Cleveland Browns Think Bengals’ Touchdown Was Illegal … and it was
The Bengals beat the Browns 27-17 in their season opener Sunday in Cleveland. Cincy blew a 13-0 lead and trailed 17-13 in the fourth quarter before Bruce Gradkowski hit rookie A.J. Green for the go-ahead score (video here). It was Green’s first and only catch of the game, and it only happened because the Bengals caught the Browns off-guard. Actually, they quick-snapped Cleveland on the play, something Browns head coach Pat Shurmur believes is illegal.
“They quick-snapped us,” Shurmur said after the game. “I’ll have to watch the tape, but it’s my understanding they changed personnel, lined up and then quick-snapped. There’s rules that go along with that, so we’ll see. My understanding is when the offense changes personnel, the defense is allowed to do so as well and have time to do it.”
Shurmur is correct. Rule 5, Section 2, Article 10 of the rule book (cited by the Cleveland Plain Dealer) regarding Defensive Matchups Following Substitutions says:
If a substitution is made by the offense, the offense shall not be permitted to snap the ball until the defense has been permitted to respond with its substitutions. While in the process of a substitution (or simulated substitution), the offense is prohibited from rushing quickly to the line of scrimmage and snapping the ball in an obvious attempt to cause a defensive foul (i.e., too many men on the field).
The officials are not supposed to allow the offensive team to snap the ball until the defensive team has had time to make its substitutions. They also have the ability to call an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the offense.
It’s too late to do anything about the touchdown but at least all referees should be more mindful of this tactic. The Bengals pulled a fast one and got away with it, but they probably won’t be able to do it again the rest of the season. Not only will opposing teams be prepared for it, but the referees should be too.