NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino acknowledged Friday that an inadvertent whistle blew before New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola caught a 14-yard pass in the third quarter of Monday night’s 20-13 win over the Buffalo Bills, not after he gained possession as was ruled on the field.
“When you watch it and listen to the whistle, the whistle blew with the ball in the air, but it was very close,” Blandino said in a weekly officiating review video released to the public. “The officials attempted to determine when the whistle blew and I feel they did the most equitable thing, because the whistle did not affect the pass or the completion, but it certainly affected Buffalo from being able to tackle Amendola after the catch.”
Blandino earlier this week called the inadvertent whistle “a mistake” but did not say that officials erred in awarding the Patriots the catch. NFL rules state that the ball should have been spotted at the original line of scrimmage if an inadvertent whistle blew before a receiver had possession of a pass.
Referee Gene Steratore enforced the rule as if the whistle occurred when Amendola made the catch.
"In our judgment, we thought the whistle came a little later after the ball was thrown," Steratore said after the game. "So we felt that the receiver had possession at the time of the whistle, so basically we went to that spot, which we determined was about the 45-yard line."
Fans in Gillette Stadium loudly booed Steratore’s explanation during the game because the inadvertent whistle prevented what could have been a longer gain by Amendola. However, the Bills were also upset at the call because it awarded the Patriots with a catch after the play was blown dead.
"They cheated us," Bills linebacker Nigel Bradham told Syracuse.com. "They spotted the ball in the middle of the field and gave them all those yards and then blew the whistle. It's crazy, man. At least spot the ball where he caught it. That was just one of them things where they didn't give us no explanation. Fortunately we were able hold them to a field goal."