NFL Referee Jerome Boger Gets Benched By League After Controversial Call in Cincinnati Bengals vs. Las Vegas Raiders Game

The most controversial moment from the opening Saturday of Super Wild Card Weekend was a 10-yard touchdown pass from the Cincinnati Bengals‘ Joe Burrow to Tyler Boyd against the Las Vegas Raiders. Referee Jerome Boger should have called the play dead due to an erroneous whistle, but he ultimately let it stand. And that was the difference in the game.

Now, the NFL is benching the crew for the rest of the playoffs because of the game-changing call.

The Joe Burrow to Tyler Boyd touchdown should not have counted

Near the end of the first half of the Wild Card Round playoff game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Las Vegas Raiders, the Bengals had the ball on the Raiders’ 10-yard line. Just back from the two-minute warning, quarterback Joe Burrow took the snap, and the Raiders D flushed him out to his right.

As Burrow was about to go out of bounds, he saw a wide-open receiver in the back of the end zone and threw to him as he was leaping over the boundary. While the ball was in the air, one of the officials blew their whistle before the ball hit the hands of WR Tyler Boyd.

Referee Jerome Boger and his crew conferred, and the play stood.

The problem is, the whistle blowing while the ball was in the air was clearly audible on the broadcast. The NFL rule book is very clear about officiating this type of situation.

Rule 7, Section 2 of the NFL rulebook states:

(m): when an official sounds his whistle erroneously while the ball is still in play, the ball becomes dead immediately;

(3) If the ball is a loose ball resulting from 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.

NFL rulebook on erroneous whistles

There it is, in black and white.

Even though the whistle didn’t seem to affect the play, it happened, and Boger and his crew should have brought the ball back to the 10-yard line and replayed the down. Instead, they let it stand, and the Bengals beat the Raiders by a touchdown.

Adam Schefter reports that we likely won’t see Jerome Boger and his crew again in the playoffs

NFL Referee Jerome Boger during an NFL game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams on January 9, 2022. Boger's crew's erroneous whistle may have cost the Las Vegas Raiders a win Saturday vs. the Cincinnati Bengals.
NFL Referee Jerome Boger | Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.

ESPN insider Adam Schefter reported following the game that NFL referee Jerome Boger and his officiating crew “are not expected to officiate again this postseason after their problematic performance Saturday highlighted by a controversial whistle.”

Schefter notes Boger’s exclusion from the Divisional Round, Conference Championships, and Super Bowl won’t be official until all the refereeing crew grades are final following the Wild Card Round.

However, sources told him that the crew is “not expected” to get high marks due to missing the controversial whistle call.

Furthermore — and this part will infuriate Las Vegas Raiders fans even more — Schefter reported that “one league source did not express surprise at Boger’s performance.”

After the game, the NFL head of officiating explained what happened on the field and why there was no official review before confirming the Cincinnati Bengals’ crucial score.

The NFL explained what happened with Boger’s blown call after the game

Following the final whistle in the Cincinnati Bengals’ 26-19 win over the Las Vegas Raiders, NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Walt Anderson discussed the erroneous whistle incident with PFWA pool reporter Paul Dehner.

Anderson relayed what Jerome Boger and his crew told him happened on the play:

We confirmed with the referee and the crew 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.

Walt Anderson on Jerome Boger deciding to conform the TD after errouneous whistle

Anderson would not say which official blew the whistle. But he did explain why Boger and company didn’t review the whistle. The league VP cited Rule 15, Section 4 of the NFL rulebook, covering non-reviewable plays.

The first subsection of that rule (a) states that “whether an erroneous whistle sounded” is not reviewable.

So, Boger and his crew did adjudicate that part of the rule correctly. That said, it’s little consolation to Raiders fans, players, and coaches. They will have the whole offseason to stew on the referees’ mistake.

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