I have been waiting all week to watch the game again after I had a chance to try to set aside all the emotion that I had after the game. So tonight I fired up the DVR. After watching the game again I come away even more enraged and dissapointed. The bottom line is that the refs and the Patriots lost this game, Denver did not win it. I credit the Broncos with 3 game changing type plays and the ability to get good pressure on Brady, but it was the Patriots and the refs, well one ref in particular that gave the game to the Broncos. The 3 game changing plays are the Baily INT, forcing Faulk to fumble, and the bootleg rollout pass by Plumer right after the Patriots scored making the game 24-13. Here are my observations on the game. 1. It was largely believed that the Patriots needed to get off to a good start in this game to beat Denver. Denver had gotten to leads in just about every game they played in this year, then ran the other team into the ground. In the first quarter, Belichick made some uncharacteristic judgement calls and bad play calls, that forced the Offense to have bad field position inside there own 10 yard line. On the second drive of the game the Patriots had a 4th and 1 on around the Bronco 43 yard line. The most popular play on 4th down this year was sneaking Brady. In fact I can't remember a single time where Brady sneaked the ball on fourth down over the last half of the season where he didn't pick up at least 2-3 yard easily. There was no cluster of defenders over the center and I was sure that the sneak would be the call. Nope, instead Brady throws a quick pass to Fauria, incomplete. The result Denver gets one first down but then punts and pins NE inside there 10 yard line limiting their playbook and Denver dictates Field position for the next 2 or 3 drives by each team. Later in the first quarter the Patriots stop the Broncos on a 3rd and 7 deep in the Patriots territory, that would have set up probably a 48-55 yard field goal attempt. Instead Belichick takes a holding penalty giving the Broncos another chance to convert which they do. The Patriots end up making a goal line stand which of course is fantastic, but the next offensive drive starts at the 1. I would have argued that I was happy to give up 3 points at that point than start at the 1 again. These 2 calls by Belichick basically took the ball out the hands of his offense for a good part of the first half, missing out on valuable scoring opportunities. 2. The Back Judge gave the Broncos 10-14 points. The same Back Judge that made the horrendous call on Samuel for Pass interference, was the same guy that was standing right next to Troy Brown when he fumble (was interfered with) on the fair catch. Immediately after the pass interference call, the TV footage shows Lelie running over to the referees, with his arms out and shaking his head. The conclusion I come to from that body language is that he knew he was guilty and thought the flag was on him and was trying to argue the call. He wasn't arguing for a flag at that point, the flag was already on the ground. The replay shows Lelie pushing and grabbing on Samuel at least 3 times, where Samuel touches Lelie 1 time with his hand. Just a shamefull call by the Back Judge, and he took way to long to make it. The punt that Troy fumbled, was not a fumble. While obviously Troy bobbled the punt, he was fair catching the ball. The rule on fair catching states that the receiver may not be touched if he bobbles the ball until the ball hits the ground. The defender clearly grabs Troy as he is trying to catch his bobble before the ball hits the ground. I saw this same scenario called correctly 2 or 3 times this year in other games. The same frickin Back Judge that made the horrendous intererence call was about 5 yards from Troy and the Denver guy and flat out just missed the call. As a result of this one jackass Back Judge, the Broncos get 7 points for the Interference call, and are put inside the 20 for the Brown fair catch interference fumble. The Patriots could have stopped the Broncos here but they were given a gift on a silver platter and at worst would have had a field goal. 3. The Bailey INT. The play before Bailey intercepts Brady, Brady throws a quick pass to Givens, that if he catches I think gets in for a touchdown. While the pass was not perfect by any means, Givens should have caught the ball and would have had enough seperation to probably shake the single defender in his path to the end zone. If givens makes this play, the INT never happens. Given would at worst got the ball to the 2 or 1 yard line, instead the Patriots are force to throw from the 5. Now for the Bailey INT. Firstly, Brady was pressured, but he makes a bad decision and bad through. Bailey makes a great play and deserves the credit here. But what follows is something that I have not heard anywhere else. While Bailey is returning the ball, at approx. the 50 yard line Kevin Faulk catches up to Bailey as he angles toward the sideline. Instead of going for the tackle or trying to push Bailey out of bounds, he tries to take a big swipe at the Ball in Baileys hand and whifs. I watched that replay 10 times and he was within 1 step of Bailey where he easily could have attempted a tackle or push. Instead he throws a windmill at the ball and misses. JUST MAKE THE TACKLE FAULK ! You don't need the ball back on the same play. After replaying the Bailey fumble, I agree that there was no way the refs could have overturned the call. It did look like the ball may have went through the corner of the end zone, but cameras where all angled in such a way that you just couldn't over turn the call. I don't blame the Refs here, I just don't know why Faulk doesn't try to tackle Bailey, he had him dead and the Patriots could have re-gathered themselves at midfield. The ironic thing here is that if Ben Watson did not hustle as much or wasn't as fast as he was, he would have hit Bailey 1 yard closer to the end zone where Bailey was relaxing even more and the ball would then have clearly went out through the end zone. But that hustle and speed by Watson was just incredible. The Steelers will kill the Broncos. All we can hope for is that this loss re-motivates the players once again. I say the Patriots are still the favorites again next year.