Bad Call, Bad Times

Leon McFadden was called for pass interference in the end zone with 35 seconds left in the game. Replays showed McFadden didn't commit pass interference. It didn't matter to Dryol Prioleau who threw his flag with authority.

Dryol Prioleau is a seven-year NFL referee from Bristow, Va. For 59 minutes, 30 seconds those of us watching the Cleveland Browns play at the New England Patriots no one knew he was the field judge.

Prioleau, or FJ 109, decided he wanted to determine the outcome of this game. We now know who he is.

Leon McFadden was called for pass interference in the end zone with 35 seconds left in the game. Replays showed McFadden didn't commit pass interference. It didn't matter to Prioleau who threw his flag with authority.

It was first down Patriots on the Browns' 1-yard-line. And in the matter of what seemed like seconds, the Patriots went from trailing by 12 points to leading by 1.

You can blame the Browns defense for allowing the Patriots to storm back after the Browns took a 19-3 lead on an 80-yard touchdown reception by Josh Gordon.

You can blame Fozzy Whiaker for just throwing his body at the onside kick instead of trying to corral the ball.

You can blame Jason Campbell for burning timeouts earlier in the second half. Timeouts the Browns dearly needed when they got the ball back down one point with 30 seconds remaining.

But you can't allow a field judge to play such a big role in determining who wins and loses games. A bad call is going to happen, but in that situation, why is he throwing a flag if there isn't an egregious foul being committed?

In a Browns season that featured frustrating momentum after frustrating moment, no doubt this takes the cake. To have a game in which the Browns played relatively well determined by a poor judgment call on Prioleau's part is maddening.

Does this only happen to the Browns? No. Ask the Packers about that Monday Night Football game last year vs. the Seahawks. While we're at it, ask the Seahawks about Super Bowl XL.

The Browns should have won this game. For 59 minutes, they did almost everything right to secure the victory. The Patriots, with some big help from Prioleau, dominated the final minute.

Is 5-8 that much better than 4-9? Of course not. On Sunday morning, one Browns fan said to me, "These are the types of games the Browns win."

In other words: How many times have we seen the Browns win a meaningless December contest only to screw them out of a key player that following spring in the NFL Draft?

It's not to say they should tank these final three games. A win at Pittsburgh in two weeks would be most welcomed.

Hopefully the Browns learned an important lesson today. There were plenty of missed opportunities in the game's first 59 minutes allowing that final, disastrous minute to occur.

They also learned Dryol Prioleau doesn't know what pass interference is.

We all learned that.

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