Down three points, Dolphins defensive back Jimmy Wilson forced Brady to fumble with nine minutes left in the game. Miami defensive end Olivier Vernon was closing in on the recovery but could not corral the football.
The ball bounced 14 more yards and Patriots left tackle Nate Solder recovered at Miami’s 45-yard line. However, the official threw the flag on Olivier for illegally batting the ball forward.
Instead of losing 22 total yards, New England gained 10 yards on the penalty. The 32-yard swing led to the Patriots scoring their final touchdown four plays later in a 27-17 victory against Miami.
“You know, our stance was we thought he was trying to recover it,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. “And they said he illegally batted it.”
Here was referee Walt Anderson’s explanation after the game via the pool report:
“The official on the field, what he ruled was that the player batted it forward, which is an intentional act. Players cannot bat the ball forward. With it being the defensive team they couldn’t bat it in that direction. The offensive team likelwise could not have batted it forward from their side of the field.”
Anderson further explained that the play was not reviewable.
Players in Miami’s locker room would not elaborate much on the questionable officiating Sunday. That may have been an edict from Philbin. It also prevents players from getting fined.
There were a few other plays such as a defensive holding call on Miami cornerback Dimitri Patterson and a potential sideline catch by receiver Rishard Matthews that didn’t go the Dolphins’ way. But Vernon’s call was clearly the most important.
“I was trying to make a play,” Vernon said. “But the ref called it and that’s what it is.”