Browns running back Duke Johnson came out of the pile with his own fumble in last week’s game at Washington, but officials ruled on the field that the ball had been recovered by Redskins linebacker Will Compton.
That call was held up by the automatic replay review, but Johnson and several other Browns players argued to no avail.
The call generated plenty of discussion, even as Browns coach Hue Jackson took the high road, and the NFL said after the game “with nothing definitive shown” on several replay angles, there was no evidence to overturn the call.
NFL Vice president of officiating Dean Blandino discussed it Tuesday night on NFL Network and said that officials “had already ruled possession” by the time Johnson came out of the pile with the ball and that “no clear evidence” from several replay angles showed that Johnson or another Browns player had recovered the ball.
Though Blandino admitted that there’s “no question it’s a bad visual” to see Johnson holding the ball while officials pointed in the Redskins’ direction, he said he didn’t believe the call came too quickly.
“It’s quick but we want our officials if they have clear evidence we want to rule immediately,” Blandino said. “We don’t want an extended scrum. It’s a player safety issue.”
After taking a 20-17 lead, the Browns turned the ball over on their next three possessions. The Redskins went three and out and punted after Compton’s recovery, but Josh Norman then intercepted Cody Kessler to set up the Matt Jones touchdown run that provided the final points in a 31-20 win.
“The player coming out of the pile with the ball is not sufficient evidence [to overturn] because as we know, the ball can change hands at the bottom the pile,” Blandino said. “There’s never an angle that shows a Cleveland recovery.
“We don’t have evidence as to whether Washington or Cleveland recovered it, so we have to go with what’s called on the field.”