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Officials gave Washington a fumble recovery after a Browns player immediately recovered the ball


It’s gotta be tough on officials determining which team has possession of a fumble in a dog pile. A ref has to sort through thousands of pounds of human as the players scratch and claw and gouge at each other for fleeting possession of a ball.

But on this fumble in the Cleveland-Washington game, the refs had a pretty easy job. Duke Johnson fumbled the ball, quickly got it back, and then stood up and lifted the ball. And as he was standing up holding the ball, the refs looked into the ball-less pile and signaled Washington had possession.

I could try to explain what happened, but this guy did a better job.

Perhaps the refs believed that a Washington player briefly recovered the ball and was down by contact. But this video makes it look like Johnson recovered rather quickly inside the pile, and he clearly had the ball outside of the pile within a few seconds (via GIPHY):

I genuinely don’t know how the referees came to their decision. Refs aren’t supposed to just guess, but it really doesn’t seem like there was ever a point in time where Washington firmly had possession.

The ruling was costly. At the time the Browns were down 24-20 and driving in Washington territory. They wouldn’t score again and lost 31-20.

Johnson was bewildered (although he was biased).

The NFL actually stood by the decision, saying there was no definitive angle that revealed the Browns came away with the ball, something that NFL VP of officiating Dean Blandino reiterated Tuesday. Personally, I saw one — it was the one where Johnson stood up with the ball almost instantly.

Is there something me and Duke Johnson and the guy in that video are missing?

Of course the Browns were screwed by the refs