Call it a case of not wanting to feel burned by the Cincinnati Bengals, but the prevailing thought after Sunday’s game was that the Bengals’ quick-snap play that caught the Cleveland Browns defense completely off-guard (leading to a game-winning 41-yard touchdown catch by rookie A.J. Green) was actually illegal.
NFL rules state that when the offense makes substitutions on the field, the defense is to be given enough time to make substitutions as well. Initially, it was thought that the Bengals snapped the ball before the Browns were able to make their substitutions. It is true that the Browns were changing personnel, but some thought that the unit wasn’t given enough time to get set.
On Monday, however, the NFL deemed the Bengals’ play legal, finding no substitution violation. The only actual violation was that the Browns had 12 men on the field. It simply came down to the fact that the Browns defense was caught napping, completely unaware of the play taking place. Veteran linebacker Scott Fujita said that the Bengals caught the Browns off-guard, going so far as to blame himself for not calling a timeout:
"“I should’ve called it. Generally we’re supposed to get permission from the sideline before we can call a timeout on defense. But me being the crusty old bastard I am, I should’ve noticed it and I should have called it.”"
This comes down to the fact that the Browns just weren’t ready for the play, which is unfortunate, because the defense as a whole had the most impressive performance of the day. It’s just one of the many lessons from this game that have to be understood and, hopefully, corrected before the Browns take on the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.