A signature play made by Joe Burrow has become controversial because of an official's apparent actions.
With less than two minutes remaining in the first half of Saturday's wild-card showdown between the Bengals and Raiders, Burrow rolled to his right, approached the sideline and lofted a touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd. Raiders players immediately appeared confused by the outcome of a play they thought had been blown dead by an official's errant whistle, which appeared to be blown while the ball was traveling toward Boyd.
Instead, the touchdown toss from Burrow to Boyd stood as called on the field, giving the Bengals a 20-6 lead. Cincinnati went on to earn its first playoff victory in 31 years with a 26-19 victory over Las Vegas.
The league did not offer a comment on the matter, per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, instead deferring to NBC rules expert and former NFL referee Terry McAulay, who noted such a play cannot be corrected via replay.
"They can't have a touchdown on that play, by rule," McAulay said during the NBC broadcast.
Per NFL rules, the down should have been replayed if there was an errant whistle. Rule 7, Section 2 (m) states: "when an official sounds his whistle erroneously while the ball is in play, the ball becomes dead immediately. ... If the ball is a loose ball resulting in a legal forward pass, a free kick, a fair-catch kick, or a scrimmage kick, the ball is returned to the previous spot, and the down is replayed."
Bengals coach Zac Taylor was coy about the whole situation after the win. "I definitely, definitely never heard a whistle," he remarked. "No way."
Raiders interim head coach Rich Bisaccia was asked about the result by NBC sideline reporter Kathryn Tappen, and was succinct in his response.
"We gotta move past that," Bisaccia said. "Next question."
To Las Vegas' credit, the Raiders certainly moved past the touchdown, marching 80 yards in 11 plays and 1:38 to respond with a touchdown pass of their own to make it a 20-13 score at halftime.
After the game, Bisaccia maintained his initial thoughts about the call.
"I think that's a good crew," Bisaccia said. "I think there's a lot of things that went on in the game both ways. ... I got enough problems with my job, I can't do the officiating, too."