The Cleveland Browns appeared to be on their way to pulling within one score of the Kansas City Chiefs before halftime, then “the worst rule in football” happened.
As Baker Mayfield connected with Browns wide receiver Rashard Higgins, Higgins raced to the end zone and lunged toward the pylon when he was hit by Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen, who jarred the ball loose.
The problem is Higgins fumbled the ball forward and into the end zone before it went out of bounds. Per the NFL rulebook, any time a ball is fumbled in the end zone and goes out of bounds it is considered a touchback, and the opposing team receives possession.
This has long been a controversial rule in the NFL and having it happen to the Browns in a playoff game only illuminated the problem. Many fans argue that the ball should be re-spotted at the point of the fumble, rather than a touchback.
Nonetheless, nearly everyone on Twitter was angrywith the call as fans, media and former players – such as Browns offensive lineman Joe Thomas – voiced their frustrations.
To make matters worse, the hit on Higgins also appeared to be a helmet-to-helmet hit. Former official Gene Steratore agreed on the CBS broadcast, but helmet-to-helmet plays are not reviewable.
Some, such as NBA star CJ McCollum, called for the NFL to change the rule to make it reviewable in the future.
Had the flag been thrown, the Browns would have kept possession of the ball.
Instead, the Chiefs were able to move the ball down field and tack on an extra three points to take a 19-3 lead into halftime.
Needless to say, regardless of the outcome, this will be the buzz around the NFL over the next week and likely into the offseason about whether or not either of these rules are sufficient the way they stand.