'Lying it’s a** off': NFL under fire over ugly playoff controversy

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow throws as Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby pressures in the second quarter during an NFL AFC wild-card playoff game.
Joe Burrow threw a controversial touchdown pass in the Bengals' NFL playoff win over the Raiders.

A major error from an NFL officiating crew has sent America into a frenzy and helped the Cincinnati Bengals clinch their first playoff victory in 30 years.

Late in the first half of the Bengals’ AFC Wild Card playoff clash with the Las Vegas Raiders, there appeared to be an inadvertent whistle blown by a referee as Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Tyler Boyd.

'EMBARRASSING': America in disbelief over unthinkable NFL choke

‘HE IS A PROBLEM’: American in frenzy over son of former AFL star

AXED: NFL star cut after walking out on team mid-game

By rule, an inadvertent whistle means the play should have been dead and the touchdown disallowed, however the score was allowed to stand giving the Bengals a 20-3 lead on the stroke of half-time.

The decision proved to be significant in the grand scheme of things, with the Bengals eventually winning the nail-biting contest by a 7-point margin, 26-19.

Speaking after the game, NFL senior VP of officiating Walt Anderson said the game’s officiating crew determined the inadvertent whistle occurred after Boyd had caught Burrow’s touchdown pass.

“We confirmed with the referee and the crew that on that play, they got together and talked, they determined that they had a whistle, but that the whistle for them on the field was blown after the receiver caught the ball,” Anderson said.

Anderson was adamant that the officials determined the whistle did not occur while Burrow's pass was in the air.

”That's correct. They did not feel that the whistle was blown before the receiver caught the ball,” Anderson said.

America blows up over NFL refereeing blunder

NFL rules do not allow officials to review when an inadvertent whistle took place, although the play was looked at by video replay officials for other reasons.

“The ruling on the field was a touchdown. But we still have to confirm any reviewable aspect of the play,” Anderson said.

“So, we did confirm that the pass was thrown before the quarterback stepped out of bounds. We also determined that the pass was caught in the end zone by the receiver, who was not out of bounds.”

Not everyone was happy with the explanation from NFL officialdom though, with many taking to social media to criticise the way in which it was handled.

Others felt that the inadvertent whistle had no major impact on the outcome of the play, and allowing the touchdown to stand was the right call.

Speaking after the contest, Raiders interim head coach was circumspect when asked about the impact the play had on the outcome of the game

“I think that's a good crew,” Bisaccia said.

“I think there's a lot of things that went on in the game both ways. I got enough problems with my job, I can't do the officiating, too.”

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.