What would a Monday night NFL game, or a New England Patriots game for that matter, be without a little officiating controversy?
There were plenty of head-scratching moments on Monday night from the officials, which seems to be the norm this season. The Patriots got a potential touchdown taken away in the third quarter on a weird call, and then the Buffalo Bills had a chance for a last-second throw to the end zone taken away on another controversial call.
The game might not have been in doubt at the end if not for an inadvertent whistle that took a potential Danny Amendola touchdown off the board. Brady rolled right, a whistle blew even though Brady was a few feet from the sideline, and the confusion began.
Brady's pass was caught by Amendola, and Amendola had a chance to get by one Buffalo Bills defender and take it the rest of the way for a long touchdown. But the whistle had blown so play stopped. Referee Gene Steratore explained that a whistle had inadvertently blown when Amendola caught the ball, so the ball was dead at the spot Amendola made the catch, and Rex Ryan was given a penalty for interfering with the line judge on the sideline who apparently blew the whistle.
The only problem with the explanation was that the part about when the whistle blew wasn't correct. And it wasn't the last time there was an officiating controversy.
The whistle blew before Amendola caught the pass. In the ESPN booth, former official Gerry Austin said that if the whistle blew before the pass was caught, the play was a "do over." Not only did the officials blow a whistle by mistake, they got the part about when it was blown wrong too. Steratore, in a pool report after the game, said that the officials huddled and determined that Amendola had caught the ball before the whistle blew. Had the officials correctly determined that the whistle blew with the ball in the air, the down would have been replayed. Steratore also explained that the line judge "lost track of maybe where the ball was at that point and almost by its own definition, inadvertently blew the whistle."
The Patriots got robbed of a possible touchdown by Amendola, and at the end of that drive Stephen Gostkowski missed a field goal.
The Bills got hosed a bit too, but not quite as bad. That happened at the end of the game.
On the final play, Bills receiver Sammy Watkins caught a pass and got out of bounds before he was touched. But the officials motioned to keep the clock running, and it ran out instead of time stopping and the Bills heaving a throw of a little more than 50 yards into the end zone. Former NFL officiating chief Mike Pereira said the clock should have stopped. A Hail Mary throw into the end zone doesn't connect often, but it does sometimes. The Bills never even got the shot they deserved.
Steratore told a pool reporter after the game that the judgment was made that Watkins gave himself up on the play, which is why the clock ran and the play couldn't be reviewed.
"What we had as far as the last play with Buffalo’s reception was that the receiver gave himself up voluntarily in the field of play," Steratore said.
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There were also plenty of long meetings throughout the game among the officiating crew, a really long review of a first-down catch that wasn't spotted right at the start of the Bills' final drive, and a wrong call on a Watkins fourth-down catch that had to be reversed after a review.
It wasn't the best night for the officials, but at least you can't say they were biased. Both sides had reason to complain.
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