It looks like the greatest mystery of the 2016 NFL season has finally been solved.
If you've somehow been able to avoid the controversy, here's a quick recap of what happened: Johnson fumbled in the fourth quarter and possession was awarded to the Redskins even though the Browns running back clearly came out of the pile with the ball (You can see video of the play here).
Even though Johnson literally has the ball in his hand after the play, none of the officials seemed to notice or care: The Redskins were awarded possession.
In the 24 hours after the game, the controversy went national because A) The refs seemed to blow an easy call, B) The Browns always seemed to get hosed, and C) America actually seems to feel sorry for them this time.
The day after the game, the NFL released a statement reiterating that the refs in the game got the call right.
"The on-field ruling was a fumble, recovered by Washington," the statement said. "It was confirmed as a fumble in instant replay without the need to stop the game. As to the recovery, several different angles were looked at, but with nothing definitive shown, there was no need to stop the game because the on-field ruling that awarded possession to Washington would have stood."
The NFL also added that there's no evidence of a Browns recovery.
#Browns debated Duke Johnson fumble was reviewed today. There is no evidence of a CLE player recovering it in the pile. Just out of the pile— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 3, 2016
With the fumble still a hot topic on Tuesday, NFL VP of officiating Dean Blandino decided to explain what specifically went down on the play during his weekly officiating video.
Although Blandino admits that it's a "bad visual" for fans to see Johnson coming out of the pile with the ball, the VP of refs also said that there's no evidence that Johnson had the ball while in the pile.
"There is never an angle that shows Johnson recovering the football on the ground, and the player coming out of the pile with it is not sufficient evidence, because we all know that the ball can change hands in the pile," Blandino said.
Well, Dean, what if there is evidence that a Browns player recovered the ball in the pile?
During Showtime's Inside the NFL this week (Tuesdays, 9 p.m. ET), NFL films offered a definitive angle of the call, and what you'll see below is that Johnson clearly has the ball on the ground, in the pile.
It's pretty simple: Johnson has possession here, his knees and elbows are down, which means the play should be over.
Blandino said there was no angle showing Johnson recover the ball "on the ground," but there is, because it's right there.
In the NFL Films clip, Johnson loses the ball and then grabs it right back. At that point, he stands up while Redskins players keep fighting for an imaginary ball.
In the picture below, Johnson is right behind the left shoulder of Cleveland's Joe Bitonio, and he has the ball. To the left, you can see see several Redskins players, including Josh Norman, fighting for an imaginary ball.
Refs get calls wrong all the time, so the fact that mistake was made on Sunday isn't a shocker. Also, the officials in this game didn't have access to this angle because it came from NFL Films.
That being said, it's one thing to be wrong on a call, but it's another thing to double-down on a horrible call and keep insisting that it's right. Blandino had 48 hours to get his hands on every angle of this play before he made his officiating video on Tuesday, and despite clear video evidence of Johnson recovering the ball on the ground, Blandino kept insisting that it never happened.
The NFL should just admit they botched the call.
The Browns are still miffed at the call, and rightly so. Three days after the game, Johnson was still insistent that no one else even touched the ball.
"[N]obody ever touched the ball but me," Johnson said on Wednesday, via the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "I'm mad that I got it and still didn't get it."
Browns lineman Joe Thomas was in the pile, and his account of Johnson's recovery jives almost exactly with what the NFL Films clip shows.
"Basically the ball hit the ground and bounced right back to Duke, and when the Washington player tried to scoop it, he got air," Thomas said. "But then he just -- I don't know if because I was on top of him he was laying there acting like he had the football, or because he was laying there acting like he had the football Josh Norman jumped on him and the ref saw the posture of two Redskins cradling nothing on the ground and me trying to go after that nothing that she just assumed that the Redskins must have the ball."
The bad fumble call was the second time the Browns have had a potentially game-changing call go against them this year.
In Week 2, Terrelle Pryor got called for a taunting penalty with under 30 seconds left in a game that the Browns lost 25-20. On the play, Pryor was tossing the ball back to an official, but the ball hit a Ravens player, so Pryor was flagged. If there had been no penalty, the Browns would've had the ball on the Ravens 10-yard line with a chance to win.
Anyway, things should be getting easier for the Browns this week: All they have to do is deal with a raging mad Tom Brady in Brady's first game back from suspension.