Patriots’ Hunter Henry fumbles TD in loss to Vikings

MINNESOTA — New England Patriots tight end Hunter Henry’s 6-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter was overturned on instant replay Thursday night, a decision that left him confused after a 33-26 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at US Bank Stadium.

“I believe I caught it,” Henry said late Thursday night in the Patriots locker room. “He said it hit the ground. But I believe my hand was under the ball. The hand was under the ball, when it hit the ground it caused it to pop up.”

“They called. I just have to live with it.”

On a third-and-goal play from the 6-yard line, quarterback Mac Jones threw a pass near the goal line to Henry, who was covered by Vikings linebacker Chandon Sullivan. Henry had both hands on the ball as he charged towards the goal line.

Officials initially considered it a touchdown before overturning the call for an incomplete clearance after a lengthy review.

A touchdown would have given the Patriots a 30-23 lead midway through the third quarter, subject to a successful point-after attempt. Instead, they settled for a 25-yard field goal by Nick Folk. The Vikings then scored the final 10 points of the game.

NFL vice president of officiating Walt Anderson explained the overturned call in a pool report saying, “He went to the ground, the ball touched the ground and then he lost control of the ball in his hands.”

When asked to explain why Henry wasn’t awarded possession before the ball hit the ground, Anderson replied, “Because when he goes to the ground, he has to maintain control of the ball when it touches the ground. The common term used is ‘survive.’ ground’…he has elements of two feet and control, but because he goes to ground he has to keep control of the ball.”

As the replay process unfolded, Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said he thought it would either be a goal-line catch or an incomplete pass.

“I think it’s one of those things that could have gone a lot of different ways. I was very happy that it went the way it did,” he said.

Henry had two hands on the ball, but Anderson said that alone was not enough.

“If he kept control of the ball with two hands, even if the ball touched the ground, it would still be a catch,” he said.

Henry, in his seventh NFL season, only saw the recording while watching on the scoreboard at US Bank Stadium. After Thursday’s game, he planned to “really look at it in the film room and try to get better and control the ball the whole time, so there’s no question.”

The Patriots still had chances after the decision, but were doomed by self-inflicted injuries, such as a fourth-quarter rushing penalty that turned a punt into an eventual Vikings touchdown.

“We have to move on from that [overturned] play and play the rest of the game. There was plenty of time left,” Jones said. “There were other times we could have hit it and it wouldn’t have been a problem. One call cannot decide the outcome. We have to be able to be better, so it’s not even close.”

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