NFL reviewed a non-reviewable ruling on Josh Allen incompletion

AFC Championship - Buffalo Bills v Kansas City Chiefs
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Just before halftime of Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, Bills quarterback Josh Allen took the snap, rolled to his right, and threw the ball away an instant before stepping out of bounds at the 9-yard line. The officials mistakenly ruled him out of bounds. And then the NFL officiating department made a much bigger mistake.

The replay assistant buzzed down to the on-field referee, who then consulted with NFL head of officiating Al Riveron. They looked at the review and found that Allen had thrown the ball away before he stepped out of bounds. So they changed the call to an incomplete pass.

Big problem: That’s not a reviewable play. When a player in possession of the ball is ruled out of bounds, that’s the end of the play. Nothing that happens after that can be reviewed, even if there’s clear and obvious video evidence that the player didn’t actually step out of bounds.

This particular call didn’t really matter — the Bills ended up kicking a field goal, and it’s highly likely they also would have kicked a field goal if the ruling hadn’t been overturned — but it’s alarming that Riveron didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to review the play.

The NFL often takes criticism for its byzantine rules. When the NFL’s own head of officiating can’t keep track of the rules, it’s hard not to feel that criticism is justified.

54 responses to “NFL reviewed a non-reviewable ruling on Josh Allen incompletion

  1. Well, at least it was the right call. Unlike a non-called helmet to helmet pass interference call.

  2. Better to be safe than to make the wrong call. I disagree with the criticism here

  3. In the grand scheme of things it really didn’t matter. We would have had to score at least 5 more field goals to beat the Chiefs.

  4. Yet the NFL would not review the obvious helmet to helmet hit by Daniel Sorensen of the Chiefs against Rashard Higgins and the Browns.

  5. Just think… If a MUCH more significant non reviewable play had been reviewed and officiated properly last week (Illegal helmet to helmet contact, and leading with the crown of the helmet.. The Bills MIGHT have been playing Cleveland yesterday instead of the Chiefs…

  6. Terrible analysis. Anything after he is out of bounds is not reviewable. He threw the ball before going out of bounds which is what was reviewed. You are saying that a bang bang play where the player is initially ruled out of bounds by being on the out of bounds line but had the ball over the goal line is not reviewable. Untrue as that is reviewed all the time. Same rule applies

  7. After all is said and done, I think the NFL should be able to review every obvious mistake that is made by the Ref’s!

  8. Better to be safe than to make the wrong call. I disagree with the criticism here

    ===
    Yeah you don’t get it. The point is the criticism is the rules are so overally complicated not even the head of officiating knows them properly.

  9. Was the fiasco near the end of the game with all of the offsetting personal fouls reviewable? They took a lot of time to have zero effect on the game. Seems like a play that wasn’t reviewable. And the ref was clearly getting instructions from New York. I guess it’s too much to expect consistency from the league office.

  10. Better question would be why is it not a reviewable play? It’s not a judgment call…there’s no good reason for it not to be reviewable.

  11. Overrated Bills needed all the help from the officials. Even Cleveland played the Chiefs better.

  12. They’ll close this loophole in the offseason. They did the right thing by using common sense and reviewing.

  13. And even with the review, they still made the wrong call…it was intentional grounding, ball didn’t make it to the LoS…

  14. curtis20 says:
    January 25, 2021 at 12:39 pm
    Just get the calls right its shouldn’t be this hard.

    ———————————-

    Exactly! Humans are known to be perfect most of the time, so what’s the problem? Solution: get it right! Problem solved.

  15. Maybe the NFL should bring Belichick in to handle replays in the Super Bowl. He knows the rules better than any of the referees.

  16. College football gets it right. A potential for a booth review on every play. It does not slow the game at all. Why i this so hard?

  17. Thus furthering the argument that everything should be fair game for review

  18. They need to get someone else in that job. Laughable ineptitude. That, fortunately, didn’t wreck the game. Because he could have gotten the call itself wrong. Unbelievable.

  19. Just give a guy upstairs an Xbox controller with replays and a hot mic to the head ref.

    The replay system is archaic. Instead of tweaking this and that, just admit the system is flawed, and borrow the XFL’s replay system.

  20. Packers-Bucs, the officiating was worse and the game closer. The non-PI call that lead to an INT lead to points. NFL got the game they wanted.

  21. Their can be no challenges in the last two minutes of the half or game, but the booth can review, which they did. Frankly that is the way it should be if it isn’t.

  22. So the next time a player goes out of bounds right before the pylon, and it’s a question of if the ball crossed the plane, they shouldn’t review that?

  23. It’s not intentional grounding because Allen was out of the box and he threw the ball past the line of scrimmage.

  24. okboy52 says:
    January 25, 2021 at 3:36 pm
    If that was a pass how was it not intentional grounding?
    =============
    I am fairly certain Rivers was out of the “tackle box” when he made that throw, hence intentional grounding is not in play.

  25. How is a review to see if someone threw a pass before going out of bounds any different than a review to see if someone caught a pass before going out of bounds? Or crossed the goal line before going out of bounds? Or fumbled before going out of bounds?

  26. Joma says:
    January 25, 2021 at 12:59 pm
    Better question would be why is it not a reviewable play? It’s not a judgment call…there’s no good reason for it not to be reviewable.
    ———————————————————————————————————————————————
    I think the idea is that once a ref blows the whistle on a player stepping out of bounds, the play is over because the ref blew his whistle. Players are supposed to play to the whistle and not beyond. Possibly they could make an exception similar to how a down by contact call can be awarded as a fumble recovery at the spot of recovery with no advance.

  27. This was a reviewable play. It’s no different than goal line plays where they say the guy was out but see on replay he got into the end zone first or catches on the sideline where the guy was initially called out but it gets reversed on review.

  28. okboy52 says:
    January 25, 2021 at 3:36 pm
    If that was a pass how was it not intentional grounding
    ____________
    I found this interesting. On intentional grounding, the passer has to throw the ball past the line of scrimmage. But it doesn’t have to be inbounds. An imaginary line extends out of bounds. The ball can pass over this line 10 yards out of bounds. Sometimes, I thought he didn’t make it to the line, but now I understand.

  29. Um, no. They were trying to determine if he threw the ball before he was out of bounds. A player is not out of bounds until he lands. They were not reviewing action that occurred after he went out of bounds. They were trying to determine where the ball was (in his hand or in the air) before he came down out of bounds. It’s no different than trying to figure out where a runner touched out of bounds. In fact, it’s exactly the same thing.

  30. Playoff football is hard to swallow at times because things that are penalties for 16 games all of a sudden aren’t anymore. Watching holding continually ignored is almost comical at this point in the season. WR and TE’s are notoriously poor blocking on the edge and yet, never get a flag. Instant replay is a joke. Half the time 500 drunks saw it right and replay still screws it up. At this point, it is all par for the course.

  31. what might be more disappointing , is that in the “booth”, Nantz and Romo were talking about it with retired referee Gene Staratore and he never said it was anything but the right thing, to review and adjust where the ball should be placed .. I thought he was an expert on the rules ! Guess not ..

  32. @lukedunphysscienceproject Sorry you are incorrect.

    The call is not reviewable. Rule 15. Section 3. Item 3. specifically states:
    Passer Out of Bounds Before Throwing Pass.
    A ruling that a player stepped out of bounds before throwing a pass is not reviewable to determine if he was inbounds when he threw the pass.

  33. If a set of rules is so complicated, difficult to understand or articulate then things like this are inevitable. The people who are the oversight for the officials in the field can’t execute them properly. The officials on the field deal with self preservation in a dangerous working environment with the biggest and the fastest of us. And, every year the rules are tweaked until after a number of adjustments it doesn’t really resemble the sport once so recognizable in some ways.
    It’s amazing a multibillion dollar industry takes its rules and officials as if they are minute details and don’t give a greater priority to them.

  34. The NFL holds nobody accountable for getting calls wrong for a very good reason. It’s because they’re the ones that created this easily misinterpreted hodge podge of rules that are not possible to call consistent because too much is left to interpretation.

  35. Just think… If a MUCH more significant non reviewable play had been reviewed and officiated properly last week (Illegal helmet to helmet contact, and leading with the crown of the helmet.. The Bills MIGHT have been playing Cleveland yesterday instead of the Chiefs…

    Just think… If MUCH more significant non reviewable plays had been reviewed and officiated properly last week (illegal helmet to helmet contact by Kareem hunt and leading with the crown of his helmet on just about every one of his 6 carries),.. The bills would of still been curb stomped by the Chiefs

  36. Have to love Belichick’s suggestion of making all calls reviewable – with teams each keeping the same amount of challenges.

  37. –I think the idea is that once a ref blows the whistle on a player stepping out of bounds, the play is over because the ref blew his whistle. Players are supposed to play to the whistle and not beyond. Possibly they could make an exception similar to how a down by contact call can be awarded as a fumble recovery at the spot of recovery with no advance.–

    The entire play occurred before any whistle, though, as it wasn’t blown until after he supposedly stepped out of bounds.

  38. From what I can see, it’s just you saying its unreviewable. Clearly the NFL disagrees. Your interpretation of the rule is not exactly Supreme Court material, so perhaps you and the NFL disagree on how to interpret it?

  39. In hindsight, doesn’t it seem the NFL was looking for ways to micromanage this game to ensure a Chiefs’ victory and thus produce a sure ratings bonanza for the Super Bowl?

  40. How about all the plays where the refs obviously blow the whistle before the play is over, but the replay crew overturns the call because they don’t listen to the audio. This happens many times every year.

  41. In hindsight, doesn’t it seem the NFL was looking for ways to micromanage this game to ensure a Chiefs’ victory and thus produce a sure ratings bonanza for the Super Bowl?

    No. As a bills fan. We just lost. We are good but not at kc’s level yet. I think we will get there but no, the refs didn’t do what you suggest.
    Any combination of the 4 teams would have been great football viewership.

    Mahomes vs brady is awesome but you don’t think there’s a narrative of Rodgers and mahomes or Brady vs the Bills?

    This was the first time since who knows when where any combination of the 4 teams would
    Bring a ton of stories for the super bowl.

    You had the 3 best qbs statistically and wins wise in the league this year who were all the top mvp options. Then of course there’s brady. What wasn’t to love about these conference finals:

  42. There’s no point to replay if you’re not going to get the calls correct. I can live with the “not enough evidence to over turn a call” assuming there’s really not enough evidence. Take the fumble the colts made against the bills. What the point of replay then. This call on Allen they got correct as it should be. I’d say the same if the call stood bc he actually did ste out first.

    Point is, there’s no reason to have replay if you aren’t gonna get the calls correct. If you don’t want to review penalties… fine, but all football plays should be reviewed.

    Otherwise m, get rid of it and speed up the game by making strict judgement calls. You have the technology to “improve the game” but have such strict standards on which it can be used…

  43. Oh my gosh….are they saying that NFL officials made a mistake? Ok, so put this with the other 10,000 mistakes that were made this year and let’s get on with it. It happens. Sort of like voting irregularities!

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