The Raiders were still smoldering after an official's inadvertent whistle erased what could have been a 25-yard touchdown return of a fumble by Tyvon Branch.
Yes, the Raiders acknowledged their role in a 34-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, and the fact that sleepwalking through a 24-0 first half was ultimately the reason for their demise.
Yet a team struggling as much as the Raiders could use any spark, and following a third quarter in which they outscored Cincinnati 10-0, one appeared when Joselio Hanson stripped Mohamed Sanu and batted the ball back on the field of play.
Official Julian Mapp blew his whistle, Branch picked the ball up and ran in untouched. Some players had stopped when the whistle blew, others had not. The ruling was that the Bengals not only retained possession of the ball, but got to pick whether to play the down over or take the ball at the spot.
"I understood the call," Raiders linebacker Philip Wheeler said, "but the referee (Mapp) came to me and he told me, 'I'm a man. I made a mistake.' He told me that on the field. He said he made a mistake blowing the whistle. I was on (him) for it and he finally said, 'Look, man. I'm a man. And I made a mistake.' That's all he could say. Hopefully, he'll own up to it."
A Raiders touchdown would have cut the margin to 10 points, early in the fourth quarter, and they already had a semblance of momentum -- a potential break for a team that needed one.
Hanson, whose sideline save was reminiscent of a basketball player throwing the ball back in bounds, said, "It was a bad call ... if we had scored I think anything can happen."
In the aftermath, predictably, tempers flared. On a play where the Bengals were called for a false start, defensive end Lamarr Houston tackled Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. Tackle Andrew Whitworth jumped in, the two began to fight, and were joined by defensive tackle Tommy Kelly.
When it ended, Whitworth, Houston and Kelly were all ejected.
Cincinnati then went on to complete an 85-yard drive, with a 7-yard pass from Dalton to Jermaine Gresham essentially ending things.
Raiders coach Dennis Allen was unhappy with the loss of poise, but liked the spirit his team showed in the third quarter. When asked if he could candidly assess the inadvertent whistle without being disciplined by the league, Allen said, "Probably not."