Gronkowski’s elation was gone. Brady’s anger emerged as he talked to Blakeman while leaving the field.
Even if the penalty stood, the ball would have been placed at the 1 and the Patriots still would have needed a touchdown.
“I don’t make the calls or the rules,” Brady said. “I wish it wouldn’t have come down to that. I think there were plenty of plays we could’ve made.”
The Patriots (7-3) will have to make a lot more of them against the Broncos (9-1), the NFL’s highest scoring team, and Peyton Manning, who leads the league with 34 touchdown passes in 10 games.
“I think Peyton Manning just gets better every year,” Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. “He just understands what the defense is, what coverage he’s getting, and puts the ball where he needs to put it.”
So with a short week of practice, Belichick didn’t want to waste time dwelling on the disputed play.
“It’s not really our job to call the game. It’s to play it and coach it. Whatever calls they make are the ones that we live with,” he said. “We have to turn the page here quickly, get on to Denver. Good football team, playing well. Obviously, their record reflects that.”
The Broncos are averaging 39.8 points a game, 16 more than the Panthers and 14 more than the Patriots.
New England’s defense is battered with five starters missing Monday night’s game, three of them out for the season. And the Patriots have one fewer day than usual to prepare.
“It will be a challenging week, but every week in the NFL is challenging,” Belichick said. “We’ll just take the time and the opportunity that we have and try to make the most of it.”
Coming off a bye week, they had plenty of time to prepare for the Panthers (7-3). But their only lead, 20-17, came on Stephen Gostkowski’s 26-yard field goal with 6:32 left.