I thought the purpose of replay in sports was to get the call right. Except not all calls on the field are subject to replay review, which would, most probably, have changed the outcome of the Cleveland Browns’ 45-42 overtime loss to the Oakland Raiders on Sept. 30. 

With the Browns leading, 35-34, late in the fourth quarter, pressure from the defense caused Raiders quarterback David Carr to clearly fumble the ball on a third-and-9 play – or so it appeared. The officiating crew whistled the play dead almost immediately, which meant the fumble – and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi’s recovery and race to the end zone – weren’t allowed. Because the play was ruled over due to the early whistle, it wasn’t subject to replay review. By rule, the refs’ hands were tied and the call stood. 

That was unlike the “spot call” that took away a Cleveland first down later in the fourth quarter. With less than 2 minutes to go and the Browns up 8 points, running back Carlos Hyde was ruled to have gotten a first down, but upon reviewing a replay, the refs controversially ruled he’d fallen short of the line to gain. Had the play stood as called, it probably would have allowed the Browns to run out the clock and given them the win. 

All turnovers in the NFL are subject to review, but in this case, the replay officials apparently didn’t see what millions of Americans, including the retired official who was in the broadcast booth, saw. I am not like a lot of people who think the NFL has something against Cleveland, but there is no reason coaches shouldn’t be allowed to challenge any call. It is not like the ability to challenge a call would add time to the game, something the NFL is concerned about because the coaches would still have the same amount of challenges they have now.  

As for the anti-Cleveland debate, I have spoken to former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason, now a color commentator with CBS, and he is adamant that the NFL wants Cleveland to be relevant. It is more important to the league that Cleveland, Chicago and Detroit – the historic franchises – are relevant than teams like Jacksonville, Tennessee and Tampa Bay.

Baker stale in first start

Meanwhile, rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield showed he was human in the Oakland game. 

He had some great passes – with several drops by his receivers – but he also had four turnovers in his first start. Greg Joseph, the place kicker from Boca Raton, Fla., remains perfect in his first two games, while the rest of the special teams have struggled covering kickoff return men. 

After Mayfield’s debut performance, when he came off the bench to beat the New York Jets, who are not very good, Browns fans rightfully got excited – but weren’t realistically predicting a playoff contender. The first four games of the season, when the Browns went 1-2-1, proved that there is parity in the league. All four games could have gone either way, and you could make a case that the Browns could easily be 4-0 or 0-4.

OSU peaks in Happy Valley

On the same weekend when the Browns lost a tough one in Oakland, Ohio State saved its season with an incredible 27-26 win over Penn State in not-so Happy Valley. 

While the spotlight has been on Urban Meyer and his suspension, it might be time to examine his coaching decisions. Just because a decision doesn’t come back to haunt a coach doesn’t make it a good decision – and when I know something is wrong, I assume “football people” know it is wrong, too. 

Take, for example, the last minute of the first half. Penn State was set to punt from near midfield with 15 seconds left, and  the Buckeyes’ plan was to take a knee once they got possession and head to the locker room. If that were the case, why in the world would you let the punt returner call for a fair catch, risking a fumble or a muff? Shouldn’t the closest Buckeyes be about 50 yards from the kick? I shouldn’t know more about football than Meyer, should I?

Penn State isn’t blameless, either. Quarterback Trace McSorley ran and passed all over Ohio State, accounting for 461 yards of total offense. Yet on their final play, on fourth-and-5 with 1:06 left, they chose a running play, by their halfback, up the middle of the Buckeyes’ defense. Thank you, Penn State.

 The win puts Ohio State in position to run the table, starting with Indiana, and eventually facing Alabama for the NCAA title. Hopefully that game is not decided by bad officiating, as was the case in the Browns-Raiders game.

Follow Les at Facebook.com/Cleveland JewishNews. 

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