Another replay goes Patriots' way in win over Bills
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots keep winning: on the field and in the replay booth.
The Patriots dispatched the Buffalo Bills, 37-16, on Sunday, thanks in part to another overturned touchdown that added further confusion to the NFL's catch rule.
The play comes a week after Jesse James' apparent go-ahead touchdown was reversed in the Steelers' 27-24 loss to New England.
On Sunday, the Bills trailed 13-10 but were in position to take the lead before halftime. But an apparent 4-yard touchdown pass from Tyrod Taylor to Kelvin Benjamin in the corner of the end zone was overturned.
Benjamin said he thought it was a catch.
"I mean definitely, but the ref made the call and you've got to live with that," he said.
NFL vice president of officiating Al Riveron said in a Twitter post Benjamin was juggling the ball and only got one of his feet down before completing the catch.
"When Kelvin Benjamin gains control, his left foot is off the ground. The receiver only has one foot down in bounds with control. Therefore, it is an incomplete pass," Riveron wrote.
That was echoed postgame by referee Craig Wrolstad.
"It was clear and obvious that he did not have control of the ball until he brought it all the way down into his chest," Wrolstad said in a pool report.
The Bills were forced to settle for a 23-yard field goal as the half expired.
"The (officials) always seem to get it right for the Patriots, but that's not why we lost," said running back LeSean McCoy, who finished with 71 yards on 17 carries. "It sure would have helped out in the game. We battled hard. We have to do a better job finishing. ... It's just crazy because we put so much into it, to get robbed like that. Come on, that was a touchdown."
Coach Sean McDermott was perplexed.
"Yeah, I'm at a loss," he said. "A loss as to, I saw it as a touchdown. And other than that, all I can say right now is I am at a loss for how a play like that can get overturned."
The play was met with almost immediate criticism across social media.
There was nothing "conclusive" about that reversal! Swear them boys sold they soul to devil. Next it won't be close and we aren't leaving it to the judges.— Mike Mitchell (@iammikemitchell) December 24, 2017
regarding the Buffalo no touchdown, nothing more irritating to an official than to make a great call and then someone in a suit in an office in New York incorrectly reverses it. It is more and more obvious that there isn't a standard for staying with the call on the field.— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) December 24, 2017
3rd time this season in a pivotal ruling, NFL referees *somehow* favor the Patriots on a SHAKY call. Jets screwed.Steelers screwed.Bills screwed. https://t.co/7zq3tPo9z4— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) December 24, 2017
The Patriots (12-3) took control in the second half, clinching their eighth straight season with 12 or more victories.
Dion Lewis (Pitt) carried 24 times for career-high 129 yards and scored a rushing and receiving touchdown.
Tom Brady passed for a pair of touchdowns, including one to Rob Gronkowski.
For Gronkowski, who grew up in Western New York before playing at Woodland Hills as a senior, it was his 12th touchdown catch in 13 career games against the Bills. That's more than he has had against any other opponent.
"It's cool when your hometown team passed on you twice in that (2010) draft. And you kind of remember it still," Gronkowski said. "No lie, I remember it every single time I play them."
Even with the loss, the Bills (8-7) remain in contention to break their 17-year playoff drought. It is the longest active streak in North America's four major professional sports and the longest in the NFL since the 1970 merger.