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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 17, 2001

Browns fans throw beer bottles after refs' call

By Tom Withers
Associated Press

CLEVELAND — An overturned call in the final minute helped give the Jacksonville Jaguars a 15-10 win over Cleveland and caused a near riot by bottle-throwing Browns fans.

Officials run for cover as they dodge plastic beer bottles and debris thrown by enraged Cleveland Browns fans after a controversial last-minute review favored the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Associated Press

The fans pelted the field with thousands of plastic bottles — many of them filled with beer — and other debris before the game was stopped yesterday with 48 seconds left and resumed about 30 minutes later. A few fans tried to run on the field but were quickly caught by security personnel.

The Jaguars had to dodge flying objects as they sprinted to their locker room, and the officials were doused with beer and cups of ice as they tried to run for safety.

"We feared for our lives," Jaguars wide receiver Jimmy Smith said. "We were just trying to dodge as many beer bottles as we could. "It was like dodging bullets."

Nearly a half-hour after ordering players off the field, officials resumed play. Jacksonville's offense returned intact while the Browns sent three offensive players out with their defense since some players had already undressed.

Jacksonville's players re-entered and left the field through the Browns' tunnel to avoid being hit again by debris.

"I've never seen a game, heard of a game anything like this," Browns coach Butch Davis said. "I'm disappointed. I know the fans were upset, but our guys were getting hit along with the Jaguars and the officials. It's an unfortunate situation."

The fans' ugly behavior came after the Browns had a first down at Jacksonville's 9-yard line taken away despite running a play before the officials reviewed the previous play.

Browns quarterback Tim Couch had apparently completed a fourth-and-2 pass to wide receiver Quincy Morgan with 1:08 remaining, and the Browns, who were out of timeouts, quickly rushed to the line of scrimmage.

On first down, Couch spiked the ball with 48 seconds to go, and was headed to the sideline when the officials began to discuss Morgan's catch.

After several confusing minutes, referee Terry McAulay announced that the officials were reviewing the play. When McAulay finally emerged from the TV review monitor, he announced that Morgan did not catch the ball.

Replays appeared to show that Morgan never had possession and was bobbling the ball as he fell to the ground.

Under the NFL's replay system, coaches can't challenge calls in the final two minutes of a half. Any questionable rulings are reviewed by replay officials, who must notify the game referee wearing a buzzer on his belt.

McAulay said he was notified by replay official Bill Reynolds, who said he was "absolutely, 100 percent" sure he had buzzed McAulay before the snap.

"At that point, we had a legal review," McAulay said.

Mike Pereira, the NFL's director of officiating, said the procedure used on the field was correct.

Morgan was sure he caught the pass. "I hit the ground, got up and spit the ball on the ground," the rookie said.

As Cleveland's bench erupted in protest, Browns fans in the "Dawg Pound" bleacher section closest to the play began hurling bottles and other objects from the stands.

The Jaguars moved away from their bench to avoid getting hit, and before the fans got rowdier, McAulay announced the game was over.

But while both teams were in the locker room, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue called game supervisor Dick McKenzie and ordered him to have the final 48 seconds played.

The Browns emerged from their locker room about 15 minutes after the game was first stopped, but it wasn't until after Davis ran into the Jacksonville locker room that the Jaguars came out.

About 5,000 fans were still in the stadium to see Mark Brunell take two snaps and run out the clock.