The first wild-card playoff game of the 2021 NFL season generated a lot of frustration among Raiders and Bengals fans, and not just because of how their teams were playing. They were also upset with questionable or missed calls by the referee team.
There were 14 penalties allowed in the Bengals’ 26-19 victory. All five of the Raiders’ starting offensive linemen were penalized during the game, according to the associated press. The Raiders finished with seven penalties for 46 yards, while the Bengals had seven penalties for 56 yards.
MORE: NFL playoff bracket, scores
Playoff umpiring teams are “all-star” units made up of officials from various teams. For this game, Jerome Boger was the referee. He has been an NFL referee since 2004.
These referees are having the time of their lives.
It’s the Jerome Boger show with the Raiders and the Bengals.
—Frank Fleming (@NjTank99) January 15, 2022
It turns out that Boger’s performance wasn’t entirely unexpected. According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, a front office official expected the below-average departure from the crew.
Text from an NFC exec: “I’m SHOCKED that Jerome Boger’s team screwed up. SHOCKED.”
-Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) January 15, 2022
But Boger’s team, for all its experience, left fans confused by some of the decisions it made. Here’s a look at five questionable or missed calls and a sample of how fans reacted on Twitter:
MORE: Bengals vs. Raiders final score, results
Early whistle on a TD pass from Joe Burrow
Arguably the biggest wild play was made late in the second quarter when Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow threw a touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd. Boyd caught the pass with no problem, but no touchdown was called right away. This was due to a referee blowing his whistle before Boyd caught the ball. The referee thought Burrow went out of bounds before releasing the ball.
The NFL rule book says: “(W)hen an official mistakenly blows the whistle while the ball is still in play, the ball is immediately dead.” The play is not reviewable. Nevertheless, the touchdown remained.
A whistle blew at 100% while the pass was in the air. If an umpire did that, this play is supposed to be declared dead, per NFL rules. pic.twitter.com/PZNAKsnY81
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) January 15, 2022
MORE: Bengals’ touchdown against Raiders stands despite official’s wrong whistle
Pass to Hunter Renfrow
In the third quarter, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr threw a deep pass to wide receiver Hunter Renfrow. Renfrow appeared to catch the ball, but Bengals safety Jessie Bates III snatched it out of his hands and it bounced out of bounds. The fault on the field was a reception and a fumble.
Cincinnati contested the ruling. The call was reversed and officers changed it to an incomplete pass.
The referee team won the third quarter. The Raiders, the Bengals and all the fans of the game lost.
—Andrew Russell (@PFF_AndrewR) January 16, 2022
MORE: Why Peyton Barber cost the Raiders 38 yards with a botched attempt to exploit NFL kickoff rules
12 men in the field
The Raiders had 12 men on the field for a play, but the umpires didn’t catch it. However, Raiders cornerback Casey Hayward noted the potential penalty, calling a timeout before the team noticed.
These officials would never have noticed 12 men in the field. Hahaha
-Mark Zinno (@MarkZinno) January 15, 2022
12 guys on the field, manhandling the passer, no first down, but the Raiders got the timeout after the play ran … makes sense. #Flares
— Tanner Clifton (@tanner_clifton) January 15, 2022
Ja’Marr Chase Unexpected Push
In the first quarter, Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase appeared to push against Raiders cornerback Desmond Trufant before a catch. No penalty was called. These fans thought that Chase should have been marked.
I guess the eviction rule doesn’t apply to Ja’marr Chase. My sources say the referees like to see him do the “Griddy”
— Simon Carlos (@S_CharlesNFL) January 16, 2022
Ja’Marr Chase got away with a full shove 😂😂😂
— Lee Harvey (@MusikFan4Life) January 15, 2022
Khalid Kareem manhandling the passer
With less than two minutes remaining in the game and the Raiders trying to tie the game or take the lead, Bengals defensive end Khalid Kareem was called out for manhandling Derek Carr. However, looking at the video, it appears that Kareem hit Carr in the shoulder and perhaps the face mask. The call sparked a lot of reactions from fans who didn’t think the hit was that “hard”.
One of the worst rough calls to the passer in NFL history. Full buffoons as referees.
— Ryan Whitney (@ryanwhitney6) January 16, 2022
Well, that manhandling the quarterback was silly.
— Aaron Schatz 🏈 (@FO_ASchatz) January 16, 2022
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.