FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In its latest controversial decision about a catch, the NFL overturned a 4-yard touchdown reception by Buffalo Bills wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin in Sunday's game against the New England Patriots.
Benjamin was ruled by officials on the field as having caught the pass from Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the corner of the end zone. The play would have given the Bills a 16-13 lead before an extra point attempt with two seconds left before halftime.
Instead, Bills kicker Stephen Hauschka converted a 23-yard field goal to tie the game at 13 entering halftime. New England then outscored Buffalo 24-3 in the second half to win the game 37-16.
Benjamin's touchdown triggered an automatic replay review by the NFL's central replay office. Replays showed Benjamin had both feet in bounds, but camera angles were inconclusive about whether Benjamin, who initially caught the pass with only his right hand, had full control of the ball when he was in bounds.
The NFL's football operations department released the following explanation on Twitter shortly after the ruling:
In #BUFvsNE, when Kelvin Benjamin gains control, his left foot is off the ground. The receiver only has one foot down in bounds with control. Therefore, it is an incomplete pass. -AL— NFL Football Operations (@NFLFootballOps) December 24, 2017
Benjamin disputed whether he bobbled the ball, saying, "I was just pulling it in, trying to secure it before it hit the ground. But you can't do nothing about it."
Referee Craig Wrolstad told a pool reporter after the game, "When the receiver got confirmed control of the football, he was not able to get both feet down in bounds. So, his back foot was already off the ground, and it stepped out of bounds. His firm control did not occur until after he had one foot off the ground."
Added Wrolstad: "It was clear and obvious that he did not have control of the ball until he brought it all the way down into his chest."
Taylor told reporters after the game the ruling was a "horrible call." Bills coach Sean McDermott said, "I saw it as a touchdown. And other than that, all I can say right now is, I am at a loss for how a play like that can get overturned."
As players entered the locker room after Sunday's game, Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes said in the direction of ESPN cameras, "Somebody in Boston got the refs on the payroll. Y'all paying them big money out here. Still ain't gonna win (the game), though."
Hughes later said in the locker room he took issue with the Benjamin ruling as well as a third-quarter Patriots run on fourth-and-1 that was initially stopped for no gain. New England challenged the call and was awarded the first down.
"Just those couple of calls," he told ESPN. "I'm pretty sure everyone saw it. And just to hear about it now, everyone on TV thought it was a touchdown. Of course, from our point of view, we see it that way. Then the fourth-down stop, I just don't really see how those could get reversed. But it happens, it's sports. You're going to get some calls, sometimes you're not. You just got to be a lot stronger mentally so we can answer those calls."
Benjamin told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio that some Bills players on the sideline said, "Only the Patriots could get a call like that," after Benjamin's touchdown was overturned.
Bills running back LeSean McCoy also questioned why the Patriots had the ruling fall their way.
"Officials up here, they always find a way to get it right for the Patriots," he said, according to NESN. "That's not the reason why we lost, but is sure would have helped out in the game.
"It's just crazy, man, because you put so much into it, and then you get robbed like that. C'mon. That's a touchdown."
The controversial decision about Benjamin's catch comes a week after Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James' potential game-winning touchdown against New England was overturned. The play reignited discussion about the NFL's catch rule.
"From my experience watching [the Patriots] on TV the other night against the Pittsburgh Steelers, it seems like things kind of roll in their favor," Hughes told ESPN. "I guess that's just how the chips roll, really."