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In this week's Jets-Packers game, the wrong person called a timeout from the sidelines (only the head coach is allowed). The referees played correctly, watching the field instead of who is calling time, and blew the whistle. The players didn't notice, and the Jets scored a game-tying touchdown.

After the refs noticed that they had called timeout incorrectly, why couldn't they reverse the decision and allow the touchdown to count?

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Once the timeout was called, the referee blew his whistle and came running in from the sideline. When a whistle is blown the play cannot continue, even though most players didn't know it had blown. This applies to all areas of the game. For example:

  • An interception returned for a touchdown that is originally called an incomplete pass may be overturned to an interception, but only at the place of the catch.
  • A recovered fumble that is returned for a touchdown in a similar fashion to the interception case.
  • A play being whistled dead for a player stepping out of bounds.

These plays have to do with challenges or reviews, but emphasize that if a whistle blows play dead, the play cannot continue. It is a player safety issue as well as competitive balance issue for any players that hear the whistle and stop playing.

NFL Rule 7 - See Section 2 Article 1

The best way to look at it is: If a whistle blows, the play is dead and anything that happens after doesn't matter unless you're talking about a personal foul penalty for some reason.

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    +1. If the officials ever let a play stand that happened after a whistle, it would be an excuse for any player to ignore a whistle in the future. – Ben Miller Sep 19 '14 at 5:46

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