Any time a game is as hard-fought as the Raiders and Browns game Sunday, there will be areas to nitpick. An easy target is the officiating. In this one, no one needed to nitpick to see just how bad it was, but it wasn’t one-sided in in how bad it was.
Browns fans would probably disagree that it was one-sided because it was an overturned first down call that essentially cost them the game.
The thing is, I am not even talking about that call. That one was really close and visual evidence suggests that the call on the field was wrong. Hyde’s elbow was down with the ball not past the line to gain, so overturning the first down ruling was the correct call. But it really could just as easily have stood as called on the field.
Looks like it was a good call after all! Thanks stormtrooper2817 for this proof! pic.twitter.com/F1AKi98P1S— Marcus Allen Krause (@krause_marcus) October 1, 2018
Sure, that was a huge play, and you can debate whether it was the right one if you like. This article isn’t about debatable calls. Even though as someone who watched his Ducks get robbed by the officials against Stanford two weeks ago, I can relate to the way the Browns fans are feeling right now.
There were two other plays in this game that could have completely changed the landscape of this game had it not been for some highly questionable officiating.
Let’s start with the Raiders catching a HUGE break late in the game on third and 9 that should have been a strip sack by Myles Garrett on Derek Carr and very well would hav resulted in a defensive touchdown had the officials not blew the play dead for no reason.
Here Kirk Herbstreit is beside himself trying to figure out what the officials were looking at.
There really is no justification for this call. It was terrible and it was crucial. Combine it with the overturned first down run by Hyde and there were probably a few TV remotes stuck in televisions in Cleveland.
The Browns had just taken a 35-34 lead on the previous possession so a fumble return for a touchdown could have been devastating for the Raiders.
The thing is, that was not the first Raiders possession in which the officials blew the play dead well before it was over. This one staved off disaster, but the first one was devastating for them.
When Marshawn Lynch has the ball, you can't blow the whistle too early pic.twitter.com/tKo6Yi6heq— FanDuel (@FanDuel) September 30, 2018
The play was blown dead despite the fact that Marshawn was still breaking tackles and had he been allowed to continue, he may have been up the sideline and gone for the score.
“Why would you have a quick whistle with Marshawn Lynch?” Gruden asked Monday. “I don’t understand how you can blow a whistle like they did yesterday, but some of the runs he’s making, some of the finishes and determination he is putting on tape is unbelievable. I don’t see many guys in football running like this.”
Marshawn showed in the overtime period just why you never blow the play dead on him with his huge 11-yard run, breaking several tackles to set up the game-winning 29-yard field goal.
How to Finish Runs by Marshawn Lynch pic.twitter.com/LcMpr7KMPz— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) October 1, 2018
Due to the Marshawn run having been blown dead, Raiders fans will say the uncalled Carr fumble is a make-up call. But two wrongs don’t make a right. It may balance things out some, but one should never try and justify bad officiating.
Speaking of which, there was one more absolutely heinous bit of officiating in this game. And as you might expect, it involved the new ridiculous implementation of roughing the passer penalties.
Arden Key rushed at Baker Mayfield as he threw and got a hit on him. It was not a hard hit, it wasn’t helmet-to-helmet, he didn’t tackle him and put his weight on him, and he even threw his arms out to the side to try and make it clear. The flags still flew.
This time it was Rich Eisen who was puzzled as to how this could possibly be a penalty.
That gave the Browns a first down and they drove for their first score.
The officials were definitely flag happy in this game. To their credit (and lowering the bar considerably when I say that) they picked up a flag they threw on a Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie hit in overtime that, had it been deemed a penalty, would have given the Browns an automatic first down in Raiders territory, putting them close to field goal range to win it. But they talked it out and picked up the flag.
“That was a good job picking that flag up,” Gruden said. “Playing a zone coverage and the wide receiver is running a crossing route. He’s got to sit down in zone. He ran right through a zone. If you run through a stoplight, you’re going to get hit by a car. That’s really what happened. I thought Cromartie did a great job. Avoiding head-to-head contact, he didn’t lower his head. He hit him with his shoulder. It’s a great lesson for all receivers out there. If you’re playing against zone coverage, you don’t stay on the move. You sit down. I’m glad they picked that flag up, honestly.“
I don’t enjoy this much coverage about bad officiating. The zebras should never be the story in a game. But they inserted themselves into the storyline of this game big time. The Browns fans are more angry because in the end, they would lose on three late calls in which they feel they were robbed. One of which they are absolutely right. While the Raiders feel like they spent the day digging out of holes from two earlier bad calls.
NFL rules and officiating is such a joke now. I almost feel bad for the officials trying to implement all the new rules. It can’t be easy.