A handful of Bills-Patriots games have been close over the last few years. Among them was the Patriots’ 20-13 victory at Gillette Stadium in 2015.
For Bills fans with good memories, that game featured three dicey calls – one involved an inadvertent whistle on a Patriots pass play;a Patriots touchdown that should not have stood; and running the final seconds off the clock when the Bills should have had another play.
The referee on that crew was Gene Steratore. Now, two years later, Steratore has been assigned Sunday’s Bills-Patriots game at New Era Field. He also refereed the Bills game at San Francisco last season.
Steratore has been an NFL official since 2000 and comes from a family of NFL officials with both his father and brother having worked in the league.
In that 2015 game, Danny Amendola caught a 14-yard pass on the third play of the third quarter and seemingly had another 30 yards to run. The whistle blew while the ball was in the air. According to NFL rules, if the ball is in the air when the whistle is blown, the play is dead and the ball is put back to the previous spot.
The officials ruled that the whistle was blown after the ball was caught. In that situation, the Patriots had the option of replaying the down or have the ball spotted at its location when the whistle was blown. They opted for the 14-yard gain. The NFL later admitted the error.
What had Bills fans steamed further is that the officials determined that Bills coach Rex Ryan had bumped into the official on the sideline. Ryan was standing in the white area, where most coaches stand. That led to another 15 yards tacked on to the end of the play. In all, it was a 29-yard gain for the Patriots. The drive ended with no points after a missed field goal.
Also, a James White touchdown run that should've been whistled dead was allowed to stand. The Patriots were in a "simulated" substitution. Tight end Scott Chandler began running onto the field before retreating to the sideline when Buffalo's Jerry Hughes was late getting onto the field and flagged for offsides. The officials should've not allowed New England to snap the ball until Buffalo had enough time to get set, per NFL rule 5.2.10.
Then, with seven seconds left, Tyrod Taylor hit Sammy Watkins at the Bills’ 48-yard line. Watkins fell out of bounds untouched with two seconds left. Rather than stopping the clock and giving the Bills a chance at a Hail Mary, the officials kept the clock running and the game ended.
The officials said Watkins had given himself up at the sideline and so the clock continued.
Even the refs have bad days sometimes and sometimes we are here to remind them.
Welcome to Buffalo, Gene.