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Dean Blandino: Officials made judgment call Monday

The New England Patriots might not be happy about the decision made by game officials on Monday night, but the NFL's vice president of officiating said it came down to a "tight judgment call."

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Dean Blandino told NFL Media's Amber Theoharis on NFL Network's "NFL Total Access" that the officials determined Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly's "restriction" of tight end Rob Gronkowski occurred simultaneously to the ball being intercepted by safety Robert Lester.

"The issue isn't the contact," Blandino said Tuesday. "The issue is the restriction. Does it occur when prior to the ball being touched? And at full speed, the officials made a tight judgment call and they determined that the restriction occurred just as the ball was being touched. And again, at full speed, you could see why they made that call."

Theoharis asked Blandino if, in his opinion, the officials were wrong.

"I wouldn't say that they were wrong," he replied. "Again, they have to make this call. They used proper mechanics. They got together after the play. They determined that, in their judgment, that the contact occurred simultaneous with the ball being intercepted, and that's what the officials did."

Blandino never said the call was "right," but he repeatedly mentioned that it was a judgment call made at full speed. Blandino was asked if the officials will receive a negative grade for the final play of the game.

"For this play, no," he said. "When we look at tight judgment calls like this and we feel that the officials followed proper mechanics, we do not downgrade the officials for this type of situation."

Blandino also broke down Week 11's other controversial play, a roughing the passer penalty on San Francisco 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks, who had a sack and forced fumbled wiped off the board after officials ruled he had illegally hit New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

Brooks was steaming about the call, which took away what could have been a game-sealing turnover for the Niners. Blandino had a stronger defense of the call made on Brooks.

"You can't make forcible contact to the head or the neck area, even if the contact starts below the neck and rises up," Blandino explained. "If there's force to that contact, it's a foul. Watch the initial contact, maybe around the shoulder, but it rides up into the neck area and brings the quarterback down with force.

"That's why the flag was thrown for unnecessary roughness."

We recapped every Week 11 game on the latest "Around The League Podcast."

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