If you thought the taunting penalty on Terrelle Pryor a couple of weeks ago was bad enough, the NFL officials tried to top it with a whole other level of incompetency during the Browns’ Week 4 contest against the Washington Redskins.
With the Browns trailing 24-20 and just under 10 minutes to play in the fourth quarter, Cleveland faced a 2nd-and-2 from the 50 yard line. RB Duke Johnson entered the game and was given the handoff. He had enough yardage for the first down, but then FUMBLED the football.
Last week the bogus taunting penalty. This week the phantom fumble. Johnson never lost the ball. How does this happen?? pic.twitter.com/Uo8JZ39Wu0— Jay Crawford (@jaycrawfordespn) October 2, 2016
The fact that Johnson fumbled wasn’t the issue — he clearly lost the ball. However, he almost immediately comes out from the pile with the football and raises it in the air. Players are still battling in the pile, and then the nearest official runs in and signals that it is Washington football. What!?!
For those blaming Browns head coach Hue Jackson, don’t -- he can’t challenge the turnover. After the game, Johnson said he didn’t understand what happened:
It’s not like a Redskins player clearly had the ball in plain sight of the official, and then Duke ripped it out afterward while on the ground. In fact, when you look at it from this angle (see below), you can see the ball near Johnson, and then he’s extending his arm near the ball and motions toward his body. From the original camera angle, we know that he stands up shortly after with the football in hand.
Watch Duke Johnson's left hand at the end here. CLEARLY reaches out and pulls the ball back under his chest https://t.co/ySb1qsqhyX— Jordan Zirm (@clevezirm) October 2, 2016
UPDATE: Here is the official statement from the NFL on the matter. It still doesn’t explain why the officials originally ruled Washington football. If they can’t see the football in a player’s hands, they need to uncover the pile and see who has it. They made the call while looking at the pile...and Johnson standing up with the football.