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The first weekend of the NFL playoffs produced plenty of intrigue, drama, and controversy. The most controversial play of the weekend was a 10-yard touchdown pass from Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow. A whistle blew during the play, which the referees should have called back. The score was enough to propel the Bengals past the Las Vegas Raiders 26-19, and, as far as Burrow and head coach Zac Taylor are concerned, they didn’t even hear the whistle.

The officials blew a major call in the Cincinnati Bengals vs. Las Vegas Raiders game 

Referee Jerome Boger and his crew made a wrong call in the first half of the Cincinnati Bengals vs. Las Vegas Raiders game that may have changed the outcome of the game.

At the end of the first half, the Bengals were up 13-6 and driving. On 3rd-and-4 from the Las Vegas 10-yard line, Joe Burrow dropped back to pass. The Raiders rush flushed him to the right, and, right as the QB was about to go out of bounds, he flipped the ball to the back of the end zone and a waiting Tyler Boyd.

The issue was, a whistle clearly blew while the ball was in the air.

By rule, since neither team had possession with the ball in the air when the whistle blew, the ball should have returned to the 10-yard line, and the teams would replay 3rd down.

That’s not what happened.

The play stood, and the Bengals took a 20-6 lead. The Raiders responded with a touchdown and kept the game close the entire time. The game ended with a one-score margin on a Derek Carr interception by Germaine Pratt with 12-seconds less.

No one knows what would have happened if the Bengals had to try the play again. They may have still scored, and the result would be the same. What we do know is that the Raiders weren’t given a chance to see because the officials messed up.

Joe Burrow and Zac Taylor smirked their way through postgame denials 

The Cincinnati Bengals won the franchise’s first playoff game since January 6, 1991, on Saturday. It is an incredible accomplishment, especially for such a young team, and one that no one can take away from them.

After the game, QB Joe Burrow and head coach Zac Taylor didn’t want to hear about the errant whistle. In fact, they said they couldn’t talk about it because they didn’t hear it.

When asked about the whistle in his postgame presser, Burrow simply responded, “Nah, I didn’t hear a whistle.” The signal-caller froze after that and waited for the next question with a faint smirk on his face while reporters chuckled in the background.

His coach Zac Taylor said the same during his media availability.

“I definitely, definitely never heard a whistle,” Taylor said, breaking into a smile. “No way.”

For his part, Raiders head coach Rich Bisaccia didn’t harp on the missed call after the game either.

“I think that’s a good crew. A lot of things went on in the game, both ways. A lot of things went both ways,” Bisacca said. “I got enough problems with my job. I can’t do the officiating too.”

While the coaches and players didn’t make a big deal about the missed call after the game, social media and the pundits certainly did. Despite the outcries, though, the game is now over, and the Bengals are moving on.

The Bengals will face the No. 1 Tennessee Titans in the Divisional Round

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow reacts during the Wild Card game against the Las Vegas Raiders and the Cincinnati Bengals on January 15, 2022. He and coach Zac Taylor say they didn't hear the controversial whistle during the game.
Joe Burrow | Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.

What do Joe Burrow, Zac Taylor, and the Cincinnati Bengals get for winning the organization’s first playoff game in 31 years? A date with the best team in the AFC, the Tennessee Titans.

The Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs made light work of the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers, respectively, setting up a date between the two high-powered offenses in Arrowhead next week.

It also means the Bengals will travel to Nashville to face the 12-5 Titans.

The Titans scratched and clawed their way to the top of the AFC this season despite a rash of injuries, including one to their best player, RB Derrick Henry. A first-round bye is just what the doctor ordered for the AFC South squad. They will get healthier during the break and possibly even get the best runner in the NFL back to boot.

The matchup with Tennessee will be tough for Cincinnati. However, the Bengals have now won four games in a row where their starters play and have the offensive firepower to beat the Titans if they can get into a shootout.

The toughest part for the Bengals in the playoffs will be beating the Titans and making it to the AFC Championship Game to face the Bills or Chiefs. Both are better, more mature versions of the Bengals, and it would take a perfect game for Burrow and company to beat Josh Allen or Patrick Mahomes.

For now, though, the Bengals can take solace in the fact that they are way ahead of schedule in their current rebuild and, whistle or no whistle, should be a team to reckon with for years to come.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference