The inadvertent whistle wasn't the only major officiating blunder that occurred during the Patriots' 20-13 win over the Bills on Monday night. The NFL is also now admitting Buffalo wide receiver Sammy Watkins got out of bounds with two seconds remaining in regulation and the Bills should've been able to run one more play before time expired.
During his weekly program on the NFL Network Tuesday night, the NFL's vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said Watkins was never touched on his way out of bounds, which means the clock should've stopped running. Head referee Gene Steratore falsely said after the game Monday Watkins had "given himself up."
"It's a judgment call," Blandino said. "When you look at the play, a player can certainly give himself up -- a runner -- by going to the ground and making no attempt to advance.
"He is down inbounds, but he's not contacted. He's attempting to get out of bounds. You want to give that player the opportunity to get out of bounds and really, that's what should have happened."
It's unlikely the referees' errant call on Watkins affected the outcome of the game -- Buffalo would've only had time for one Hail Mary pass -- but it's still an inexcusable error. It was clear Watkins wasn't "giving himself up," but rather falling backwards in an effort to get out of bounds without being touched.
It's been an embarrassing season for NFL referees -- a missed false start penalty that cost the Ravens a game, a blown batted ball call that sunk the Lions last month, allowing 18 seconds to disappear in the Steelers’ Week 5 win against the Chargers -- but Monday night may have been their lowest point of the year. Blandino elaborated further on the inadvertent whistle Tuesday, explaining why the referees decided to spot the ball where Danny Amendola caught it and enforce the 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty that was called on Rex Ryan from there.
"I think with what they had, they pieced it together and they did the best they could by saying, 'OK, the whistle didn't affect the pass. It did affect this action at the end. We're going to put it where the ball was caught and we're going to enforce the penalty there,'" Blandino said.
After yet another primetime game, the men wearing the striped shirts were the story instead of the players.
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