Referee Jerome Boger and the officiating crew that worked Saturday’s AFC wild-card game between the Bengals and Raiders are not expected to work another NFL postseason game this year, according to ESPN.
Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Boger’s crew is not expected to receive high grades after calling a game highlighted by a controversial touchdown late in the first half — one that proved the ultimate difference in a 26-19 victory over Las Vegas. Schefter reports the NFL normally chooses its Super Bowl officiating team from the divisional rounds, but that teams that earn a high enough grade during wild-card weekend can call the Super Bowl.
The NFL has drawn some criticism for creating patchwork crews for the postseason, selecting officials from different crews and asking them to work together for the first time when the stakes are the highest. Regardless, Boger’s crew was heavily criticized for blowing a call that ultimately led to a Bengals touchdown that should have not counted.
The officiating error occurred at the two-minute warning of the first half, with the Bengals facing third-and-4 from the Raiders’ 9-yard line. Quarterback Joe Burrow rolled right to avoid pressure, throwing a pass to Tyler Boyd in the end zone just before he stepped out of bounds. An official inadvertently blew a whistle while the ball was still in the air, seemingly causing Raiders defenders to pause and resulting in an easier score.
After convening, Boger’s crew allowed the call to stand. Per NFL senior vice president of officiating Walt Anderson, the reasoning behind the decision was the crew believed the whistle had been blown after Boyd caught the pass in the end zone (replay shows this is incorrect). Anderson also added that erroneous whistles are not reviewable per NFL rules.
The NFL rulebook is clear, however, on the rules of erroneous whistles during live plays: “(W)hen an official sounds the whistle erroneously while the ball is still in play, the ball becomes dead immediately.”
The play should have been called dead, with officials presenting Cincinnati one of two options: Replay the down, or take the ball at the spot where the whistle was blown. Considering Burrow was a yard behind the line of scrimmage when he threw the ball, the Bengals likely would have replayed the down.
Regardless, the play stood as called, giving Cincinnati a 20-6 lead. Las Vegas was able to score quickly before halftime, cutting the lead to 20-13. Neither team scored another touchdown, trading two field goals in the second half for the Bengals to take a controversial 26-19 win.
The 4-seed Bengals are awaiting their next opponent, needing only to see whether the 2-seed Chiefs beat the 7-seed Steelers on “Sunday Night Football.” If the Chiefs win, the Bengals will travel to Nashville to take on the AFC’s top-seeded Titans, who are expecting running back Derrick Henry back for the first time since Oct. 31, 2021. If the Steelers pull off the upset, Cincinnati will travel to face the 3-seed Bills, fresh off a 47-17 win over the Patriots.