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Officials say Sammy Watkins 'gave himself up' on final play Monday night

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The officials incorrectly wound the clock even though Sammy Watkins got out of bounds.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The errant whistle which may have cost the Patriots a touchdown late in the first half is getting most of the attention, and for good reason. The most controversial mistake the officials made during New England's 20-13 win over the Bills Monday night in Foxborough came at the end of the game on Sammy Watkins' catch.

According to Fox analyst and former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira, game officials should have stopped the clock after the Bills wide receiver made his way out of bounds with two seconds remaining in the game following his catch along the sidelines. Instead, the referees ruled that Watkins, who fell to the ground after the catch and but was never touched by a defender before rolling out of bounds, had given himself up voluntarily in the field of play.

"When that occurs and we deem that the runner ... the fact that he scoots out of bounds is not as important," Gene Steratore, the head referee Monday night, said afterwards to a pool reporter. "It was a judgment call by that head linesman that he felt like he gave himself up in the field of play.

"So, in his judgment, he deemed that the runner gave himself up in the field of play voluntarily, which does put him down by contact in the field, so he wound [the clock]."

Steratore also noted that whether or not the clock should be wound or not is not something that can be reviewed, which Pereira said was the correct call. That might have been the one thing Steratore and his crew got right all evening.

The smart folks at Football Zebras went even deeper into the inanity of Steratore's explanation.

The surrender technique is when a player essentially gives up on the play — either by taking a knee or remaining on the ground without any effort to advance. In referee's parlance, an "advance" can be backward, particularly in a sideline play where lateral yardage is gained just as much as goal-ward yardage. As long as the runner is voluntarily ceding territory in the advance, his forward progress spot moves back with him. If the position of the ball is moving, there is no way that the runner has given up an opportunity to advance. He is retreating, not surrendering.

So here we are, another Monday night game, another Tuesday morning spent parsing through postgame explanations from the officials and the NFL rulebook. An exasperated Mike Tirico summed it up best as moments after the final whistle blew.

"What a screwed up night of plays and officiating this was," Tirico said.

Yes, it was.