Harbaugh was asked if the number of penalties called against his team was “frustrating,” to which he responded, “Of course it was!”
The Browns accepted 10 penalties for 125 yards against the Ravens, with a few more penalties called by the referees but declined by Cleveland.
Even Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic mentioned the officiating, tweeting, “It’s been the ref show in Cleveland today.”
“I mean, you guys saw the game, right? Write what you saw,” said Harbaugh, who refused to offer his unadulterated thoughts on the officiating.
“You want to get a quote from me about it, and then I get fined. It just cracks me up” he continued, repeating, “Go ahead and write what you saw.”
Harbaugh did call out the defensive pass interference penalties that plagued the Ravens during the first half as the “biggest difference” on defense.
He was asked about the halftime defensive adjustments that allowed Baltimore to pitch a second-half shutout after giving up 24 points to the Browns in the first half.
“We didn’t really change much of anything,” he responded, “We didn’t get the pass interference penalties that we had in the first half. That is basically the biggest difference.”
Referees called two questionable pass interference penalties on the Ravens during the Browns’ second possession of the game that accounted for 80% of their 60-yard scoring drive.
While replays of the first call, called against cornerback Anthony Averett, showed clear – albeit light – contact by Averett, fans still questioned the 18-yard pass interference penalty as opposed to a five-yard illegal contact penalty.
The Ravens’ Ryan Mink pointed out that Westry’s 30-yard penalty allowed the Browns to move into field goal position in a game they eventually won by just two points.
In fact, it even looks like Landry was tackling Westry to prevent an interception, which by rule would be offensive, not defensive pass interference.
Ex-NFL referee Terry McAuley, who is now a rules expert for NBC’s Sunday Night Football broadcasts, also argued that the call should have been offensive pass interference on Landry.
Fans were quick to make their displeasure known on Twitter, especially after the early pass interference calls against the Ravens.
More Questionable Calls Against Baltimore
The pass interference penalties were just two of several questionable officiating decisions during the Ravens-Browns game, most of which went against Baltimore.
Running back Devonta Freeman was called for a late hit after the Browns recovered a Tyler Huntley fumble. Officials said that the play had already been blown dead, but Browns defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo was still trying to advance the ball, making Freeman’s hit understandable.
With a home crowd already roaring over the turnover and no clear end to the play, the referees still opted to penalize Freeman for doing what almost any NFL player would have done.
It also looked like the referees robbed Ravens rookie wide receiver Rashod Bateman of his first career NFL touchdown after he made a spectacular grab in the fourth quarter.
Replays showed that Bateman clearly extended the football across the goalline before his knee hit the ground, but the Ravens opted to quickly run a play rather than challenge the call, with Latavius Murray punching in a one-yard touchdown.
Josh Bynes (Almost) Goes After NFL
Ravens veteran linebacker Josh Bynes came close to directly criticizing the NFL after the game.
He was clearly frustrated with the scheduling of the Ravens-Browns games this season, as the Browns got a bye week in between their Week 12 and Week 14 matchups with the Ravens.
But the Ravens had to go to Pittsburgh for an emotionally-exhausting – and ultimately damaging – loss to the Steelers in Week 13, while the Browns had two full weeks to rest and prepare for the
I almost said something. I don’t wanna say it,” said Bynes, according to SB Nation’s Baltimore Beatdown.
The scheduling quirk is noteworthy because it was the first time since 1991 that an NFL team had played the same team in two consecutive weeks, per CBS’ Sports John Breech.
But even in that matchup featuring the Seattle Seahawks and the then-San Diego Chargers, both teams had a bye week between the games, which was not the case this season.
The Browns were still only able to escape with a two-point victory despite an injury to Lamar Jackson, who could be available next week vs. the Green Bay Packers.