The San Francisco 49ers had a bad day Sunday in Cleveland during a 19-17 loss to the Browns.
The officiating crew's day wasn't much better. John Hussey's crew made multiple questionable calls on plays that had significant impacts on the game. None was more egregious than a so-called incomplete pass thrown by Browns quarterback P.J. Walker late in the second quarter.
With 48 seconds remaining in the half, Walker looked to pass on a first-and-10 from Cleveland's 24-yard line. Instead, he met immediate pressure from pass-rushers Oren Burks and Isaiah Oliver. As both converged on Walker, the Browns' quarterback released the ball to the turf.
Como isso foi não foi fumble?pic.twitter.com/Oyr1QbSaVS
— Endzone Brasil (@Endzone_Brasil) October 15, 2023
Nick Bosa pounced on the loose ball for what looked like a fumble recovery to set San Francisco up in the red zone in the final seconds of the half. But officials blew the play dead, ruling it an incomplete pass by Walker instead of a fumble.
With the play taking place in the final two minutes of the half, officials initiated a replay review. Replay video shows that Oliver made contact with Walker's right arm as Walker attempted to evade the pressure. As Oliver drove him to the turf, Walker released the ball. His wrist was moving forward, but in no reasonable scenario could his motion be described as a pass.
Yet officials decided — after having a second look — that Walker's motion was, indeed, a pass. Walker was called for intentional grounding on the play, and Cleveland's drive stalled out three plays later with 34 seconds remaining on the second-quarter game clock. Instead of taking over at the Cleveland 10-yard line, the 49ers took possession on a punt at their own 5-yard line. They took a knee to run out the clock on the second half.
The 49ers could reasonably take issue with another call late in the fourth quarter. On Cleveland's go-ahead field goal drive, officials flagged Tashaun Gipson Sr. for contact with a defenseless receiver on a hit on Elijah Moore that resulted in a first down for Cleveland on a third-down incompletion.
Was a penalty the right call on 49ers DB Tashaun Gipson? 🤔
— NFL Retweet (@NFLRT) October 15, 2023
Replay showed that Gipson made contact with his shoulder to Moore's body and not his head. Instead of fourth-and-10 at their own 26-yard line, the Browns faced first-and-10 at their 41. Eight plays later, Dustin Hopkins kicked a 29-yard field goal to give the Browns a 19-17 lead that they would not relinquish.
The 49ers have a stout Browns defense and a stagnant day on offense to thank for Sunday's loss, their first of the season. But any gripes with officiating are certainly warranted.