Report: Refs Blew Call on Final Play Of Bills-Pats MNF Because He Forgot the Rules

Sammy Watkins out of bounds

That premature whistle on a third quarter pass play from Tom Brady to Danny Amendola wasn’t the only blown call during Monday night’s AFC East battle between the Patriots and Bills.  The officials also screwed up on the final play of the game—a 16-yard pass from Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor to wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

During the play, Watkins reeled in a pass along the sideline and appeared to roll out of bounds untouched at the Bills’ 48-yard line.  Nearly everyone watching figured the clock would stop once Watkins hit the white paint, which would have given the Bills two more valuable seconds, and a chance to toss up a Hail Mary from about midfield.  However, head linesman Ed Walker motioned to continue running the clock after the play was over, sealing the Patriots’ 20-13 victory.

Here’s a look at the final play:

According to head referee Gene Steratore, Walker ruled that Watkins had voluntarily given himself up within the field of play. Here’s his entire explanation, which was provided while speaking with a pool reporter:

“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,” Steratore said. “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 judgment 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 judgment, 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].”

Should we believe Steratore’s “judgement call” explanation and simply chalk this one up as bad judgement on the part of Ed Walker? Or is there something more to this?

The Boston Globe‘s Ben Violin seems to believe the latter, suggesting that Steratore was simply covering up for Walker, who may have mistaken the NFL’s rule on such plays with that of the NCAA:

The source said Walker mistakenly applied the college rule instead of the NFL rule. Just because Watkins went backward does not mean he gave himself up as a runner – running sideways or backward is still considered trying to “advance” the football. For the runner to surrender himself, he has to truly give up on the play – such as when a quarterback slides before taking a hit.

“In the NFL, the way it’s always been officiated is if a guy gets out of bounds, you give it to him and stop the clock,” the source said. “But he called it like the college rule. I’m not sure he knew the NFL rule.”

That’s a possibility as well.

All I know for sure is that no matter which way you slice it (confusion between the NFL and NCAA’s rules or just a case of bad judgement), the officiating from last night’s game, and throughout the season in general, has been downright atrocious.

Hey, Roger Goodell! How about less fines for uniform infractions and more for poor officiating?

Hat Tip – [Boston Globe, Deadspin, Yahoo]

Tags: Buffalo Bills, Ed Walker, football, Gene Steratore, Monday Night football, New England Patriots, NFL, referee,