Dec. 16, 2001
It was just another cool December day down by the lakefront, as the 6-6 Butch Davis led Cleveland Browns came into week 14 needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. In came in the 4-8 Jacksonville Jaguars led by Coach Tom Coughlin and trying to hang on to their own, slim, playoff hopes.
The Jaguars led the Browns at the half 9-0 and the Browns looked tattered and worn. The third quarter was highlighted by a 97-yard touchdown return by Cornerback Anthony Henry cutting the deficit to 9-7 heading into the fourth quarter.
Late in the fourth quarter, with the Jaguars leading 15-10, what took place will forever live in Browns lore.
Fourth-and-two from the Jacksonville 12 with 1:08 to play and the Browns trailing 15-10 still.
Tim Couch dropped back to pass and spotted Quincy Morgan. Couch delivers the ball and Morgan catches the ball on his waist, appeared to have taken two steps and was blasted by Jaguars safety James Boyd. As he fell to the grass the ball slipped from Morgan’s grasp and lay on the grass.
It was ruled a catch, the Browns were awarded a first down on the play and Couch rushed to the line of scrimmage, lined up his men and spiked the ball stopping the clock.
And then the unthinkable happens. Referee Terry McAulay comes running in waving his arms blowing his whistle. He announces that they will review the previous play.
Why would they review the spiking of the football? What’s there to review?
Well, the play under review wasn’t the spiking of the football; it was the Morgan catch on the play before for the first down on 4th and 2. The problem with this is NFL rules state that once another play has been run you can no longer review the play prior.
The play was reviewed and the call was over-turned. The Jaguars were awarded the football with about a minute left.
Butch Davis lost it screaming on the sidelines at McAulay as he tried to explain the ruling. The boo-birds came out in full force as fans became irritated and unruly as their team had just been bamboozled by the call on the field.
And then mayhem let loose.
Fans went from booing to launching bottles onto the field of play in protest of the horrific chain of events that just unfolded before them.
As the bottles began to fly, CBS broadcaster Gus Johnson uttered, “It’s getting ugly here in Cleveland.” Players and staff from both sides were ducking and dodging the bottles as they were coming from every angle onto the field hitting people in their legs, head, arms and so on.
Finally with :48 seconds left on the clock, McAulay called the game and everyone began running off the field as the referees were pelted heavily with bottles as they ran through the tunnel were fans were awaiting them.
The game was over. Or was it?
After about 20 minutes a call came from NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue stating that they had to go out there and finish the game. He went on to explain that the referees did not have authority to call the game and that the teams would have to return to the field to finish the final :48.
As few fans remained the teams trotted out to the bottle-ridden field and the Jaguars took a knee twice running off the final :48 and solidifying a 15-10 road win and another memorable moment in Browns history. – Giovanni Castelli
Next: No. 28: Dwayne Rudd’s helmet toss