Bad luck, a bad rule, a bad call and a bad first half for the Browns

Divisional Round - Cleveland Browns v Kansas City Chiefs
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The Browns were dealt a terrible blow as the worst rule in football reared its ugly head late in the first half today in Kansas City.

Just as it appeared that Cleveland might make a game of it before halftime, Rashard Higgins caught a pass for Baker Mayfield, raced toward the pylon, and fumbled just before getting into the end zone. The ball went into the end zone and then rolled out of bounds for a touchback. Chiefs ball at the 20-yard line.

It’s commonly referred to was the worst rule in football: Why should the other team get the ball back when it goes out of bounds in the end zone? It would make more sense to give the ball back to the offense at the spot of the foul.

Compounding the bad play for the Browns was that replays showed Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen initiated contact with the top of his helmet and should have been flagged for a penalty when he hit Higgins. But the officials missed it, and that penalty is not reviewable.

If Higgins hadn’t fumbled, if the rule would give the Browns the ball back at the 1-yard line, or if the officials had seen Sorensen’s hit, the Browns would probably have closed the gap to 16-10 before halftime. Instead, the Chiefs kicked a field goal after the fumble, lead 19-3, and appear poised to win this one going away.

98 responses to “Bad luck, a bad rule, a bad call and a bad first half for the Browns

  1. At this point I think that we know which team the NFL wants to see in the SB. Roger is there to make sure everything goes as planned.

  2. Not even a browns fan here, but as a Lions fan I know all to well how a blown call feels… MAKE ALL CALLS REVIEWABLE AND HOLD REFS ACCOUNTABLE!!

  3. So you can lead with your helmet? Bad excuse to give up a score on every drive. What happend to Hunt? Thought this was personal blah blah blah…

  4. When someone hits a player’s head like that it’s hard to hold onto the ball. Terrible terrible call. 10 point swing, devasting

  5. Not surprised the officials missed that penalty, it’s one that is not called uniformly at all…but damn that touchback rule makes no sense.

  6. Unfortunately when you are trying to tackle someone your head happens to be the first part that arrives

  7. You can’t reward a team with a ‘spot of the foul’….…the rule prevents an intentional fumble into the end zone so a teammate can score a touchdown.

    It should be loss of down and ball back to line of scrimmage.

  8. YES…Probably THE single worst rule in the NFL. Turning the ball over undeservedly to the opposing team which they did not recover is ludicrous. The fumbling team should at least retain possession and maybe place it at the opposing 20, or however many yards from the point but to just hand it to them and say, here, here you go, you deserve it, is completely opposite of the way the game is played. That’s a 10 point swing as KC went down and kicked the 3.

  9. WR should have known the situation….no need to reach for the TD there, they would have had the ball at the 1 with 1:30 left. Just go down or out of bounds.

    Instead he made a bad decision to reach with the ball .

  10. Chiefs are dirty head hunters. Their defense isn’t good so they revert to cheap shots like you’ve seen today.

    Such a Shame because today’s game should have been a one possession have to start the second half.

  11. Clowns fans will be whining over this one. Chubb had a big half – SMH. Can’t wait to see Faker try to stage a comeback. Back home to the Factory of Sadness for the Clowns!

  12. It is a good rule, Florio. The end zone is the promised land. A team should be penalized for fumbling in that spot.

  13. The players are well aware of the rule. He extended the ball and lost it. The current rule doesn’t reward fumbling, and I’m ok with that. I’d be ok if they changed the rule too, to maybe give the ball back to the offense at the 20 hardline or something. I don’t like fumbles, so why encourage players to hold the ball out loosely?Yes, they miss the helmet penalty, but the rules should be changed in the off-season.

  14. Unfortunate for sure, but definitely not the worst rule in football. The rule puts a premium on maintaining possession of the ball as you pass over the goal line. Which is the the most essential concept of this sport.

  15. Sorry, the worst rule in football is not allowing contact with receivers beyond 5 yards which was the rule that began the watering down of football into what we have today.

  16. Who didn’t see this coming?

    Yes the Browns beat the Steelers but that was primarily because the Steelers beat themselves. They gave them 28 points in the first quarter, mostly from turnovers. And then the Steelers began to make a run and came close to closing the gap. They shot themselves in the foot again in the game by turning it over but the point is that even with that monstrous lead they lost momentum for a period and the consensus was that the Browns just might choke.

    As for the rule and helmet to helmet. Those type of hits are rarely ever called. That’s part of the reason why people criticize the “player safety” of the NFL. They made a big stink about crown of the helmet on both defensive players and running back just to never actually use it.

  17. Yes there should have been a penalty on the play with crown of the helmet . But the ball can’t be advanced with a deliberate fumble. If that was the case teams would get close to the end zone and fumble it out of the end zone every time for a TD. It’s a great rule. And the correct one .

  18. I loved Bill Cowher’s Simmsism, That Packers tandem of Jones, Williams and Dillion! I may have the names wrong but you get the point.

  19. I wish I was a Steelers fan so I didn’t have to worry about divisional round football games…

  20. It’s not a bad rule, it’s a bad play.
    Protect the football at all costs and that touchback doesn’t happen.
    There was a time in football when protecting the football was paramount.

    Or should we enact yet another rule to help the offense and hamper the defense for making a great play.
    Pretty soon we’ll be taking away everything from them.

    As for the play that we’re referring to today, a penalty probably should have been thrown for the defender leading with his head, but that still has nothing to do with the rule in question.
    That’s a totally different argument.

  21. Bl00dwerK says:
    January 17, 2021 at 4:33 pm
    The rule DOES exist, though. Stop sticking the ball out. Problem solved.

    18 9 Rate This


    Can’t argue with this. And Higgins has a history of terrible ball control. The rule should be changed, but yeah… it’s there and every nfl player should be well aware of it. Mostly a shame no penalty was called

  22. The rule is fine it’s the fact that helmet to helmet caused it that’s the issue. Then again Chiefs seem to get a lot of suspect non calls and calls.

  23. Compromise:

    If it’s fumbled out of bounds in the end zone by the offense, give it back to them at the 20-yard line.

    Also, if the NFL was serious about player safety, the helmet-to-helmet stuff should be reviewable, at least by coach’s challenge, if not initiated by the booth.

  24. “Unfortunately when you are trying to tackle someone your head happens to be the first part that arrives” a proper tackle should never lead with the head. A tackle proper tackle would be head to the side. That was a play that put both players at risk.

  25. No dog in the fight, but I think a rule change is in order. In real time, I didn’t notice the the helmet to helmet, I was watching the ball. Hard to blame the refs here, and I’m no stranger to hating on officiating. That rule is the worst though. Should be treated like any other fumble out of bounds. Browns keep the ball at the 1.

  26. You can thank Raiders QB Kenny Stabler for the rule. The rule is to stop offensive players from intentionally fumbling the football into the end zone where another offensive players can recover it for an easy TD or the ball goes harmlessly out of bounds. Without the rule in place there would be 3 possible outcomes and 2 of them would disproportionally favor the offense. Either the ball would be recovered by your offense (TD) or it would go out of bounds, or the defense would recover and it would be a touch back. I think its a good rule to penalize the offense for fumbling into the end zone to put a stop to taking advantage of a weird situation, but I think the punishment should be as others have stated, penalize the offense 20 yards and put the ball back at the 20 but let the offense keep the ball.

  27. 1:45 left in the half, why is he sticking the ball out? Would’ve been 1st and goal from the 1. Notice what Tyreek and Mahomes did in the first half, near the goal line? They went down instead of sticking the ball out, then they scored on the next play. You can say it’s a bad rule, touchback, but it’s a rule. A guy meeting a guy with his helmet while diving,12 inches off the ground is a tough call to make in real time.

  28. This is just more proof at how bad of a coach Mike Tomlin is? Chiefs defense isn’t that great at all.

  29. I believe they rarely call that unless it’s contact to the head/neck area or it’s blatantly obvious. The announcers didn’t mention it until the official in the booth brought it up so it wasn’t clearly obvious. I’m not saying it was right. Whoever said it is right–they don’t call that uniformly but you can say the same about pass interference too and everything else.

    The title of this post could easily have been Bad Luck Browns. That was a huge swing. However, I don’t think it’s going to matter in the end.

  30. “It would make more sense to give the ball back to the offense at the spot of the foul.”

    Mmm.. it’s not a foul, it’s called a fumble. And trying to spot the ball when the player fumbles it at the goal would be impossible.

  31. A fine rule and makes total sense. Other problem to fix (like needing to review crown of helmet hits). If you can’t hold on to the ball why should you get to keep it (I understand that in field of play the same fumble does back to spot of fumble as “last control.”).

  32. It’s actually a better rule now, more than ever…defenses have most rules stacked against them…this one makes the offense pay for their mistakes…

  33. It’s a shame no one (including the officials) seemed to know about this rule when Champ Bailey fumbled into the endzone after being tackled by Ben Watson in the divisional round.

  34. This is football – he was a runner, deal with it. Leading with the helmet can be called on 90% of tackles

  35. Its a good rule and people should quit crying about it.

    1. Where do you spot it? What down and distance is it after that?

    2. If a team CAN do that and keep the ball whats to keep me from doing it late in a game to eat up clock if ahead?

    The player needs to use situational awareness, mich like knowing where th4b1st down marker is.
    Doesn’t the offense get enough beneifts?

  36. It’s funny how I never used to hear this was the worst rule in the NFL until Florio called it that years ago. I guess after us not paying attention to him you’re saying it. Control the football until you break the plane of the end zone. If the offense can’t do that they shouldn’t be rewarded by getting the ball back. Also, I’m sick of these guys expecting defenders to perform magical feats by avoiding helmet contact when both players are diving for the same spot.

  37. It’s commonly referred to was the worst rule in football: Why should the other team get the ball back when it goes out of bounds in the end zone? It would make more sense to give the ball back to the offense at the spot of the foul. Lol no it makes sense as is stop trying to change the game for offense.

  38. Ive never bought into the NFL working to dictate the outcome of the games but I’m starting to wonder. The rule is absolutely terrible, but it is what it is. The no call though!!!! Wow. I can’t wait to hear the song and dance the NFL will do to explain why it was actually correct to not call him for that hit. The excuse will be better than a fantasy book!

  39. The helmet-to-helmet is a good rule, great for safety. I’m not saying it’s the case here, but often the ball carrier instinctively (or on purpose to get the penalty) ducks his head right before contact when the tackler is already committed. Makes the rule a tough one to enforce- either way, half the fans are going to complain. I’d hate to be an official in the NFL these days.

  40. Does Romo ever shut up? Take a breath once-in-a-while dude.

  41. What about making all fumbles that go out of bounds (without being touched by the defense) turnovers?

  42. I don’t know why so many people think the NFL is in the tank for the Chiefs. I seem to remember a defensive lineman being offsides in a playoff game that cost the Chiefs.

  43. My opinion, the worst rule is the automatic 1st down for illegal hands to the face. Continue with the 5yd penalty and then replay the down. Tired of seeing 3rd and long converted because a db’s hand grazed the wr’s facemask at the line of scrimmage.

  44. People complain that the rules are slanted towards the offense too much and then complain about this rule. Can’t have it both ways

  45. Worst rule in football? Says who? You can’t have guys throwing the ball at the pylon and retain possession.

  46. tajuara says:
    January 17, 2021 at 4:30 pm
    At this point I think that we know which team the NFL wants to see in the SB. Roger is there to make sure everything goes as planned.

    The packers. They have always been the foster child of the nfl.

  47. Seems to be a fair rule to me. The offense failed putting the ball in the end zone. Seems to me the defense did its job the offense shouldn’t get rewarded. As previous posters have pointed out the rules are heavily slanted towards the offense. They don’t need any more help

  48. The ref only has two eyes, it does stink it wasnt called, but its easy to see how his attention was diverted to watch the ball/goalline/pylon and not being able to see where or how exact contact is made is its ont he opposite side of him.

    I understand its frustrating, and it should be considered for a review, but to cry how the “league” is against you is a bit much.

  49. ARod(in his collarbone) says:
    January 17, 2021 at 5:15 pm
    tajuara says:
    January 17, 2021 at 4:30 pm

    At this point I think that we know which team the NFL wants to see in the SB. Roger is there to make sure everything goes as planned.

    The packers. They have always been the foster child of the nfl.

    Aww…….poor, poor Barney.
    Tears as big as apples.
    And they are delicious!

  50. The Browns don’t make the playoffs without help from the officials to beat Steelers backups Week 17. They really shouldn’t be complaining.

  51. It’s a stupid rule, If the offense had it and fumbled out of bounds, it should be theirs. Fumbling through the end zone should be the same. As long as it isn’t THEIR endzone.

  52. The touchback rule made perfect sense back in the days when a ball that was fumbled forward out of bounds was retained by the offense with the ball spotted where it went out of bounds. When they changed the rule on forward fumbles out of bounds to be spotted at the point of the fumble and not give the forward yardage, they should have gotten rid of the touchback rule at the same time.

  53. I was watching the game at a bar with no sound. It looked like the defender made a great play. I’m an impartial observer btw.

  54. ruthless says:
    January 17, 2021 at 5:15 pm
    Worst rule in football? Says who? You can’t have guys throwing the ball at the pylon and retain possession.
    Why not? Retaining possession would be entirely consistent with the normal fumble rule governing forward fumbles out of bounds. Consider what happens when you reach for a first down and fumble forward out of bounds before getting there. You retain possession but at the point that the ball was fumbled, so you never get any advantage by fumbling forward out of bounds. There is no reason to make a special exception for the ball being fumbled out of the end zone.

  55. jredshoes says:
    January 17, 2021 at 4:32 pm
    Unfortunately when you are trying to tackle someone your head happens to be the first part that arrives
    ……and it’s against the rules…….what is your point?

  56. Bengal fan. Defender came in like a heat seeking missile. Speared the guy in the head. That’s a flag IMO . Should have been reviewed. College gets it, NFL doesn’t. Player safety is BS in the NFL. Defender should have been tossed. It’s crap they can’t review it. It’s not the same game it was 20 years ago. Ask Ryan Shazier his thoughts

  57. At what point does football stop being football? What else was Sorenson supposed to do there, just give up and let him score? Both players were making a football play; one diving for the goal line while the other trying to stop him from doing so.

  58. ajuara says:
    January 17, 2021 at 4:30 pm
    At this point I think that we know which team the NFL wants to see in the SB. Roger is there to make sure everything goes as planned.


    As a Chiefs fan, I have waited 50 years for saltiness like this. Love it.

  59. It’s commonly referred to was the worst rule in football: Why should the other team get the ball back when it goes out of bounds in the end zone?

    And why should the fumbling team get the reward of getting the ball back when they didn’t hang onto it? The solution is simple, don’t fumble. Fact is there is no great rule in this case scenario but giving the ball back to the team that fumbled it at the 1 or where ever would be the absolute worse one of all the possible choices!

    Quit crying, it’s been talked about and talked about by the NFL for 20yrs and there isn’t anything better, of course those teams and their fans think it’s the worst rule as it usually cost them a game like it did here. Ever think maybe, just maybe the rule is kept this way to give the team possessing the ball a lot more insentive to HANG ON TO THE BALL?

    BTW it’s only refered to as “the worse rule in football” by a few people, usually just the losing team and their fans!

  60. Listen. I am a Browns fan and have been for 45 years. I have seen the good and the bad. I hate the rule, and I think it should be changed. But this was not a conspiracy. It is a bad rule that needs to be changed. We had enough mistakes in our game plan that it shouldn’t have been an issue in the first place.

    Am I salty? Yeah, I am. I actually picked the Browns to win today (also picked them against the spread…won that one). But frankly for all the conspiracists out there….as a Marketing professional for 25 years pretty sure the NFL had a better story if the Browns beat the Chiefs. Not like either is a huge market so there is literally no gain by “promoting” the Chiefs.

    Just change the rule. It is a bad rule.

  61. For all the arm chair players it wouldn’t have been a fumble if not the blow to the head. Very few can make a catch when hit in the head like that. Bad rule and official standing on top of play missed it. Browns couldn’t stop Henne so deserve to lose. Good season for first year coach but if AVP had called the offense wander how that would have went?

  62. edenprairieballer says:
    January 17, 2021 at 6:36 pm
    I was watching the game at a bar with no sound. It looked like the defender made a great play. I’m an impartial observer btw.

    He did but he did lead with his head. That should have been called. Browns fan but like my name says…I am a football fan before a homer. The problem is the rule.

    And to whomever said it earlier? Higgins didn’t “throw the ball at the pylon”. He made a good football play that was obviated by the hit. Which was a helmet to helmet hit. Change the rule. And if we are serious about player safety we might want to consider making such plays reviewable.

  63. BTW it’s only refered to as “the worse rule in football” by a few people, usually just the losing team and their fans!
    Yeah, like when the Pats beat the Chiefs in OT and all the KC fans were complaining, yet in the game prior the Saints had the ball first and still managed to lose!

  64. I’m glad the browns got there. But how does anything think they were the better team? Was it the 3 points they gained in the 1st half or the inability to stop Chad Henne? Mahomes went out and that made it a game for CLE, nothing more.

  65. Bad luck, bad rule, big deal. We had a chance at the end and couldn’t pull it out. Good game, good season, no regrets.

  66. That really is the worst rule in football. Make fumbling the ball out of bounds in the endzone a 15 yard penalty or something, giving the ball to the other team is a back breaker.

  67. It is one of the few NFL rules in the defenses favor stop whining about the rule. Yeah it sucks when it happens but Coach Stefanski said their rule is not to reach the ball out. It has to be hard not to do being so close and you see guys score all the time doing it.
    But if he follows the rule the Browns are on the 1 or so and score soon. Anyway great year Browns and nice coach you have there in Stefanski. Skol

  68. First and foremost, no game, win or lose, comes down to one play. Don’t let the backup QB run for a 1st down on 3rd and a mile, go score, and everyone forgets about this one.

    However, the rule is bad, because it is inconsistent. You all can come up with all of the excuses you want about rewarding the offense for fumbling and whatever, but you clearly don’t understand the fumble rule. If a runner fumbles forward and it goes out of bounds, it goes back to the spot of the fumble. It wouldn’t be any more difficult to determine the spot, the clock or the down and distance at the goal line than at any other point on the field. There is no advantage to the offense to intentionally fumble into the endzone or “throw the ball at the pylon”. Don’t be absurd. According to NFL fumble rules, if a runner fumbles forward, only that runner can recover the fumble and advance the ball. If any other offensive player recovers, it goes back to the spot of the fumble. That’s how it is for 99 yards, 2 feet, 11 inches of the field. No reason it should be any different at the endzone.

  69. A better way for the rule to go is to make it the offense’s ball at the original LOS. Essentially a play for no gain…..

  70. odd rule, but everyone knows the rule. You simply cannot make that attempt. Its amazing that the danger of this play never gets called out when the result is not a fumble, like Heinike did the same thing but hit the pylon but was inches/seconds from the same result.

  71. Bring all red-zone out-of-bound fumbles back to the 20. No more awarding the ball to the defense if they don’t recover. No more awarding the ball to the offense on the 1-inch line if they don’t recover.

  72. That may be an odd rule, but it’s been on the books for a long time. Look at similar situations in rugby and soccer. In soccer, if a ball goes over the goal line, it’s a goal kick to the defending team. In rugby (which begat football and bequeathed the spirit of much of its laws), when attacking player takes the ball over the try zone end line or touch line without downing it, the defending team is awarded a drop-out kick at the 22-meter line. If the football rule were to be changed in a similar fashion, it’d mean that after Higgins fumble, the Chiefs would kick to the Browns from the Chiefs’ 20-yard line. Maybe that’d be more fair. As for Sorenson’s hit, it was from a defender making a hustle play (not giving up) and trying to stop the ball and ballcarrier from crossing the goal line. There’s no way in those milliseconds Sorenson clearly targeted Higgins’ head, though that’s what happened. Finally, if you really want to split hairs, go look at the line of scrimmage. Browns’ center clearly holds Chiefs #98, Tershawn Wharton. It’s the exact kind of hold that Eric Fisher got flagged on in divisional round against Steelers in 2016/2017 NFL playoffs which wiped out a tying 2-point conversion. Maybe Sorenson should have been flagged, but so should Browns’ center, which would have led to offsetting penalties, at which point the down would have been replayed from the original line of scrimmage.

  73. Reaching out with the ball is something that is sometimes praised for “effort” but it’s just not something that’s smart, and coaches don’t tell players to do it. The fumble-out-the-endzone rule doesn’t come into effect very often, but I’m OK with it, just leave it alone.

    Higgins is a young player, and he was trying to make a big play and it cost his team.

    Tackling in the NFL has really fallen by the wayside. With proper technique – wrapping with both arms, head up and to the side – the chance of injury to both players is diminished. Too many players these days either just try to shoulder bump the ball carrier, and so we see many missed tackles every game.

    I thought the upstairs officials could review targeting fouls – meaning, call down and tell the on-field officials that one had taken place. Why on earth does it matter if it’s not called on the field.? Isn’t that how they do it in college? Maybe not. I just hate the “it’s not reviewable” defense, because that’s a lame excuse. Another playoff non-call costs a team.

    Having said that, the Browns had their chances, and they had a golden opportunity with Mahomes out of the game (and that was NOT a dirty hit), but fell short. The better team won, but the Browns have a bright future.

  74. Literally ZERO chance a play like that gets called for helmet to helmet. ZERO. Watch a game once in a while. Man, this country is littered with crybabies.

  75. The touchback rule is too punitive. I understand there should be some form of punishment for fumbling in the endzone but this rule punishes the SAME amount as an endzone interception and that’s the problem I have. At least an interception provides defensive effort whereas in an endzone fumble the defense doesn’t have to do anything and they are rewarded the same amount. There should be a middle ground. I will let others split the halves. I just want to point out the touchback rule is too punitive and it should not reward the defense the same amount as an endzone interception.

  76. Here is why it is not a bad rule; it is actually a great rule.

    I am sick & tired of players, stretching out and barely tapping the pylon then fumbling the ball as they land/slide on the dirt. “But the player had control of the ball before losing control… TD.” blah blah blah.

    This rule at least puts some checks & balances on the, “ball tapping the pylon is a TD” rule. Without this rule, there would be zero risk and all reward to the offensive player. Isn’t/aren’t 80-90% of the new rules put out since around 2000 that are geared toward the offense enough?!

  77. I have not been on here in a couple years, maybe even three. are we not allowed to comment on peoples comments to agree or cordially explain why they are wrong/misguided??

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