The Cleveland Browns suffered another heartbreaking defeat on Sunday, but this time their opponent may have gotten a little extra help.
A handful of crucial calls fell the way of the Baltimore Ravens, at the very least contributing to a narrow 23-20 victory that sets the Browns’ season in considerable peril despite 10 games left to play.
The most prominent of the referees’ decisions came with less than two minutes to play in the fourth quarter, when Cleveland offensive lineman Michael Dunn was called for what appeared to be a phantom false start on a 55-yard field goal attempt by kicker Cade York. The whistle backed the boot up to a 60-yard try, which was subsequently blocked by the Ravens. A made field goal would have tied the game at 23-23.
Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett spoke to that call, and other questionable decisions from the referees Sunday, during the postgame press conference.
“It shows you the margin of error in this league. It’s very slim,” Brissett said. “You can go out there and play … pretty well and sometimes, you still don’t get the results that you want.”
“You never come into a game wanting calls obviously, and we weren’t expecting any calls, so we’ve just gotta find a way to make those plays and be better,” he added.
Browns Players Speak Out on Questionable False Start Penalty
Dunn himself said after the game that he didn’t believe he moved on the play.
“I’m not really sure what to say about it,” Dunn said, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. “They called it on me, so they must’ve saw something. I’ll see on tape what exactly happened, but I feel bad it hurt us at such a pivotal part of the game.”
Pro-Bowl guard Joel Bitonio wasn’t on the field with the special teams unit during the play and said he didn’t have a good enough angle to determine either way whether the correct call was made. However, he said former Browns center J.C. Tretter reached out to him after the game ended and said the refs were in the wrong.
“I’m not on the field goal team right now, so I didn’t see it,” Bitonio said. “J.C. texted me after the game and said it was a bad call … but that’s how it goes in the NFL some days. I don’t know what happened.”
York said that had the field goal attempt not been pushed back and subsequently blocked, he could “guarantee” the kick would have sailed through the uprights.
Browns Lose TD on Pass Interference Call Against WR Amari Cooper
Brissett also spoke to an uncommon pass interference call late in the game Sunday that took a touchdown off the board.
The referees whistled wide receiver Amari Cooper for the penalty due to contact in the end zone after he made a 34-yard touchdown catch. The play was physical on both sides and could just as easily have been called defensive pass interference, or resulted in no whistle at all.
“Yeah, I mean I didn’t see it,” Brissett said of the contact on the TD pass to Cooper, “but tough call right there.”
The refs also picked up a flag following an initial penalty for roughing the passer against the Ravens earlier in the game, which left Brissett dumbfounded.
“He almost yanked my face mask off,” Brissett told reporters. “It’s tough man. Obviously on the road, in situations like that, those are big plays. And obviously you’ve gotta try to keep it out of the refs hands as much as possible, [But] yeah, I was shocked that they picked it up.”