FOXBOROUGH, Mass. --- The officials were far, far from their "A" game Monday night.
There were missed calls, odd calls and a dose of controversy when an inadvertent whistle negated what could've been a New England Patriots touchdown. Instead, the officials ruled it a 14-yard gain and penalized Rex Ryan 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.
At the end of the game, Sammy Watkins hauled in a 16-yarder near the sideline and rolled out of bounds but the clock ran out even though it appeared the Bills should've had two more seconds.
Here's what the referee, Gene Steratore, had to say on both plays. With Watkins, he said "the receiver gave himself up voluntarily."
On the inadvertent whistle: "I think as the quarterback started to get near the sideline and press the line judge, who was the official right near the quarterback, [Gary Arthur]. I think as Tom [Brady] released the football, the line judge lost track of maybe where the ball was at that point and almost by its own definition, inadvertently blew the whistle. What we do from that point onward is find out where the football was at the time the whistle was blown. We deemed it to be, in our judgement, received by the receiver, as we stated, at the 45-yard line, I believe. And then by rule, what you do with that, or once you determine in your judgement where the ball was at the time of the whistle, if it’s in a possession of a player, which we deemed it to be, you take all fouls then, that would have been on that play and you enforce them from that spot of where the ball would be declared dead by the inadvertent whistle. We had a bench-area obstruction foul then, that we actually tacked on to the spot of, I believe we went from the 45 to the 40-yard line, because we tacked on the 15-yard foul from that spot. So that’s what you do with the play, as it goes by rule."
On the last play, ruling Sammy Watkins inbounds: "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. When that occurs and we deem that the runner, which he would have been after he maintained possession after his reception, he was now a runner, had given himself up in the field of play. Then fact that he scoots out of bounds is not as important. We wound the clock. It was a judgement call by that head linesman that he felt like he gave himself up in the field of play. It’s not a reviewable play. So winding the clock or stopping the clock is not something we review. So, in his judgement, 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)."