Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Double pass-interference when one guy is covering another guy? Is that even a thing?
However, with everything that took place, from all of those Steelers injuries, the Browns’ propensity for concussing Pittsburgh receivers with helmet-to-helmet shots, the Steelers putrid offense and, of course, “The Brawl That Started The Ridiculous Takes By All,” you may have overlooked or even forgotten about a really bizarre occurrence that happened late in the third quarter, with the Browns leading, 14-7, and facing a second and nine from the Pittsburgh 31.
What was it? Offsetting pass-interference penalties. No, not on one guy who was covering another guy on one side of the field, and another penalty on a guy who was being covered by another guy on the other side of the field. I’m talking about an offensive pass-interference penalty on a guy being covered by a guy who, in turn, was called for defensive pass-interference on the guy who just committed offensive pass-interference against him.
Speaking of unpacking, I will pause for a moment while you unpack that last paragraph.
Finished? Understand? That makes one of us.
Anyway, Browns tight end Demetrius Harris was the receiver called for offensive pass-interference on a pass from Baker Mayfield. Had that been the only penalty called on the play, it would have backed Cleveland up to the Steelers 41 and made it second and 19. Unfortunately for the Steelers, Mike Hilton was the defensive back who was called for defensive pass-interference on Harris after Harris committed offensive pass-interference against him.
Basically, what the officials were saying was that Harris gained an advantage illegally, but that Hilton negated that illegal advantage with an infraction of his own.
It would be like getting mugged in a back alley, only to quickly gain the upper-hand on the perpetrator because you’re Jackie Chan or whomever….and when it’s all over, you both go to jail.
Actually, it wouldn’t go down like that at all, because that would never happen in real life.
But in the NFL? Anything is possible these days.
Since the penalties offset, the ball was placed back at the 31, where the Browns had three more downs and were still primed to make it a two-score game.
At the end of the day, none of this mattered. First of all, the Browns didn’t take advantage of the gift and missed a field goal try a few plays later. Secondly, the officials could have gifted the Steelers five free points via penalty, and the offense still wouldn’t have been able to produce the final three points to win the game.
But has this ever happened before in the history of the NFL? They don’t allow offsetting penalties when a defender causes a false start by jumping off-sides (the defender is always called for a neutral zone infraction). Will this be a thing moving forward?
Was this a mistake that was brought on because NFL officials are simply too inundated with so many rules nowadays—especially those involving pass-interference—they just don’t know what to do on most plays?
Fortunately for the NFL, all those other crazy things happened at the end of Thursday night’s game. Otherwise, we might have spent the entire weekend commenting on just awful the officiating was….again.