The NFL wants its officials to determine whether a team earned a first down without using props, but such methods aren’t prohibited, either.
A very unusual measurement represented a turning point in the Browns’ 14-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
During the first play of the fourth quarter, Browns coach Rob Chudzinski elected to go for it on fourth-and-4 at the Ravens’ 39-yard line with his team trailing by a point.
Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden connected with tight end Jordan Cameron on a crossing route. Cameron then stretched toward the Ravens’ 35 as linebacker Courtney Upshaw tackled him.
When the officials measured for a first down, it was such a close call that referee Bill Vinovich used a piece of paper to try to gauge whether the nose of the ball aligned with the marker. He then ruled that Cameron was just shy of the first down.
“The measurement was handled in accordance with the rules,” NFL spokesman Michael Signora told the Beacon Journal in an email. “Once the chains are in place, the referee looks at the ball in relation to the line to gain for a first down, as indicated by the chains, and then makes the call. Though it is very unusual to see the referee use a card to aid in the measurement, there is nothing that prohibits it in the rules.”
The spot of the ball was upheld after Chudzinski challenged it to force a replay review.
Chudzinski was asked Monday whether it was bad spot.
“It’s hard to say,” Chudzinski said. “Truthfully, we didn’t get a replay at all on that to even see. I challenged without having seen a replay at all. It was so close. It’s tough to get those overturned unless there’s a clear shot right down the sideline of right on the spot of the ball. Just looking at it, I thought that Jordan had gotten over the line, but where the ball was placed was where the ball was placed.”
After the game, Cameron said he thought he had the first down.
“I thought I had it,” Cameron said. “I reached the ball over. It’s just the way the game goes. I talked to the ref after the play. He said it was closest spot he’s ever seen.”
And it was one of the most unusual measurements, too.
“I’ve never seen a referee pull out a credit card or whatever he pulled out and slide it up against it,” Weeden said after the game. “It was close. It was centimeters.”
Three series later, the Ravens went ahead 14-6 when quarterback Joe Flacco threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Marlon Brown with 8:57 left in the fourth quarter.