The good news is that the Browns won a game last week for the first time since December 2016. The bad news is that, with very little imagination, this team could be 4-0 instead of 1-2-1. But Sunday's loss in Oakland that may sting the longest because the Browns felt like the officials did them no favors.
The most glaring example came with 1:36 left in the fourth quarter with Cleveland leading 42-34. On 3rd-and-2 from the Browns' 17, Carlos Hyde ran the ball for what appeared to be two yards. The chains were even brought out onto the field to confirm as much. But inside of two minutes, the replay official in NFL headquarters in New York always takes a look. And upon closer inspection, Hyde had come up just short.
The Browns were forced to punt. Six plays later the Raiders tied the game and went on to win in overtime.
"They called a first down," Hyde said after the game, via Cleveland.com. "I don't know what the hell they saw."
Left guard Joel Bitonio sounded a similar tone.
"Honestly, 100 percent, I didn't think there was a chance it was overturned," he said. ... "I was a foot away from him, I thought it was a first down."
Jarvis Landry was also baffled by the decision.
"Listen, it's an awful call," he said. "But, at the end of the day, we can blame the refs, we can blame so many things why it didn't work out, but that was a tough one."
There's also this:
But the league seemed confident in the reversal. Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio spoke with NFL Senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron on Sunday night.
It was actually a simple process. From one angle, Riveron could see that, when Hyde's wrist was done, his elbow also was down. From another angle, Riveron could see that, when Hyde's wrist was down (and thus the elbow was done), the ball was well short of the line to gain.
"The angles definitely gave me a view and perspective that he was short," Riveron said.
Riveron said that, when the wrist/elbow were down, he could see that the ball clearly was short of the orange stick and the pad on which it rests.
It's unlikely that this will assuage the concerns that the Browns got jobbed. But that wasn't the only highly questionable call from the game. Midway through the fourth quarter, with the Browns clinging to a one-point lead, this, inexplicably, wasn't ruled a fumble but instead a dead play after Derek Carr's forward progress had been stopped.
And this play was ruled dead even though Marshawn Lynch, who remains the hardest man to tackle in the NFL, had neither been tackled nor had his forward progress been impeded.
We're not sure bad calls even out over the course of a game but the Browns didn't lose because Hyde wasn't rightly awarded a first down. Mayfield had four turnovers, including a pick-six, and the Raiders squandered chances of their own (Martavis Bryant dropped a WIDE-OPEN touchdown in the first half).
Put another way: Yes, the officiating was lacking but excuses are for losers. No amount of whining will change the outcome and the Browns have to prepare for Sunday's meeting against the Ravens, who are tied atop the division with the Bengals.