You really can’t spend a lot of time talking about NFL football and talking about refereeing. It has a tendency to go both ways and good teams overcome all kinds of bad calls all the time. It’s a part of the game, period. Of course I open my recap that way because today is not one of those days.
Today, I have no choice. The Cleveland Browns were called for pass interference in the end zone on one of the softest calls I’ve ever seen while clinging to a 26-21 lead in New England. The Pats, who’d been trailing the whole game received the bail out call to end all bail out calls. Tom Brady threw long to Josh Boyce and Leon McFadden had great coverage as he and Boyce dove for the ball. The ball went past them both and the cowardly official tossed his flag on the field to make sure that the action wasn’t decided by the actual players making good football plays. Can you tell I’m still pretty fired up about it.
The Browns played so well today in New England. The Browns came out with a really great game plan in the first half. They really made a concerted effort to ugly up the game by running the ball. They won the first half time of possession and kept the Patriots defense on the field. The Browns defense was doing a great job, aided by some bad Patriots drops in the passing game. They got after Tom Brady and thanks to D’Qwell Jackson’s interception and Paul Kruger’s strip, they won the turnover battle 2-0.
The Browns’ offense started slowly, but ultimately put up some points thanks to big plays. Gary Barnidge of all people went for 40 yards when Aqib Talib created havoc on the field by dragging Josh Gordon to the ground. It was a penalty the Browns declined, but it was almost like a big on-field screen that allowed a lumbering Barnidge to go 40 yards to the end zone.
Josh Gordon was not lumbering. Gordon caught a ball in stride and stiff armed Aqib Talib away as he raced 80 yards for his own score. There’s almost nothing left to say about Josh Gordon. Seven catches and one 34 yard run and he accounted for 185 yards of Browns offense all by himself. And welcome back Jordan Cameron. Cameron caught nine passes for 121 yards and a touchdown.
It’s just such a shame because the Browns could have and should have won this game. Yes, they could have recovered the onside kick so as not to allow the referees to decide it with a penalty. Yes, the Browns could have played tougher defense while nursing a 26-14 lead when they allowed the Pats to go 82 yards and a score. They didn’t and they very well might have given up a touchdown anyway even without the call, but it sure would have been nice to give the Browns’ defense a chance to do it from the 30 yard-line instead of giving it to them at the one.
As I said on Twitter, Rob Chudzinski should earn himself some fine dollars when talking about the officiating after this one. He’s earned the right to talk about the referees after this one. His team deserves his defense for their play today, because by my eyes they played pretty well against a good team late in a year after there wasn’t much of anything left for the Cleveland Browns to play for.
(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)