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Sport: NFL tries to explain premature whistle in Bengals-Raiders wild-card game, confuses matter further instead

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The play should have been dead, but the discourse is very much alive.

In the second quarter of Saturday's Bengals-Raiders wild-card playoff matchup, Cincinnati's Joe Burrow tossed a touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd that came with drama: a whistle was blown as the ball was in the air before it reached Boyd's hands, which may have indicated that a sprinting Burrow was out of bounds before the ball was thrown.

After lots of confusion and a discussion by the officials, the play stood and the touchdown counted, much to the dismay of the Raiders and their fans.

By rule, an inadvertent ("erroneous" in the rulebook) whistle means that the play does not count and that the down should be replayed. Those are not things that the crew ruled on the field.

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What was the NFL's explanation?

Following the game, NFL senior vice president of officiating Walt Anderson tried to explain what exactly happened on the field, but instead he complicated the matter further:

The main takeaway is that the officials believe the whistle was blown after Boyd had possession. Anderson's explanation:

We confirmed with the referee and the crew that on that play — they got together and talked — they determined that they had a whistle, but that the whistle for them on the field was blown after the receiver caught the ball. …

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  Due to erroneous whistle, Joe Burrow's TD pass against Raiders shouldn't have counted "Play to the whistle" is the cliche everyone knows. Maybe a really bad whistle on a touchdown pass by Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow in a wild-card playoff game didn't affect the Las Vegas Raiders' defense. On a third down late in the second quarter, Burrow rolled to his right. Tyler Boyd grabbed it, but a whistle blew right after Burrow released the ball. The officials huddled and decided that Burrow wasn't out of bounds, and it was a touchdown. A replay showed Burrow wasn't really close to being out of bounds when he threw it. JOE BURR-WOW. #RuleTheJungle#SuperWildCard @JoeyB????: #LVvsCIN on NBC????: NFL app pic.twitter.

They did not feel that the whistle was blown before the receiver caught the ball.

Anderson also dodged a question about which official blew the whistle. When pressed, he continued to dodge.

Could replay have been used?

It's important to note that a whistle being blown erroneously is not reviewable. That means that even though the scoring play was reviewed (as all scoring plays are), the whistle would not have been a component of the review process.

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It's also important to note that sound exists, and even though there may be a slight delay between what happened on-field and what came over the tube, the most telling thing is that some Raiders players seemed to think the play was dead while the ball was in the air.

Two quarters — and a few more questionable calls — later, the game came down to the wire, with the Bengals holding off the Raiders 26-19, punching their ticket to the divisional round next weekend.

MORE: Raiders-Bengals score updates, highlights

The officials may want get the heck out of Cincinnati faster.

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