Call it correlation, causation or crazy coincidence, but when the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars and NFL referee Terry McAuley get together on the shores of Lake Erie, all hell is bound to break loose.
Thankfully, for all parties, save the Jaguars, the Browns, Cleveland fans, and the referee in question were able to escape any chance of a repeat performance from the 2001 debacle that resulted in Browns fans firing objects of all shapes and sizes on to the playing field. Though Quincy Morgan, Tim Couch and inherent playoff implications are long gone, McAuley’s crew was once again the subject of a questionable call – one of several that occurred on this day – which resulted in the Browns being refused of three points that may have been rightfully theirs.
Ten years following the now infamous Bottlegate which occurred after an overturned first down despite a snap taking place following the play in question, McAuley’s crew declared a Phil Dawson 38-yard field goal attempt as no good despite nearly everyone outside of the men in stripes feeling that the kick, despite admittedly being right of center, cleared the interior of the upright. The Browns were up four at the time and a converted field goal would have made a Jacksonville touchdown drive a necessity if only to go into overtime. Instead, the swinging-arm declaration of the official made the final play of the Browns 14-10 win one of extreme heart palpitations.
Browns head coach Pat Shurmur would tell the media that he felt that he had a good view of the field goal and that he felt it was converted. Nevertheless, McAuley would be forced to hand the team’s challenge flag back to the coach, explaining that football’s glass celieng is in fact alive and well. The team attempted to review the play, but there is apparently a rule that states that the kicked football must at least travel below the top of the upright to be reviewable; an arbitrary rule which is subject to the arbitrary height of an NFL goal post.
“The way we saw it,” MacAulay told the media following the contest, “part of the ball was outside of the outside edge of the upright.” What he would not mention was the complete lack of conviction from the judge who would rule the kick no good following a brief, blind stare to the official to his right who was manning the other upright, knowing he would have to make a decision within a split second.
Dawson would subsequently be livid, and rightfully so. Sure, this “missed” field goal would be the first game since September 19, 2010 that Dawson did not convert at least one attempt, but it was a converted attempt that would have put his team up by seven points rather than four. It was just seven days earlier where a Dawson missed field goal cost the Browns a win over the St. Louis Rams. The team captain would give the officiating crew an ear-full on the field and later from the sidelines. Though, when questioned after the game, Dawson would play the diplomat and focus on the fact that the team won the game.
To play to the fans of Cleveland on Monday morning, Dawson would deviate a bit from his postgame thoughts and tweet, “Hey Cleveland, Browns win! Multiple choice game: The field goal was A) 3 points B) 39 yards C) from the left hash D) good E) all of the above.”
Though there were considerably fewer fans in attendance on this very day, there is no doubting that McAuley and his crew would have at least had a few thousand expletives hurled their way had D’Qwell Jackson not jumped Jacksonville’s final attempt to score. Whether or not bottles, shoes and various other blunt objects would have made their way on the field would have remained to be seen. Let’s just glad that option never made it on the menu.
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)