NFL officials admitted the whistle halting play during Monday night’s game between the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills was a mistake.
“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, according to ESPN. “It was a mistake. Whistle shouldn’t have been blown.”
Blandino questioned why the mistake was made, but said the referees did well in handling where they placed the football as a result of the inadvertent whistle.
But according to ESPN and the NFL’s dead ball rule, the officials may have also been mistaken in their placement of the ball.
The play in question occurred early in the third quarter of the Patriots' 20–13 win over the Bills. Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola caught a pass from Tom Brady at the Bills’ 45-yard line and broke downfield. But because of the inadvertent whistle, play was halted and Bills cornerback Ronald Darby did not attempt to tackle Amendola.
Because the whistle was blown while the ball was still in the air, the Patriots should have had the opportunity to replay the down, according to Rule 7, Section 2, Article 1 of the NFL rulebook. However, the officials decided the whistle came after the pass was completed.
“In our judgment, we thought the whistle came a little later after the ball was thrown,” Steratore said. “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 sequence ended with the Patriots missing a 54-yard field goal.