grab an official to try to be heard. Harbaugh, a playoff coach, inadvertently (supposedly) bumped a referee. Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan reportedly cursed out an official, even after organizations were told to zip it.
There have been many blown calls from the replacement refs. While they make for good fodder, they won't necessarily force the league to settle.
Sunday's incidents could. Because the alternatives are to whack Belichick, Harbaugh and Shanahan with huge fines or let them slide -- which would be an admission by the league that, even though it had warned coaches, the officiating was so bad in some instances that the NFL would excuse the inexcusable.
Contributing: Robert Klemko from Baltimore, Kevin Manahan