By Nick Shook
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Another close contest for the Browns saw a dramatic turn of events that proved to be decisive. But could it have been avoided?
The NFL has reviewed the play in question — a Duke Johnson fumble — NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per a source informed of the process. Johnson emerged from the pile with the ball, but the officials ruled the Redskins recovered the fumble. In order to give the ball back to Cleveland, there would need to be video evidence of the player actually recovering the ball.
Trailing early in the fourth with the ball near midfield, Cleveland handed the ball to Johnson, who rushed past the sticks for what would have been a first down, had he held onto the ball. It was instead knocked out, forcing a scrum for the ball. Johnson emerged moments later with the ball in his hand, but the official signaled possession in favor of Washington.
It’s tough to understand how possession could be ruled in favor of Washington in such a short amount of time, especially with Johnson standing with the ball in his hand as a possession change was signaled. But as Rapoport reported, without conclusive video evidence to overturn the call and return possession to Cleveland, there wasn’t much the officials could do after the initial ruling.
“The on-field ruling was a fumble, recovered by Washington,” NFL spokesman Michael Signora said Monday. “It was confirmed as a fumble in instant replay without the need to stop the game. As to the recovery, several different angles were looked at, but with nothing definitive shown, there was no need to stop the game because the on-field ruling that awarded possession to Washington would have stood.”