Browns rip officials for 'terrible' pass interference ruling, non-calls in loss to Chargers

Nate Ulrich
Akron Beacon Journal

INGLEWOOD, CALIF. — Coach Kevin Stefanski said he didn't get a good look at a crucial pass interference penalty called on Browns cornerback A.J. Green in the fourth quarter Sunday, but All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett didn't hold back after the 47-42 loss at SoFi Stadium. 

“It was terrible," Garrett said. "I mean, you've seen pictures. You've seen videos. It was a terrible call. It is what it is. The refs are humans, and they make mistakes, but we get held to a high standard and a high degree of excellence [as players], and so should they.”

Rookie second-round draft pick:Browns linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah taken to hospital with throat contusion

Cleveland Browns cornerback A.J. Green (38) celebrates a defensive play during the second half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

When the Chargers went for it on fourth-and-4 from their 41-yard line, quarterback Justin Herbert threw a deep pass intended for wide receiver Mike Williams along the right sideline. Pressed into a full workload after a neck injury forced cornerback Denzel Ward to leave the game for good in the first quarter, Green had his jersey blatantly grabbed and pulled by Williams on a pass that fell incomplete with 9:02 left in the fourth quarter.

But the officials didn't flag Williams for offensive pass interference. Instead, they penalized Green for pass interfernece, giving the Chargers 33 yards and new set of downs. Five plays later, running back Austin Ekeler rushed for a 4-yard touchdown, and the Chargers tied the score 35-35 with 7:24 left to play.

Browns safety John Johnson III said he didn't see a replay, but a friend told him the call against Green would literally make him sick.

"When I got back to my phone, one of my buddies texted me, said, 'You're going to throw up at that call,'" Johnson said. "I mean, when you've got a big-bodied, jump-ball receiver like Mike Williams, you've got to try to fight him in some type of way.

"Those calls usually go to the offense. I feel like they were just hand fighting, I don't think [Green] impeded any progress. I also think the ball was uncatchable, so it's ... a break that didn't go our way, and you can't really control that."

Cleveland Browns' Baker Mayfield says officials missed two pass interference penalties on the same play

Quarterback Baker Mayfield and the Browns offense had a beef with the officials, too.

Mayfield said he thought the officials missed two pass-interference penalties on the same play — his deep incomplete pass intended for receiver Rashard Higgins with 2:55 remaining in the fourth quarter on the Browns' next-to-last possession.

Mayfield contends safety Derwin James Jr. interfered with Higgins and cornerback Michael Davis interfered with receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones on second-and-9 from the Cleveland 15.

“Late in the game — might as well just forward the fine letter — we asked the ref on the sideline how the hell he missed that call," Mayfield said. "I mean, they were shoving Donovan Peoples-Jones out of bounds, and then Higgy gets grabbed, so there’s two PIs on one play.

"They don’t call it, but we shouldn’t have even been in that position. We left too many points on the field in the first half. It’s very frustrating when we didn’t do our job enough to just take the ball game away. We left it in the hands of somebody else. So we've got to be better on that.”

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) looks to throw as Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (42) chases during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

Browns three-time Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bitonio said, "Higgins kind of got tackled down there a little bit" on the play.

"Those are tough," Bitonio said. "You want to try not to keep it in the ref's hands, but that's some of those are 50-, 60-yard penalties and can change a game. So that's a tough one to not have go your way, but we do need to execute better on our end, too. We can't really rely on that."

Mayfield said the officials not calling pass interference on the pass to Higgins is "absolutely" more frustrating because Green had been flagged earlier.

“You'd like to see it called both ways, if that’s the case," Mayfield said. "But it’s just a critical point in the game to where if they’re going to call it on fourth down, then we should get it on second [down].”

Garrett conceded a defense that had held its previous two opponents to single-digit points surrendered too much. After all, blown coverages resulted in Williams' touchdown catches of 72 and 42 yards.

“We gave them more things than they would've got. ... The refs are giving more things than they should've got, but at the end of the day, can't blame them," Garrett said. "We're on the field, and we've got to make those plays regardless of what they call or don't call.”

Nate Ulrich can be reached at