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Inadvertent whistle play should have been blown dead before it was blown dead



Week 12: Raiders at Bengals (video at 2:50)

On a 3rd-and-6, the Bengals completed a five-yard pass which was immediately fumbled near the sideline. The Raiders managed to keep the ball from going out of bounds by batting the ball in bounds. The Raiders then recovered the loose ball to return for a touchdown.

Unfortunately, line judge Julian Mapp anticipated the ball going out of bounds and blew the play dead. Since neither team had possession at the time of the inadvertent whistle, the Bengals get the option under Rule 7-2-1(n)(ii):

If the ball is a loose ball, resulting from a fumble, backward pass, or illegal forward pass, the team last in possession may elect to put the ball in play at the spot where possession was lost or to replay the down.

In this case — a yard short on third down — the Bengals elected to replay the down.

However, it is not clear that there should have been a complete pass in the first place. The receiver seems to have lost the ball without having the opportunity to make a football move. The Raiders could have challenged, because the challengeable part of the play occurred well before the inadvertent whistle. The Raiders would not get possession, but at least it would have been fourth down. The inadvertent whistle, itself, is not able to be reviewed.

Also, there is no automatic review of the play, because it was not a turnover, since the Raiders recovery of the ball was disregarded.

Alberto Riveron was the referee.

Update: An earlier version of this post identified the side judge as the official who blew the inadvertent whistle, but we cannot absolutely confirm.

Also, we contacted the league office for a comment on the play, and a spokesman replied that there would not be a statement issued.

Update 11/29: We have confirmed the inadvertent whistle was from line judge Julian Mapp.

Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)