Questionable officiating feels like it can be a common sense fix for the NFL at some point down the road.
Until then, the Patriots have no one to blame but themselves for putting the game in the hands of the refs in the first place. New England’s 21-game unbeaten streak at home is kaput following a tense 23-16 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.
Tom Brady’s pass intended for Julian Edelman in the end zone with 1:06 left in regulation was broken up by Bashaud Breeland, who also had an interception against Brady in the first half on a pass intended for Matt LaCosse.
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Brady had no choice but to look Edelman's way again though. Edelman, who finished with 95 yards receiving on eight catches, finished as New England's leading receiver for the sixth straight game and eighth time in the last nine contests.
To illustrate just how reliant Brady is on Edelman at the moment, consider that his passer rating when targeting the 33-year-old former college quarterback was 118.4 against the Chiefs.
When look the way of everyone else? It was 35.4.
But for as atrocious as New England's offense looked at times -- an all too common refrain these last five weeks -- the Patriots still have legitimate beef with the officiating.
The sequence began with New England trailing, 23-13, at the tail end of the third quarter. Patrick Mahomes completed a pass to Travis Kelce, who gained a yard and appeared to have enough for a first down before Devin McCourty jarred the ball loose.
Stephon Gilmore was on the scene for the recovery, and looked primed to scoop and score for a defensive touchdown, but the play had already been blown dead by a premature whistle.
Making matters worse was that Kelce was initially ruled down, meaning that Bill Belichick was forced to throw the challenge flag for the second time in the game. While New England was awarded the ball, all further replays in the game were out of its hands.
Still, the Patriots appeared on the verge of a "ball don't lie" moment when Brady connected with N'Keal Harry in the flats and the rookie looked to catch the edge and dive into the end zone for a touchdown.
Instead, officials ruled that Harry stepped out of bounds at the 3-yard line. Had the play been ruled a touchdown on the field, it would have been automatically reviewed anyways, like all scoring plays in the NFL.
No dice, due to a lack of challenges. Harry looked to have avoided stepping outside the grass, too. The Patriots would settle for a field goal following a loss of 2 yards on a run by James White, a dropped pass by Jakobi Meyers in the end zone and an Alex Okafor sack which knocked Brady back 6 yards.
The Patriots still had two more possessions in the fourth quarter to try and force a tie and head to overtime with the Chiefs, much like last January's AFC Championship Game, to no avail. It warrants mentioning that the officials had one more apparent missed pass interference call on a throw to Phillip Dorsett, but again, New England was in this position due to an offense that simply put, isn't very good right now.
Problems were apparent from the very first drive of the game. The first two first downs the Patriots picked up were on pass interference calls they did manage to get, straight out of the Joe Flacco playbook. Edelman caught a 37-yard touchdown pass from Brady off of a flea-flicker, a gadget play ran more out of necessity than creativity.
Up 7-0, things were looking great for New England after J.C. Jackson picked off Mahomes on Kansas City's first offensive set, but proceeded to go three-and-out despite excellent starting field position at the Chiefs' 40.
Harrison Butker kicked a 48-yard field goal to get Kansas City on the board, while the Chiefs took the lead for good after they blocked a Nick Folk 41-yard field goal on a 48-yard touchdown pass from Mahomes to Mecole Hardman.
Brady's touchdown was followed by a 4-yard touchdown run for Kelce. A 31-yard field goal for Butker gave the Chiefs a 20-7 edge headed into the half.
Brandon Bolden scored a 10-yard touchdown on an end around just two plays after Nate Ebner came up with a blocked punt for the Patriots -- their fourth of the season as a team -- to get the Patriots within 23-13 following a Butker 41-yard field goal to begin the second half.
Overall, the running game continues to let down the Patriots, with Sony Michel garnering just eight yards on five carries.
With the loss, the Patriots are now 10-3 while the Chiefs improved to 9-4. The Ravens won on Sunday over Buffalo, meaning they are now a full game ahead of New England for the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff picture, in possession of the head-to-head tiebreaker to boot.
The good news for the Patriots is that their final three games of the season see a return to mostly mediocre competition, beginning next Sunday on the road in Cincinnati against the Bengals (1-12) at 1 p.m.
New England is home for its final two games of the regular season: Saturday, Dec. 21 vs. the 9-4 Bills (4:30 p.m. kick) and Sunday, Dec. 29 vs. the 3-10 Dolphins (1 p.m. kick).