As the Carolina Panthers celebrated their sixth straight win, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots were left wondering why a penalty that might have saved them on the final play was wiped out.
Cam Newton threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Ted Ginn Jr. with 59 seconds left, and Carolina held off New England 24-20 Monday night in Charlotte, N.C., when officials picked up a flag in the end zone.
After Newton drove the Panthers 83 yards on 13 plays for the go-ahead touchdown, the Patriots had a chance at an improbable comeback when Brady moved New England to the Carolina 18 with 3 seconds left and fired into the end zone as time expired.
Rookie safety Robert Lester intercepted the pass, but an official at the back of the end zone threw a flag -- apparently for pass interference on linebacker Luke Kuechly, who had both arms wrapped around tight end Rob Gronkowski.
The officials quickly gathered, however, and waved off the flag -- perhaps ruling Gronkowski could not have caught the ball, which was underthrown. But there was no immediate explanation.
"There was no explanation given to me. Officials ran off the field. I didn't see anything," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "It was the last play of the game. There was a flag thrown and then the game was over."
Referee Clete Blakeman said after the game that back judge Terrence Miles saw there was contact and that Kuechly was not playing the ball, and that initially led Miles to call defensive pass interference. But Blakeman said the officials met and decided the ball was "underthrown" and that it came down to a matter of "uncatchability."
A pass-interference call would have put the ball on the 1-yard line and given the Patriots one more shot at game-winning touchdown with no time on the clock.
Brady ran down two officials to argue the call as they walked off the field but later said he didn't get a good look at the play.
Two players suspended: Colts linebacker Erik Walden's head-butt and Buccaneers safety Dashon Goldson's helmet-to-helmet hit have earned one-game suspensions from the NFL.
Walden pulled off the helmet of Titans tight end Delanie Walker, then slammed his own helmet into Walker's head during Indianapolis' game against Tennessee on Thursday.
Goldson was penalized for unnecessary roughness for his hit on a defenseless receiver, Roddy White, against Atlanta on Sunday. It was Goldson's third such violation this season.
Texans: Coach Gary Kubiak is sticking with quarterback Case Keenum as his starter despite pulling him late in Houston's loss to the Raiders.
Ravens: General manager Ozzie Newsome was back at work in Baltimore after undergoing a battery of tests, according to coach John Harbaugh.
Newsome, 57, became too ill to take the flight home from Chicago after the Ravens' overtime loss to the Bears on Sunday.
Broncos: Safety Rahim Moore underwent emergency surgery for a condition known as lateral compartment syndrome. Moore left the game Sunday night against Kansas City with leg problems.