CBS announcers Gus Johnson and Brent Jones immediately believe the officials were huddling to discuss whether Couch’s pass should have been called intentional grounding.
Then, seemingly on his own, head official Terry McAulay announced that the fourth-down play, the one completed to Quincy Morgan, was under review.
NFL rules state that a play cannot be reviewed once another play has been run. The Browns ran a play that spiked the ball to stop the clock. NFL rules specifically state that a previous play could not be reviewed.
But McAulay decided to review it anyway. He claimed that the replay booth attempted to communicate with him that the fourth-down play needed to be reviewed. He claimed the buzzer used to notify the officials actually sounded before the ball was snapped.
On the basis of this evidence, McAulay decided to do an instant replay review of the fourth-down play. He determined that Morgan did not catch the ball. The result of the play would be a first down for the Jaguars who, apparently after replay, stopped the Browns on fourth down two plays prior to the current action.
"“It was so close, the buzz and the snap. We always defer to replay if there is a question because we want to make sure we get the play right on the field. As it turns out, we were right to look at the play again because we got it right. It wasn’t a catch.” — Terry McAulay via Referee.com"
This gave the Jaguars the ball with 48 seconds left in the game. The Browns had no time-outs. The reversal of justice was the death knell to the game.
Cleveland had lost the game and potential playoff hopes because McAulay decided to go rogue and review a play after another play had been run. This had never happened before in NFL history. And it has not happened since.