Referees prematurely blow whistle on what would've been a big play for the Patriots last night

Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports
This one was really stupid.

In the third quarter of the Patriots' 20-13 win over the Bills, Tom Brady was scrambling to extend a play and found Danny Amendola for a first down and what should have been a lot more, but the referees couldn't get out of their own way.

As Amendola caught the ball, the play was blown dead because the line judge lost track of where the football was.


Amendola would have had a huge gain and might have even scored on the play had the officials not blown it dead. There was only one Bills defender down the field at the time Amendola caught the pass, so he probably would have only had to get by one guy.

Dean Blandino, vice president of officiating later said that the play should've never have been prematurely stopped.

Per Kevin Seifert of

"Line judge lost track of the football, blew his whistle inadvertently," Dean Blandino, the NFL's vice president of officiating, told NFL Network after the game. "It was a mistake. Whistle shouldn't have been blown."

Blandino said he was "wondering why" the whistle was inadvertently blown in that situation, but he praised the refs for "doing a good job of handling where they were going to put the football because both teams are affected by the whistle blowing."

This was just one of many things that have tons of people riled up over the way the game was officiated last night. On multiple occasions, flags were thrown and then picked up after what seemed like 20-minute long conversations between the officiating crew as to whether or not a foul should be called. The game took three hours and 40 minutes in part because of that, but also because there wasn't much pace to it.

Referee Gene Steratore, who is regarded as one of the better NFL officials, offered an explanation of the play post-game.

"In our judgment, we thought the whistle came a little later after the ball was thrown," Steratore said after the game. "So we felt that the receiver had possession at the time of the whistle, so basically we went to that spot, which we determined was about the 45-yard line."

The rule is as follows:

NFL dead ball instructions are discussed in Rule 7, Section 2, Article 1 of the NFL rulebook. Part of the rule states that "when an official sounds his whistle erroneously while the ball is still in play, the ball becomes dead immediately."

The rule goes on to note that if a player has possession at the time of the whistle, the team can elect to take possession at the point of possession or redo the play. But if the ball is loose "resulting from a legal forward pass" -- in other words, if it's in the air -- the ball is returned to the previous spot, and the down is replayed.

So what could have been a 17-3 Patriots lead was wiped out because the line judge didn't know where the ball was. Pathetic. That drive ended in Stephen Gostkowski missing a 54-yard field goal, his first miss of the season.

Amendola, meanwhile, left the game with an apparent knee injury and will have an MRI later today.

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